Woman who testified in Surrey imam's sex assault trial awarded for bravery

·3 min read
Abdur Rehman Khan's victim, whose identity is protected, is pictured in November in a home in Surrey, B.C. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
Abdur Rehman Khan's victim, whose identity is protected, is pictured in November in a home in Surrey, B.C. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

A woman who testified in a sexual assault trial that ended with the conviction of a Surrey imam is being recognized with an award for her bravery.

The woman, whose identity is protected by a B.C. Supreme Court order, spent six weeks being cross-examined before Abdur Rehman Khan was finally found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison.

Five years after she first reported the assaults, Khan's victim says the award shows that her hard work and suffering paid off.

"I feel so confident," she told CBC News. "I always think all is well that ends well."

It's the first time the Surrey Women's Centre is presenting the Champion for Change award, which recognizes women in the community who are advancing gender equality and human rights.

"We felt that it's a really important opportunity for us to acknowledge the incredible and unwavering amount of strength and courage in her persistence to tell her truth and her story," explained the centre's executive director, Shahnaz Rahman.

The woman says the trial was a re-traumatizing experience.

"I didn't know how I can survive, how I did survive that time."

Repercussions from her community

The other two recipients of the award are B.C. Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender and Tracy Porteous, executive director of the Ending Violence Association of B.C.

Rahman says the woman persevered not only through the trial, but also faced repercussions from her community after reporting that Khan had raped and physically assaulted her.

"While we have come a long way in recognizing domestic violence or physical violence against women, sexual assault [is] still a very taboo area, that the communities have still a way to come in accepting it," she said.

Abdur Rehman Khan's victim, whose identity is protected, says she has dreams of taking courses to further her education.
Abdur Rehman Khan's victim, whose identity is protected, says she has dreams of taking courses to further her education. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The woman says support from the Surrey Women's Centre and a handful of people is what got her through. She says attitudes have changed since CBC covered the story in December.

"Before, everybody said I was wrong," she said. "But after the CBC News released my interview, a lot of people knew about what happened in it so after the community support me.

"They knew what happened to me."

Conviction sparks hope

Rahman says when violence against women is so underreported, a conviction offers a glimmer of hope.

"To us, it signifies, it symbolizes hope. It tells us that this is possible, given that the woman is well supported throughout the process, given that she's not abandoned."

Ultimately, she credits the woman's determination in speaking out as the key factor resulting in the conviction.

The victim has dreams of taking courses to further her education. She hopes her story sends a message to women in similar situations.

"I want every woman who is going through the same situation to come forward and speak about truth," she said. "There is a silver lining [behind] every dark cloud you've seen."