Toronto

'My life just continues in shambles': Despite guilty verdict, sex assault victim faces more hurdles

The woman at the heart of a case that saw a fellow doctoral student convicted of sexually assaulting her says that despite the guilty verdict, her life "just continues in shambles."

Mandi Gray has human rights case pending, wants to return to school

Mandi Gray says her life "just continues in shambles" despite guilty verdict in sex assault case. 0:59

The woman at the heart of a case that saw a fellow doctoral student convicted of sexually assaulting her says that despite the guilty verdict, her life "just continues in shambles."

On Thursday, Mustafa Ururyar was convicted of sexual assaulting Mandi Gray on Jan. 31, 2015, while the two were doctoral students at York University.

In a 178-page decision, Justice Marvin Zuker delivered a blistering indictment of how the legal system treats sexual assault victims.

Gray has since agreed to waive her right to a publication ban on her name.

Speaking to a small group of reporters outside court Thursday, Gray said she was "kind of taken aback by the judgment," but she called it a "huge victory in many, many ways" because "I was believed."

Still, she added, her ordeal isn't over. Ururyar remains out on bail and won't be sentenced until October. He will return to court on Monday, when he'll learn if his bail will be revoked.

Meanwhile, Gray wants to return to York. She will wait for staff to decide whether the school will permit Ururyar to continue his studies there. She also has a human rights case pending against the university.

"This case just keeps drawing out," she said. "I don't know how York University is going to respond to this, so my life remains — well in a lot of ways I have closure, in some sense — in a lot of ways my life just continues in shambles.

"So I guess I feel in a lot of ways excited that this judgment came out, but in a lot of ways it hasn't changed anything for me at this juncture today."

In a statement issued Thursday afternoon, the university said it would review the full judgment and is working on developing and implementing policies as part of its new sexual assault policy that was approved last year.

The statement didn't mention Ururyar's future at the school.

'These statements don't un-rape me'

Gray commended the judge for speaking up for sexual assault victims, including numerous references to "unrealistic" expectations for behaviour that are placed on victims.

Mandi Gray says that despite a guilty verdict in her sex assault case, she faces more hurdles ahead. (CBC)

"There are many misguided conceptions of what constitutes a 'real' rape or how a 'real' victim of sexual violence should behave (i.e. scream, struggle to the utmost and report immediately)," Zuker wrote.

He also wrote at length about the nature of consent, and even quoted poet Maya Angelou's autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which discusses her early years and experiences with racism and sexual assault.

Gray has a tattoo on her left arm of a bird and a cage.

"I think it's massive, these statements," Gray said. "But, I mean, these statements don't un-rape me, first of all, and nor does it erase the process that I've had to go through."

She also described an experience with police that left her feeling as though she was being blamed for what happened.

"This process has been so brutal to me that I just cannot at this moment feel any sort of happiness. I will give you that the judgment is beautiful, and I will appreciate it one day, but not quite yet. I'm still not over the trauma of the system."

'Everyone thinks they are going to lose'

Gray credited her "amazing" lawyers, her therapists and an "informal support network" that came to court each day to show solidarity with her.

Without those resources, she said, "I don't know how I would have even coped or how I could have managed."

All she had hoped for was to be able to go to school and not have to see Ururyar.

"I think everyone thinks they are going to lose when they first report to the police," she said.

"Literally all I wanted was to return to campus and not have to see him. I never went into this thinking that he would be convicted."

Gray said she has nothing to say to Ururyar.

"What happens to him happens to him," she said. "I just want to move forward with my life."

With files from Stephanie Matteis