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Sexual assault survivor says she wants closure
She has spent almost a decade dealing with police, lawyers, judges and victim services representatives.
Almost a decade of keeping track of serial rapist Sofyan Boalag’s next court appearance, so she can try to be there instead of living with the anxiety of not knowing what’s going on with the man who viciously attacked her.
Almost a decade of reading the public comments on news articles about Boalag and his hateful crimes and seeing one point being made over and over again that she finds particularly painful.
“It’s when they say things like, ‘Deport him,’ ‘Send him back where he came from,’ and, ‘Why are we wasting our tax dollars on keeping him in jail here,’” the woman told The Telegram. “I’ve had to go through court for almost 10 years, and I still have to go through the emotions of reading people’s ignorant comments — and I mean ignorant in the sense of talking about something they clearly don’t understand, and putting their comment on Facebook for survivors like me to see it.”
The woman was one of three females — two women and a child — Boalag was convicted of attacking and sexually assaulting with a weapon in St. John’s within a three-month period in 2012, leading to a provincial court judge declaring him a dangerous offender and sentencing him to an indefinite jail term.
On a December night in downtown St. John’s, Boalag chatted with the woman before luring her to a secluded area, holding a knife to her throat and threatening to kill her if she didn’t stop screaming. He raped her and choked her until she passed out. When she came to, he was gone and she ran until she found a police car.
She wants to see him pay the consequences for his crimes here. Deporting him to his native Algeria wouldn’t do anything for her, she explains, and it would rob her of a measure of closure and a sense of justice.
“If he doesn’t pay for his crimes here, he doesn’t pay for them,” she said. “Deporting him would mean he gets no punishment whatsoever. And how do you think it makes me feel to read comments about ‘wasting’ tax dollars? I’m working my ass off every day, full time, and I’m paying tax dollars for the guy who raped me to have hot meals and a bed to sleep in and to sit in jail.”
Deporting Boalag as a sentence for his crimes is not an option, in any case. Judges in criminal matters have no authority in that context to order an offender’s deportation; they are bound by the Canadian Criminal Code in terms of sentencing.
It’s the Canada Border Services Agency that has the authority to deport foreign nationals or permanent residents who have committed serious crimes, and deportation orders aren’t acted upon until an offender is released from prison, except in rare cases where Canada has an agreement with the other country and the offender is sent to serve their sentence there.
“If he doesn’t pay for his crimes here, he doesn’t pay for them."
Crimes for which the jail sentence is more than six months will automatically trigger an admissibility hearing for the offender, and if a deportation order is issued, they can’t appeal it.
Immigration officials have already indicated Boalag will be deported when he’s released from prison.
Dangerous offender designation in Canada is reserved for sexual predators and otherwise violent criminals, when the Crown is able to prove a high risk of the offender committing other serious offences in the future. The designation comes with an automatic indefinite jail sentence with no chance of parole for seven years.
Boalag has been in prison at Atlantic Institution in Renous, N.B., since he was deemed a dangerous offender in 2017. He is appealing the designation and the indeterminate jail sentence, asking instead for a jail term of between 10 and 12 years.
His appeal was heard last week in St. John’s, and the woman slipped in the door quietly for the final hour. She is the second of the three females Boalag attacked to speak to The Telegram about her shock at his lawyer’s arguments.
Jon Noonan, representing Boalag, argued before the panel of three Court of Appeal judges that his client’s crimes were terrible, but there’s no evidence to suggest he belongs on the dangerous offender list. The original judge had erred by misperceiving evidence presented at his dangerous offender hearing, Noonan argued, asking the judges to overturn the designation and order Boalag a new hearing.
The Crown is arguing that his dangerous offender status should stay, but if it’s revoked, a jail term of 20 years to life is appropriate.
The judges are expected to make their decision in the coming months.
“I would suggest that these offences, while horrific, are fairly minor on the scale of dangerous offender predicate offences,” Noonan told the justices, comparing the case to previous unrelated sexual assault convictions. “These are horrific offences, however, dangerous offender (status) is the most severe designation in Canada, and it’s reserved for the worst of the worst.”
The woman wants to know how Boalag’s crimes could be considered minor on any scale and in any comparison.
“What happened to me is minor? The cuts and bruises are minor, the knife held to my throat was minor, my head banged against a brick wall was minor? Being choked unconscious and sexually assaulted was minor?” she says. “I understand that’s (Noonan’s) job, to represent (Boalag). However, I think he could have worded that argument better, to get the point across without making it so hurtful to us.”
"He took my voice away from me. I want it back.”
Before Boalag indicated he was appealing his dangerous offender status, the woman says, she was beginning to feel a sense of closure, and that justice was being served. All the waiting and tears and frustration with a justice system she believes is broken to the point it causes further trauma to those already suffering had been worth it up to that point, she says.
The fact that Boalag has appealed his designation but not his convictions is telling and indicative that he has no remorse, she says. If he were genuinely remorseful, she explains, she might agree that he doesn’t warrant the dangerous offender label.
The woman says in the eight years since Boalag attacked her, she has worked hard to get her life back on track, earning a good career that she loves. She has come to the realization that it’s forgiveness that will take away the pain in her heart, but she’s not sure how to forgive Boalag.
She’d like nothing more than to sit face-to-face with him and talk, she says.
“I want to know his story. I think if I knew his story I could figure out what type of person he is, because I know nothing about him except that he’s a rapist and has no respect for women and that’s what makes me feel the most dirty,” she says. “I want to ask him, ‘What has happened in your life to lead you to this point where you thought you had the right to take all this away from women?’
“That would give me some closure, I think. I feel like I had no voice, even though I was screaming, crying, begging and pleading with him. He took my voice away from me. I want it back.”