Lessons in Navigating Rape Culture with Mandi Gray
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Lessons in Navigating Rape Culture with Mandi Gray

A yet-to-be-released film follows the Toronto activist through her experiences in the justice system after the alleged rape by a fellow York University student.


Karen P. Brown and Mandi Gray in Slut or Nut: The Diary of a Rape Trial. Photo via IMDB

Do you know what to do after being raped, or how to help a friend or family member after they have been? What resources are out there, what does the justice system look like? Slut or Nut: The Diary of a Rape Trial, which follows Toronto’s Mandi Gray and her experiences in the justice system after being allegedly raped, aims to answer these questions. On August 9, Another Jane Doe Productions hosted a private screening of the 70-minute feature-length documentary at CineCycle. The screening was to show the film to those who have worked on, appeared in, or donated toward it.

Writer and activist Jane Doe, who appears in the film and attended the screening, says, “Slut or Nut allows us into the personal, political, and legal journey of Mandi Gray, a woman who was raped, and chronicles her treatment by the police, her university, social media, and the justice system.

“Ignoring the role of traumatized victim that sexually assaulted women are expected to play, Gray turns to activism to address her experience,” Doe adds.

Gray obtained her own lawyer, which those who are raped are told not to do. That’s because, in the eyes of the state, they are witnesses to the crime, and the crown represents the state’s interest. She contacted the media, and she connected with filmmaker Kelly Showker. Doe, who maintains a publication ban on her name, says that the film takes an approach no film on the subject has taken before, as the filmmakers “utilize joy and resistance, horror, and in your face subversion to take us inside a legal system that doesn’t work for sexually assaulted women—and never did.”

Slut or Nut is named after something criminal lawyer David Butt said in the film, that a rape victim is either painted as a slut or a nut. The film gives information around available options within the Canadian legal and health care systems, including therapy. It explains what it is like to have a Sexual Assault Evidence Kit, commonly known as the “rape kit” done, for example. The film also explains the criminal and civil court process. In order to explain these processes, people from different backgrounds are interviewed. People like Doe and Butt, as well as justice lawyer Joanna Birenbaum, Women at the Centre executive director Nneka MacGregor, Silence is Violence University of Toronto chapter founder Ellie Ade Kur, sexual abuse assault lawyer Simona Jellinek, and psychotherapist and novelist Farzana Doctor.

Stories and thoughts are also shared throughout the film by those who have experienced sexual assault and rape. One of these people is Coming Forward founder Linda Christina Redgrave. When Gray was on the stand during Mustafa Ururyar’s rape trial, she was only a floor above Redgrave, “Witness No. 1” in Jian Ghomeshi’s rape trial.

“I think Slut or Nut will help bring forward the reality of what happens after rape and a rape trial,” says Redgrave, “Hopefully this film inspires people to take action, to help change this flawed system.”

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 3.14.01 PM

Photo via slutornut.ca.

The film has a DIY aesthetic; a scrapbook, zine-like feel, much like Doe’s own book, The Story of Jane Doe. The film seems to do this for a couple of reasons, one is to illustrate the importance of documenting everything, and the other is to appeal to younger audiences. The visual diary uses motion graphics, animation, and social media references, in addition to news footage, film footage, and Gray’s own video diaries.

The work of Toronto artist Hana Shafi, a.k.a. Frizz Kid, is heavily featured. The art is brought to life, similar to Kurt Cobain’s treatment in the 2015 documentary Cobain: Montage of Heck. Shafi is becoming well known on social media for her affirmation artwork, with messages such as “Healing is not linear,” and “You define what self care means to you.” Composer Lora Bidner created music for the film and acted as music supervisor. Bidner paired music with the artwork, adding the affirmations in lyrics. “I never thought in a million years that I would get to see my work like that, just brought to life and used in such an impactful way,” says Shafi, who will be selling art at the upcoming Toronto Fan Expo. “So cool.”

It’s worth noting that the team at Another Jane Doe Productions used a production crew staffed predominantly by women. All members are directly affected by rape culture and experiences of sexual assault.

Clips of the film have been used by the team while hosting public discussions, like at York University and Trent University; however, the film is not yet public. In fact, this screening was the first time Gray herself saw the final cut. “It was amazing to share the last two years of my life with the people who have supported me through it all. At the same time, I never want to watch it again. Watching the most traumatizing years of my life was also emotionally exhausting,” she says.


Mandi Gray speaking at the screening of Slut or Nut: The Diary of a Rape Trial at CineCycle August 9. Photo via Facebook.

Showker says that they are now applying to major film festivals, and hope to do an international and Canadian festival run before releasing the film on YouTube. Gray says that the feedback from the film has been great so far, and that a lot of people want to use it as a teaching tool. YWCA CEO Maya Roy is excited to show the film, saying, “It is important that women, girls, and trans people see a realistic portrayal of how the legal system demonizes rape survivors.”

The film shows how systematic discrimination serves as barriers for those who have experienced sexual violence, but Gray notes that sexual violence is complex and involves many intersections. “I hope that the film is a starting place and inspires others to take up creative and analytical work to talk about sexual assault and the personal cost it has.”

Ururyar’s rape trial began February 1, 2016. Gray was on the stand for four days, while he was on it for half a day. Though he was found guilty of rape in July 2016, his conviction was recently appealed. As she states in the film, which was completed before the conviction was appealed, those who believe will be the same people who always will, and those who do not believe her never will. But, as she told media after the July 20 appeal decision, “I never needed any man to tell me whether I have been raped or not.”