TRIAL AND TER­ROR

MANDI GRAY REVISITS ( AND REENACTS) HER RAPE TRIAL IN SLUT OR NUT

NOW Magazine - Hot Docs - - Cover Story - By MICHELLE DA SILVA michelled@now­toronto.com | @mich­das

Mandi Gray is cau­tiously op­ti­mistic about #MeToo, and right­fully so. Af­ter her rapist was con­victed in 2016, a year later – around the same time the #MeToo move­ment started gain­ing mo­men­tum – that con­vic­tion was over­turned and the charges with­drawn.

“My sex­ual as­sault trial was at the height of [Jian] Ghome­shi when we heard sim­i­lar lines of be­liev­ing women. That was a di­rect con­trast to my ex­pe­ri­ence,” she says.

So on the phone with Gray to talk about Slut Or Nut: Diary Of A Rape Trial, which pre­mieres at the film fes­ti­val on May 2, I hes­i­tate to say, “Con­grat­u­la­tions.”

It seems in­ap­pro­pri­ate con­sid­er­ing the lo­cal doc­u­men­tary by Kelly Showker re­counts Gray’s or­deal with On­tario’s ed­u­ca­tional and ju­di­cial sys­tems while try­ing to hold a man ac­count­able. In­stead, I stum­ble over a few words be­fore sheep­ishly of­fer­ing my praise – and then im­me­di­ately apol­o­gize.

Gray laughs and says, “Thank you,” be­fore ex­plain­ing that in the past three years, she’s heard it all.

In 2015, Gray was raped by fel­low York Univer- sity PhD stu­dent Mustafa Urur­yar. She pressed charges, and the trial, con­vic­tion and sub­se­quent re­sult were highly pub­li­cized by lo­cal me­dia.

By the time au­di­ences see Slut Or Nut, less than six months will have passed since Urur­yar was re­quired to sign a peace bond be­cause Gray re­fused to par­tic­i­pate in a re­trial. For Gray, she’s at­tempt­ing to move on with her life, and that be­gins by telling her story on her own terms.

“So much of my life is guided by the shame of what’s hap­pened, and I reached a break­ing point,” she ex­plains. “Hav­ing a sense of hu­mour and a sup­port sys­tem have helped me not worry about re­gret­ting any­thing.”

“[ COL­LAB­O­RAT­ING ON THE FILM] WAS ON MY OWN TERMS. IT GAVE ME MY POWER BACK.”

Gray be­gan doc­u­ment­ing her as­sault by writ­ing in a jour­nal, and when that got ex­haust­ing, she filmed short video di­aries on her phone.

“I started doc­u­ment­ing largely be­cause I was get­ting a lot of run around from the univer­sity, so I doc­u­mented all the con­ver­sa­tions I had and what was be­ing said to me,” she says.

Even­tu­ally, Gray met film­maker Showker, who ex­pressed an in­ter­est in help­ing her tell her story. Gray was keen on hav­ing in­put in every step of the process, and says that col­lab­o­rat­ing with Showker helped her re­gain the agency she lost during the trial.

“What was cool about it was it was on my own terms,” she adds. “It gave me my power back.”

They also bonded over want­ing to help raise women’s voices. The ma­jor­ity of the film crew and the en­tirety of the art and mu­sic depart­ment was com­posed of women-iden­ti­fied folks, many of whom are also sur­vivors of sex­ual as­sault.

One of the col­lab­o­ra­tors, Toronto-based artist Hana Shafi (also known as @Friz­zKidArt), con­trib­uted colour­ful il­lus­tra­tions of af­fir­ma­tions used through­out the doc­u­men­tary.

Shafi’s on­line pop­u­lar­ity, es­pe­cially on In­sta­gram, has grown since the start of the #MeToo move­ment, and Slut Or Nut’s re­lease could not be more per­fectly timed as a re­sult.

Gray hopes the film adds to the ur­gent con­ver­sa­tion by help­ing re­duce the stigma around as­sault sur­vivors and shine a light on the is­sues with our ju­di­cial sys­tem.

“At the end of the day, I want peo­ple to rec­og­nize that sta­tis­ti­cally it’s likely they know some­body who’s ex­pe­ri­enced sex­ual as­sault,” says Gray.

“Maybe they have mis­con­cep­tions of what a sur­vivor looks like and what they should do, and I re­ally hope the film chal­lenges that.”

Mandi Gray hopes her film helps re­duce the stigma around as­sault sur­vivors.

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