Supreme Court decision brings alleged sexual assault survivor closer to conclusion of case
REGINA -- Alexis Kolody, 22, hopes she is one step closer to the end of the court proceedings in her alleged sexual assault case after a Supreme Court of Canada decision last week.
In September 2017, Kolody claimed she was sexually assaulted at a party when Awet Mehari had intercourse with her without her consent.
She decided to see the matter through court. In January 2019, Mehari was convicted of sexual assault.
He appealed that conviction, and the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal came to a split decision. Mehari’s lawyer, Aaron Fox, argued the initial trial judge applied an unfair level of scrutiny in assessing evidence.
The split decision meant the conviction was overturned, and a new trial would have to take place or the Crown could appeal at the Supreme Court of Canada.
Kolody said she knew right away she wanted to pursue the latter option.
“I didn’t want to start a new trial because obviously it would be re-traumatizing and re-victimizing,” Kolody said. “It was a long process as it was, so I knew if a new trial started it would be much longer. And I felt like he was already convicted, so I felt like I already did my part. I felt like I don’t have to prove anything more.”
The appeal was heard at the Supreme Court on Friday, Dec. 5. The court allowed the appeal.
Mehari’s case was referred back to the Court of Appeal in Saskatchewan, where his lawyer said remaining grounds of appeal will be considered.
Fox said since the matter is still before the courts, it would not be appropriate for him or Mehari to comment.
Kolody said the decision from the Supreme Court was a relief.
She said she is not sure when the matter will be in court again, but she is hopeful a conclusion will come soon.
REPORTING SEXUAL ASSAULT
Kolody has been fighting for this case for more than three years, and although it’s been a long process, she said she has no regrets.
“Now that it’s been a few years since it happened, I’ve started my healing journey,” she said. “Even if I didn’t come out publicly, when I would be expressing myself to friends or family or people who were close to me, I wouldn’t be shameful about it. So I thought ‘why should I be shameful of it in a community, or in the court aspect?’”
Lisa Miller, the executive director of the Regina Sexual Assault Centre, said on average, only five to seven per cent of sexual assaults are reported.
She said that’s often because the process, as Kolody is experiencing, can be long and drawn out.
“It leaves victims and survivors feeling that that pieces of their life and that experience is hanging over their heads,” Miller said. “That they’re not able to move past it or beyond it.”
Miller said she would like to see that change.
“As a society, we need to be asking ourselves why it’s one of the most under reported crimes and one of the most under convicted crimes?” Miller said. “We need to find ways to improve that outcome for people.”
Kolody said she’s hopeful that sharing her story will inspire others to share theirs, not necessarily publicly, but just with some sort of support system.
“A lot of the time when I explain it to people, they get scared of the court process. But a lot of people do reach out to their family or friends, and that’s a really positive thing in itself,” Kolody said. “It’s an important key in the healing process.”