Judge in York University Rape Trial Slams Justice System While Delivering Guilty Verdict
"That verdict was a work of art."
If the outcome of Jian Ghomeshi's sex assault trial was a disappointment for victims across Canada, the judgment in Mustafa Ururyar's was vindication.
Ururyar, a former grad student at York, was found guilty Thursday of raping fellow PhD student Mandi Gray. In a country where only around six percent of accused rapists are incarcerated for their crimes, the verdict itself felt like a victory for victims.
"Rape it was. No confusion. No uncertainty to this Court. Ms. Gray was raped by accused," Ontario Court Justice Marvin Zuker said in the downtown Toronto courtroom. His last words, "I therefore find Mr. Ururyar guilty of the charge before the Court" were met with applause from the dozen or so observers, some of them sex assault complainants themselves.
However, in a statement released Thursday morning, Gray, who filed a human rights complaint against York for the way the reporting of her assault was handled, implied the entire process left her feeling violated.
"I am tired of people talking to me like I won some sort of rape lottery because the legal system did what it is supposed to. My experience is regarded as a demonstration of progress in sexual assault cases in Canada. I am expected to feel good because a few people within the system believe me. If we are told to be grateful for receiving the bare minimum, and that we should simply allow for social institutions to further oppress us and violate our rights, I am incredibly concerned."
Zuker's reasons for judgement ripped into the criminal justice system's handling of sex assault trials, addressing many of the issues victims and advocates have raised.
Gray was raped by Ururyar in the early morning of January 31, 2015. The pair had been dating casually and on January 30, she texted him after having seven or eight beers at a bar, to "come drink and then we can have hot sex." When they left the bar, he started acting pissed off, she said, calling her "a drunk slut." Back at his apartment, he broke up with her, then forced his penis into her mouth and raped her orally and vaginally, saying "this is the last time I am going to fuck you, this is the last time... and you are going to like it."
"Power, power, power. He was the boss and he loved it," said Justice Zuker.
Afterward, she cried, and woke up to Ururyar masturbating. He put her hand on his penis, and she testified that she said "No, I'm not doing this" and left.
"The rape, the sleep and the waking up. Enough was not enough for Mr. Ururyar," said Zuker.
Ururyar took the stand in his own defence. His story was the he'd felt sick earlier in the night and once he got to the bar, Gray "groped" him. He said he had consensual sex with her as a consolation for dumping her.
Justice Zuker called bullshit on all of it.
"To listen to Mr. Ururyar paint Ms. Gray as the seductive party animal is nothing short of incomprehensible. He went or tried to go to any length to discredit Ms. Gray if not invalidate her. Such twisted logic," he said. "It never happened this way. None of it."
Rather, the judge said Ururyar was angry that a threesome between himself, Gray, another woman had fallen through.
In his 179-page ruling, Zuker also methodically went through persisting myths about sex assault victims—and eviscerated them.
"No other crime is looked upon with the degree of blameworthiness, suspicion, and doubt as a rape victim. Victim blaming is unfortunately common and is one of the most significant barriers to justice and offender accountability." He outlined the different types of victim blaming—the narratives that a victim "enjoyed it", "brought it on herself", or "lied."
He spent a good deal of time stressing that affirmative consent i.e. verbally saying "yes" is the standard for consent.
"It doesn't matter if the victim was out drinking, out alone at night, sexually exploited, on a date with the perpetrator, or how the victim was dressed. No one asks to be raped."
Memories and specifically the inability to remember the exact sequence of events is an issue that comes up in sex assault trials to discredit witnesses. At Ghomeshi's trial, complainant Linda Redgrave was hammered about details, such as whether or not she was pushed or pulled to the ground when she alleged Ghomeshi punched her. At Gray's trial, she was accused of being too drunk to remember consenting.
"Mandi Gray remembered what was important on January 31, 2015 and she is right. Asking her to remember the details is ridiculous," said Zuker.
Gray went to Women's College Hospital and then Mount Sinai Hospital to get a rape kit on February 1. Addressing the delay in reporting, Zuker said "is too long ever too long? Does pain have a time limit?" He noted that in reality, victims of abuse rarely disclose their attacks.
"For much of our history the 'good' rape victim, the 'credible' rape victim, has been a dead one."
Gray, in her statement, accused the police of not caring about sexual assault.
"There were witnesses willing to speak to the police who could have immediately discredited the perpetrators version of events. I attempted to provide evidence and the detective deemed it to be irrelevant," she said, calling for cops to be eventually "abolished" from having a role in sex assault investigations.
Zuker's judgment also pointed out that acting friendly towards an attacker is not something that should be used against a victim.
"The experience of rape invades not only the body but the mind of its victims. Dissociation kicks in, often with great efficiency. And often there is a desperate wish by the victim to please the rapist, a desperate hope that the rape will end and maybe just maybe, I will survive."
Near the end of his ruling, Zuker addressed the myth nice guys can't commit rape.
"We cannot perpetuate the belief that niceness cannot coexist with violence, evil or deviance, and consequently the nice guy must not be guilty of the alleged offense."
Afterward, Linda Redgrave and Stephanie Stella, both complainants in sex assault cases that ended in acquittals slipped across the street to have a celebratory drink.
"I just wish I could rewind and have (Zuker)," Redgrave told VICE. "This was justice."
Stella, who alleged an acquaintance forcefully penetrated her with his fingers in 2014, agreed.
"This is how sex assault trials should be conducted. Both sides speak, both sides are considered, and the realities of the nuances of this very unique crime are taken into consideration," she said.
"Ultimately, that verdict was a work of art."
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