Content Warning: This article contains mentions of domestic violence and physical assault.
Last year, after a brutal assault that nearly left her dead, 25-year-old Chelsey Arkarakas was charged with second-degree murder when her ex-boyfriend lost his life. In March, the justice system ruled in her favour, and she was cleared of all charges.
Now she hopes her story will help other victims of domestic violence.
On Nov. 16, 2020, Arkarakas drove out to her ex-boyfriend, 32-year-old Brent Mancheese’s, Scarborough apartment.
Arkarakas had broken up with Mancheese, who she had dated for a year when he became physically abusive and relapsed into drug use.
A month and a half later, he contacted her and sounded remorseful. Over text and phone conversations, Mancheese persuaded Arkarakas to meet him in person for closure and a full apology.
However, soon after she arrived, the half-hour attack began.
Arkarakas sustained two black eyes, a broken nose, multiple bite marks as well as her hair and earrings ripped out, her lawyer, Nadir Sachak, explained to 6ixBuzz.
Toward the end of the assault, Mancheese pinned her down and began choking her with a scarf.
It was then that Arkarakas spotted the folding pocketknife on the couch. After a struggle for the blade, she reached back and blindly stabbed once.
Arkarakas pushed Mancheese off of her and took off running, barefoot, to a neighbour’s house. The neighbours who called 911 said they thought she was in a Halloween costume because there was so much blood.
The single stab wound would end up penetrating Mancheese’s thigh and artery.
Arkarakas found out through a police radio that he had died.
She was charged with second-degree murder. The next day, she was taken from the hospital to prison.
“When I was in jail, honestly, I was angry,” Arkarakas told 6ixBuzz. “I knew I had a fight ahead of me, for my freedom. However, I knew my truth, and I held onto it with everything in me. And the truth is that this was self-defence.”
Less than a month later, she was released on bail. After speaking to her lawyer—something that COVID-19 restrictions had made challenging to do while in custody—she gave police a full statement.
Arkarakas’ lawyer called the amount of evidence in her case for self-defence “overwhelming.”
“As the evidence started coming in, it became so apparent. It was so obvious that the real perpetrator here was not her,” Sachak told 6ixBuzz.
Sachak said that Mancheese also had a documented history of domestic violence against women and a criminal record, including 18 convictions related to weapons and violence.
Four months later, the Crown ruled in Arkarakas’ favour. The murder charge was dropped. They called it an “insurmountable” case of self-defence.
While what Arkarakas has endured has been incredibly traumatizing, she says she is doing much better.
“I have a really good support system behind me. A lot of people have been sending me love, positivity and prayer. And that’s what keeps me sane. Knowing that I’m not alone,” she said.
As COVID-19 restrictions lift, Arkarakas hopes to work full-time as a tattoo artist. It’s something she wasn’t even sure she would be able to do after sustaining knife wounds and fractures to her hands while fighting for her life.
“That’s my dream,” she said. “I was ready to sacrifice my left hand to grip that blade. I have no permanent damage, no pain, no nothing.”
A GoFundMe has been set up in support of her. “Many victims of domestic violence do not live to tell their story,” the fundraiser reads.
“I want my story to help women in pain, women who are suffering in silence, to be strong,” Arkarakas said. “If you see the red flags, trust yourself, trust your instincts.”
“I want women to be strong. Because we can be.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, please visit Ontario.ca or call 211 for information on provincial crisis and help lines, legal aid, emergency and women’s shelters and more.
Support is available in over 200 different languages, including 17 Indigenous languages.