If Sofyan Boalag happens to read this newspaper in prison, the teenage girl he raped in September 2012, now age 21, hopes he reads her words and lets them sink in.
“He’s a coward,” she told members of the media outside provincial courtroom No. 2 in St. John’s Thursday morning. “He should never have done what he done, no matter if he was high, drunk, it didn’t matter. There’s always common sense. Always.”
The young woman and two other women sexually assaulted by Boalag within the same time period sat in the back row of the courtroom as Chief Judge Pamela Goulding declared the serial rapist a dangerous offender, sentencing him to an indeterminate jail sentence.
Boalag, 38, was found guilty at trial of three counts of sexual assault with a weapon, sexual interference, two counts of robbery, possessing stolen goods, carrying a concealed weapon, possessing a weapon dangerous to the public, possessing a prohibited weapon, and choking for his brutal attacks on the three females.
His lawyer, Jeff Brace, had argued his client didn’t fit the criteria for dangerous offender status and should receive a 10-year jail term, while Crown prosecutor Trisha McCarthy argued for a dangerous offender designation.
Women raped by Sofyan Boalag address him in court for the first time
Meant to protect the public from the most dangerous violent and sexual predators, a dangerous offender designation can be ordered if the court believes a person to be a serious threat to the public. Prosecutors must prove the person is at a high risk to commit violent or sexual crimes in the future.
Dangerous offenders are sentenced to an indeterminate period of jail time, with no chance of parole for seven years. After that, their cases are reviewed every couple of years and if they are deemed fit for parole, they are monitored and must adhere to strict conditions. A dangerous offender designation is permanent, and most of those given the status spend a significant portion of their lives behind bars.
In her written decision, Goulding noted the serious and escalating nature of Boalag’s attacks, the fact he has shown no remorse and appears to have no insight into his crimes, and the lack of evidence he would willingly engage in sex offender treatment among her reasons for deeming dangerous offender status suitable.
“I am not satisfied that there is a reasonable expectation that the public can be adequately protected from Mr. Boalag by a measure less than an indeterminate sentence,” Goulding wrote.
Boalag will remain at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary for the next 30 days or so, before being transferred to a federal prison.
The court previously heard from the three women Boalag assaulted about how the attacks have changed their lives, drastically affecting their sense of security and mental health.
The women hugged their loved ones and shed tears of relief Thursday as they learned Boalag would remain behind bars indefinitely.
“I have some faith back in the justice system,” the youngest woman told members of the media. “They have done the right thing here. I was prepared for the worst.”
The woman, who was attacked by Boalag from behind as she walked her dog early in the morning, said she dropped out of school and tried to take her own life multiple times after she was assaulted. She said she’s happy now, working full time and studying for two degrees, and has much support, particularly from her grandfather.
She wasn’t without any criticism for the justice system, however, taking the opportunity to call for change in the way sexual assault complainants are interrogated on the stand during cross-examination.
“I know you’ve got to find out the truth and if (the allegations are) true, but there still should be something that doesn’t let you be interrogated down to your sexuality,” she said.
She said she feels the court process is intimidating other victims of sexual violence from coming forward.
The young woman, who smiled often as she spoke, though her eyes dripped a scattered tear, said she hopes someone else reads her words along with Boalag — other women who have experienced violence, whether or not they reported it to police.
“You are still strong. You still survived, and no matter your decision to come forward or not come forward, you still have the strength of a million men,” she said. “You can come back from this.”