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
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verdict in a rape trial is statistically rare, and in this instance is tied to the defence’s basing its case solely on outdated rape myths in order to discredit and humiliate me as a promiscuous party girl and scorned, jilted and jealous ex-partner of the accused.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.