“I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS”
“RAPE IT WAS” says Judge Zuker. He has found Mustafa Ururyar guilty of raping Mandi Gray in January 2015.
Mandi Gray and I both came to the Old City Hall courthouse on February 1, 2016, but at the time we did not know each other. We were both starting our sexual assault trials and both in cross examination on the same day. A day we both want to forget but won’t, as it will forever be committed to memory and most likely fragmented due to its traumatic nature.
After my trial ended I decided to attend other trials to get a better understanding of what is working and what isn’t. This is where I met Mandi, a charismatic woman with drive and passion who was going through a rape trial. Watching Mandi’s trial, I knew the dynamics of the courtroom did not mimic the trial I had just painfully endured. Both sexual assault. There was a very different feel to this trial. The crown, Ms Lofft, was relentless in her questions to Mr. Ururyar and Judge Zuker seemed engaged and interrupted testimony regularly to clarify certain issues. Then I was told why. The trial was transferred from criminal court to domestic violence.
Ahhh So there is a difference. I was told that there were courts for mental health and domestic violence but seeing the difference is believing. Domestic violence courts are different as they have players that understand domestic violence. The problem with most sexual assaults including mine, is that they are tried through the criminal court process, and not a sexual assault court. That’s because they don’t exist. In criminal court there is no specialized knowledge about sexual assaults and the psychology behind a victims memory, behaviour or reporting. It’s luck of the draw. They dealt bad cards for mine.
It took no time at all to feel the difference in this court and later Judge Zuker would not only bring justice to a rape victim, but wipe out in great detail all the rape myths. He went through the lot. It’s about time.
Judge Zuker spent a significant amount of time with these explanations of non applicable rape culture myths, stereotyping, consent and assumptions. The power behind rape. He completely understood trauma and memory and its fragmented nature. He brought this group of survivor/supporters to tears and clapping because for the first time we actually felt understood and validated. It was V day. A good thing I suppose but sad that some are taking the crumbs and pretending the system is fine.
We all watched Mustafa Ururyar stare blankly as he realized the judge’s ruling was in fact going towards guilty. For the first half of the ruling, no one was entirely sure what was going on. Is he saying guilty or not guilty? In time we knew and could no longer hold back the tears. We passed a communal pack of tissues down the rows. I don’t think there was anyone there who was happy he will most likely be spending time in jail, just relieved someone understands us. Sentencing is in October.
As Mandi stated, it won’t unrape her or give her back all the lost time going to and preparing for trial. She said she didn’t win the rape lottery. The system was doing what it was supposed to be doing and we are all shocked.
As an advocate I feel this was a small step forward for survivors but this was challenged on a news station saying that this was indeed proof that the system works and not broken. I object. What was not mentioned is that this trial was not tried in a criminal court, that the accused chose to speak and the judge and crown were extremely knowledgeable in this area. The system didn’t work for me and countless others. One acknowledgment of wrong doing against the vast number of acquittals is a crisis in my eyes but a very solvable problem. Try sexual assault cases in sexual assault court.
Ideally, I would like it be mandatory that witness and accused take the stand and that everyone is legally represented in court. All, of course, in a dedicated sexual assault court.
So July 21, 2016 is V day and that makes me sad.