It has now been 18 months since my rape trial against my ex. There have been 18 months of sadness, frustration, confusion, shock, anger, fear and horror at the whole process. Being raped is soul shattering. To have someone reach into your soul, touch it and rip it to pieces, leaving you feeling empty and lost, is devastating. To have that person be your husband and the father of your children is…..beyond heartbreaking. Everything you have ever believed is tested and shattered. Who you are is questioned by you, late at night when all is quiet. You wonder if you could ever let anyone touch you again? Would they want to? Are you damaged now? Can you trust anyone ever again? These are the questions that mill around your head at night. You can’t sleep, you can’t eat, you can’t focus, everything that was normal before seems like a lie. Your whole life seems like one big lie.
You try to find peace. You think that if you report what happened you will receive justice and peace will come with that. You go to your local RCMP Detachment and you tell a Constable what he did to you. You sit in a room talking about your privates and his privates with a complete stranger, but you do it because there WILL be justice, right?
Sorry to say that, but sadly it is true. I was naively led to believe that there would be Justice. I am here to tell you that that was a lie and for most Survivors of a sexual assault it is a lie for them too. Our Legal System (It is not a Justice System. It is a system that foll0ws the laws, not about vindicating someone) in Sexual Assault trials is not about focusing on what the perpetrator did. Instead it is a system that looks at the victim, at their actions and in reality the victim is the one on trial. Again I was completely naïve to this going into my trial. Here are things that I wish I had been told.
- In Canada you are not the one charging your perpetrator (rapist) with rape. You report your assault and an officer will relay your report to a Crown Prosecutor (usually while you are still in the detachment) and if the Prosecutor thinks they have a chance at winning a case against the perpetrator then they will be charged. If they feel they cannot win then no charges will be laid.
- Your life will completely turn upside down once those charges are laid. For me the RCMP needed to figure out where and how they would arrest my ex. He lived in another city but came to a city near me, monthly, to see our children at a Supervised visit. The RCMP decided that they would set my ex up for a visit. Instead of my children going into the visitation room they were pulled into a side room and hidden from view. The RCMP then walked into the visitation room instead and arrested my ex. Once he was gone I was called to come and get my kids which I did. I also moved towns right after that. Given the level of violence in my marriage I was advised to move and temporarily go into hiding until they could get all of the proper restraining orders put into place by a Judge. Now for you it may not go that way. I cannot predict that, but let me tell you I was not prepared for this when I first went into the detachment.
- In Canada it will take a long time to get this through the legal system. It will take at least two years on average. First there will be a hearing.
- At the hearing you and any other witnesses will be questioned by both the Prosecutor and the Defence Lawyer. Your rapist will also be there. Per Canadian Law everyone is given a fair trial and they are to be present to hear everything said about them. Being in front of him will probably through you off. Prepare for that. Know that you do not have to look at him. Keep your eyes on whomever is asking the questions. Trust me when I say that your rapist and his Lawyer are hoping that his presence will rattle you and cause you to stumble in your testimony, Please don’t let them get to you. Hold your head high!
- After the hearing the Judge will decide if there is enough evidence for a trial. There does not have to be a lot of evidence for a trial to happen. Most go to trial.
- Due to the overload in our Legal System it will probably be another year for your trial. Waiting will becoming draining. You will want it all to be over. Know that your day in Court will come. In the meantime try your best to look after you so you can heal.
- Just when you think you are in a better place you will be called to trial and you will have to share your story again to a room full of strangers. This will rip open old wounds. Make sure you have a good support system and that you look after yourself during this time.
- Some trials are Judge only. Some are Jury trials. Which way it will be is decided by the Defence Lawyer. The Prosecutor has no say in this.
- There will be games played in the Court Room. The Prosecutor is held to a high level of decorum. This comes from the Crown. They must act respectful and keep their questions clean and above board. The Defence, on the other hand, is not held to this same level. Heck they are not held to any level. They can make snide c0mments, yell at y0u, have temper tantrums, make up lies and no one will bat an eye, not even the Judge (well maybe some Judges do say something but they are very few and far between). The Prosecutor CANNOT warn you ab0ut this behaviour ahead of time. They will probably tell you that the Defence Lawyer may not be nice, but to just remember that he is representing his client and to be respectful. In actuality they know and the Judge knows that the Defence will probably pull some bad punches but no one is allowed to prepare you for that.
- The Defence Lawyer will be ruthless and it will feel like you are on the one on trial not the perpetrator. Your actions pre and post the rape will be scrutinised. What you wore, what you said and how you acted in the moments coming up to the rapes and definitely the ones after the rape will be examined. You will need to justify everything you said and did. Like I said you will feel like you are the one on trial. You see, unfortunately, our Legal System has a premade image of how a rape victim is supposed to act and if you do not fall into that then you must be a liar. It is terrible. It is wrong on so many levels and very traumatizing. Please let me tell you that everyone acts differently after they have been raped. No one can predict how you will react nor can they judge you on how you act. The Defense Lawyer is doing this type of questioning to try and break you. Be aware of that. Answer each question honestly and do your best to not react to their games. Another game that they will do is ask you the same question three times, each time a little bit differently trying to get the answer that they want. Be aware of this and answer each question the same each time.
- Your rapist may not take the stand. That is their legal rite in Canada. If they do, do not expect them to be treated like you were. Remember the Prosecutor must act at a level of decorum and the Defence will have practised every question with your perp to make him look innocent. In my trial I was on the stand for two days. My ex was on the stand for maybe 30 minutes.
- There may be back room deals. There was in my trial between the Prosecutor and the Defence and I was completely unaware of it. I watched it play out though and I saw the moment when the Prosecutor realized he had been played by the Defence. I saw him scramble when he realized their agreement was never real and that it was highly unlikely the Crown was going to win.
- Lastly there is you. You who has gone through unimaginable trauma. You who has found the courage to come forward. You who has answered personal questions that no one should have to answer publically. Your whole life has been on display. It hurts and you may wonder how you will survive this, but let me tell you that you WILL SURVIVE! Y0u will make it through this. You might have a complete breakdown (I did) and that is ok. It is ok to get all of your feelings out. Know that on the other side of the wailing and the anger you will come out of this stronger. You will know that in the end, despite all of the games and all of the pain you did the right thing. You held him accountable for all to see and that, that is a victory all in itself.