Why Mandi Gray might not call the cops if she had to do it all over again

I will never en­cour­age any­one to re­port to the po­lice, be­cause of how emo­tion­ally, fi­nan­cially and psy­cho­log­i­cally tax­ing it can be

NOW Magazine - - CONTENTS - By MANDI GRAY news@now­toronto.com | @now­toronto

On July 21, Jus­tice Marvin Zuker found Mustafa Urur­yar, the man who raped me in early 2015, guilty of one count of sex­ual as­sault. A guilty ver­dict in a rape trial is sta­tis­ti­cally rare, and in this in­stance is tied to the de­fence’s bas­ing its case solely on out­dated rape myths in or­der to dis­credit and hu­mil­i­ate me as a pro­mis­cu­ous party girl and scorned, jilted and jeal­ous ex-part­ner of the ac­cused.

The re­al­ity also is that much of my own court­room ex­pe­ri­ence is a com­bi­na­tion of priv­i­lege and luck. I am a white, ed­u­cated, mid­dle-class woman re­sid­ing in Toronto who was as­saulted in the con­text of a het­ero­sex­ual re­la­tion­ship.

It’s no sur­prise to in­di­vid­u­als who face nu­mer­ous and in­ter­sect­ing op­pres­sions on a daily ba­sis, but the le­gal sys­tem’s usual bru­tal and cold bu­reau­cratic re­sponse in rape cases comes as a shock to those who have the lux­ury of not hav­ing come in con­tact with the law or who have pre­vi­ously as­sumed that the po­lice are a re­source for en­sur­ing women’s safety.

The bulk of my rape trauma is not the re­sult of the sex­ual as­sault it­self but of the bru­tal­ity of the le­gal sys­tem. This trauma is dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand for those who have not lived it.

Here are six lessons I learned from my ex­pe­ri­ence.

1 In­sti­tu­tions like the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem don’t care about in­di­vid­ual cit­i­zens. They are in­ca­pable of em­pa­thy or un­der­stand­ing per­sonal cir­cum­stances. There may be good peo­ple within th­ese in­sti­tu­tions who care and go above and be­yond, but this is not the or­di­nary re­sponse.

2 If you want to re­port a sex­ual as­sault to the po­lice, do it on your terms.

Don’t let any­one tell you you should or should not re­port for the sake of any­one else’s safety.

3 Write ev­ery­thing down.

Take notes of ev­ery con­ver­sa­tion, in­clud­ing names, phone num­bers, times and lo­ca­tions. If you do re­port to the po­lice, write down ex­actly what you tell them and keep this some­where safe.

4 It’s okay to ques­tion au­thor­ity fig­ures.

Most vic­tims don’t have ad­vo­cates, le­gal coun­sel or knowl­edge of their le­gal rights. Of­ten, po­lice and de­fence lawyers at­tempt to take ad­van­tage of vic­tims be­cause they’re on their own and ill-in­formed. And hir­ing a lawyer is too ex­pen­sive for most peo­ple.

Re­cently, the Wynne gov­ern­ment in­sti­tuted a pro­gram pro­vid­ing four hours of free le­gal ad­vice to vic­tims of sex­ual as­sault. Of course, this will never suf­fice. In my view, vic­tims need lawyers with stand­ing in sex­ual as­sault cases, but it’s a start.

5 Be cau­tious about what you choose to dis­close through­out the process.

Any­thing you dis­cuss dur­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion of the sex­ual as­sault ev­i­dence kit at the hos­pi­tal or with a worker in the le­gal sys­tem (such as the Crown or the Vic­tim-Wit­ness As­sis­tance Pro­gram) may be dis­closed to your abuser and used as ev­i­dence.

For ex­am­ple, an “off-the record” meet­ing I had with the Crown and the in­ves­ti­gat­ing de­tec­tive was later dis­closed to the de­fence.

Un­for­tu­nately, Vic­tim-Wit­ness work­ers rarely tell vic­tims that the notes they take of their con­ver­sa­tions with you must be given to the Crown, who has a le­gal obli­ga­tion to dis­close to the ac­cused’s lawyer. You can and should ask how and why the in­forma-

tion be­ing col­lected will be used. The more in­for­ma­tion pro­vided, the greater the like­li­hood that an in­con­sis­tency will emerge, pro­vid­ing de­fence lawyers with the op­por­tu­nity to con­struct your story as not cred­i­ble.

6 Heal­ing takes nu­mer­ous forms.

I will never en­cour­age any­one to re­port to the po­lice, be­cause of how emo­tion­ally, fi­nan­cially and psy­cho­log­i­cally tax­ing it can be. My heal­ing oc­curred out­side the ju­di­cial sys­tem, in the form of po­lit­i­cal ac­tivism, tat­too­ing, aca­demic re­search, art and many hours of in­di­vid­ual ther­apy with a ther­a­pist who has a thor­ough po­lit­i­cal anal­y­sis and un­der­stand­ing of sex­ual as­sault.

Find some­thing that gives you the space to make sense of your as­sault and/or the var­i­ous re­sponses to your as­sault on your terms. Or don’t. The choice is yours. 3 Mandi Gray is a PhD stu­dent at York Univer­sity.

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