Saskatchewan

Sexual assault survivor looking forward after rapist sentenced to 3 years

A Regina judge has sentenced Awet Mehari to three years in prison for committing a major sexual assault on Alexis Kolody in 2017.

Judge sentences Awet Mehari for 'major sexual assault' on Alexis Kolody in 2017

Alexis Kolody said she's pleased with a judge's decision to sentence Awet Mehari — the man convicted of sexually assaulting her — to three years behind bars. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

Sexual assault survivor Alexis Kolody didn't want her name hidden by a publication ban.

"Since the day I was assaulted, I didn't feel there was any shame on my part and there shouldn't be shame on victims or survivors," she said, on Monday outside Regina's Court of Queen's Bench. 

She successfully asked the courts to lift the publication ban on her name as she awaited the sentencing hearing for the man who raped her. Kolody, 20, said she wants to speak publicly to let others know it's OK to talk about sexual assault.

"It's uncomfortable. It's scary and it's not easy," she said. "But I think talking about it and being open about it helps you and heals you."

Sentence for 2017 assault

Justice Janet McMurtry sentenced Awet Mehari on Monday to three years in prison, less time served on remand, for sexual assault. Mehari's name will be added to the national sex offender registry and he will have to submit a DNA sample.

McMurtry said Mehari's actions met the bar for what is classified as a "major sexual assault." These are the cases where the victim would suffer lasting emotional or psychological injury, regardless of whatever physical injury occurred. 

McMurtry found Mehari guilty in January after a trial by judge.

According to statistics released by the Sexual Assault Services of Saskatchewan, 997 of 1,000 people who commit sexual assault walk free. 

Mehari assaulted Kolody in September 2017 at an after-party at his house. Court heard that Kolody was tired, hungry, intoxicated and wanted to go home.

​​"At Mr. Mehari's suggestion, she went upstairs to lie down, to get away from the crowd of people," McMurtry said. Kolody was awakened by Mehari assaulting her. 

​"As soon as she was aware of what happened, she voiced her lack of consent." ​

McMurtry said the Crown had proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Mehari knew Kolody did not consent.

A Regina judge sentenced Awet Mehari to three years in prison after finding him guilty of sexual assault. (Facebook)

People deserve justice: survivor 

Kolody said she felt like her healing journey began the day Mehari was convicted. She has since been working on little things, like reaching out to friends, eating healthier and getting back to the gym. 

"I started wanting to put my happiness first, to kind of get my life back," she said.

Kolody said the court process was hard to get through — especially combined with the trauma from the assault.

"Immediately, the day I was assaulted, I was getting shamed and people were saying 'are you sure you didn't wake up and want it?' or whatever. Just disgusting comments," she said. 

Kolody said there were days where she was triggered by something seemingly simple, like a moment in the grocery store. 

She encouraged other people who have been assaulted to reach out to someone they can trust. 

"It's not easy pushing down all those feelings and emotions," she said. "You need to heal from the trauma. You need to take action. It's going to be starting with you."

Kolody notes the "draining" court process is not for everyone, but it did provide her some relief and security — knowing he would be behind bars.

"I personally think anyone who's been through sexual trauma deserves justice for what they have suffered."

Victim Impact Statement

On May 7, Kolody's voice trembled as she read a victim impact statement during sentencing submissions after a long court process. She described how she felt as if her innocence was taken from her.

"Sexual trauma makes you feel forever altered," she said, adding she's searching for her identity as a survivor.

She said the thought of writing the statement sickened her, because the trauma could never be properly put to words, but that she didn't want to miss out on a process that might help healing.

Kolody spoke about how the assault not only affected her, but her closest supports — her mom, dad and stepdad — were also traumatized. 

She told the judge about the shame and embarrassment she felt because of the assault, the rape kit process and the anti-retrovirals she had to take daily for one month.

She talked about the lingering impact on her emotional wellbeing. 

"He follows me into my dreams, making them nightmares."

Mehari claimed innocence despite conviction

"I continue to maintain my innocence," Mehari said last Tuesday, as he represented himself at sentencing submissions on May 7. 

Mehari told McMurtry he owned a clothing company and production company. He said he received $70,000 in grant money from Creative Saskatchewan and was a business student at the University of Regina at the time of his arrest.

On Monday, McMurtry said Mehari was a successful business entrepreneur who was "hardworking" and "industrious."

During sentencing submissions, Crown prosecutor Adam Breker listed Mehari's lack of remorse and pointed out how Mehari claimed Kolody's allegation was a "pre-orchestrated set up in order to extort money from him."

Mehari had gone through two lawyers since his conviction. Mehari fired his first lawyer prior to sentencing submissions in March and was granted more time to acquire another. The second lawyer withdrew for "ethical reasons" on May 7 and Mehari tried to request 30 more days. 

He ended up representing himself — with several of his supporters watching — after McMurtry denied his request. 

About the Author

Kendall Latimer

Journalist

Kendall Latimer began her journalism career in print as a newspaper reporter in Saskatoon and then as a feature writer in Bangkok. She joined CBC Saskatchewan in 2016. Latimer shares stories on web, radio and television. Contact her: kendall.latimer@cbc.ca