The Story of Jane Doe: A Book About Rape Paperback – Apr 20 2004
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Reading The Story of Jane Doe--a raped woman's account of the crime committed against her and her subsequent, Herculean legal battle against the investigating police--it's hard to believe we live in the 21st century. The statistics presented amid Jane's harrowing personal experience are startling: one in four Canadian women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. Her personal effects (sex toys, for instance) and past history can be used to discredit her. Certain rapes can be classified as non-violent. And yet women in Canada can't actually file rape charges. Charges have to be sourced by the police and filed by a Crown attorney, giving the police enormous power. Handled poorly, as in the case of "Jane Doe" and other women brutalized in the summer of 1986 by Toronto's so-called "Balcony Rapist," that power leads to institutionalized sexism and extreme trauma for the victim. But thanks to Jane Doe and her landmark case against the Toronto police force--who neglected to warn women of a serial rapist in their midst despite knowing his MO, thus using them as bait--we also see that sometimes wrongs are righted, or at least brought to light. Written from an unequivocally feminist standpoint, The Story of Jane Doe is equal parts life story, battle cry for change, crime drama, detailed account of a civil trial unlike any other, and sad exposé of the myths that stubbornly surround rape victims. As Jane tells it, the social and emotional rape begins when the physical one ends. The injustices routinely dealt to rape victims are infuriating to read, but Jane--articulate, darkly funny, and deeply conversant in her subject--compels us. "In Ontario, only four per cent of all reported rapes that reach trial result in guilty convictions. Does that stat sound too low for your comfort level? Okay, let's increase it just for the sake of argument. Make it 20 percent, 30 per cent. Hell, make it 50 per cent. If only half of all charges reported result in convictions, something is very wrong. At four per cent, we have disaster, farce, permission to rape." While the social audit of police conduct which followed Jane's civil trial win must be seen as a step toward ending violence against women, her book makes clear there's still an awfully long way to go. As the author points out, if those same stats applied to other segments of society--say, one in four Canadian men being maimed in their lifetimes--it's doubtful our legal system would be so maddeningly lax, or that the police could continue to operate with such unaccountability and insensitivity. Jane's passionate and persuasive arguments augur well for a serious rethink of an abomination too often dismissed as normal male lust run amok. --Kim Hughes --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Part journal, part comix, part scrapbook, this book is held together by a narrative as compelling as any Law & Order episode.” -- The Mirror (Montreal)
“This book will haunt the corridors of power for decades to come.” -- June Callwood
“The Story of Jane Doe is a startling document about a woman who was not willing to play the standard role of victim, a woman who brought attention to how rape was being handled by the police force, the legal system and, more important, by society…. I found this book to be a thoroughly engrossing, intelligent account of rape, and I must say quite an eye-opener to boot.” -- The Edmonton Journal
“A vital political document.... A conscientious, meticulously documented account of the author’s experience, less as one woman than as one among many…. Under the cold comfort of her blanket of anonymity, Jane Doe has produced a ground-breaking charter, a bill of rights for anyone who, up against it, would sooner fight than take flight; would rather embrace her individuality than surrender it up.” -- Lynn Crosbie in the Toronto Star
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In 1986 Jane Doe was raped by a man who climbed up and broke in through her locked balcony. This man had committed the same crime against five other women in the neighbourhood. The crimes were never reported to the women in the area so they could take extra precautions to protect themselves. In fact to hear Jane tell it, she and the other women in her neighbourhood were used as bait. "The police did not issue a warning because of their belief that women would become hysterical and jeopardize the investigation." It's hard to enjoy reading about something like this. As a woman, it's hard not to become emotional and angry with a system put in place to protect.
When she called the police for help she was interrogated, then taken to a hospital to be poked and prodded (did you know the majority of rape kit results are never used in trials?). Then interrogated again numerous times by different people about the rape. Each time having to relive the event.
There's so much behind the story but basically she and a small group of friends took it upon themselves to warn the community by putting up posters about the rapist. Jane Doe quickly became known as a -trouble maker- amongst the police involved with her case because she was not following their protocol. Shortly after the poster war her assailant was arrested and she was put on trial to convict him. She was put on trial. She was interrogated yet again by the police, prosecutors, and the media.
After a strenuous battle, she won the right to be present at her trial instead out of view in the hall. She won the right to watch her attacker being tried. Because of this she learned about the many secrets behind police investigations which violated her rights. After her degrading trial and treatment by the police, she somehow discovered the nerve to sue the Metropolitan Toronto Police Force.
Again she had to relive every aspect of her rape and prove she wasn't some hysterical, depressed feminist with a grudge against men.
The book is depressing, sure, but I was riveted by her treatment not only as a woman but as a human being. Men, women, lawyers, law enforcement put into question her motives. Surprisingly she was able to find a few people to build a support group. Many did not stay. She was in effect, alone. Her civil suit took eleven years. The stamina this woman must have had to go through this every day for eleven years. She had to wait to be proven right or wrong and have everyone look at her like she was a leper. She didn't have a choice. It was her life and she didn't want anyone else to go through the harassment she experienced.
This book is for any woman who has had to think twice about walking into a darkened parking lot, or talking to strangers, or hanging out with a couple of male friends. OK, basically every woman that exists and this books is also for the 3 out 4 men who wouldn't commit rape if they had the chance and could get away with it. This book is a tool against rape and against the system that supports it. The Story of Jane Doe really shows why - 90 percent of the women who are sexually assaulted still choose not to report".
Throughout you never know the identity of Jane Doe or the rapist. The names are blacked out of the numerous paper clippings included to show media standing. This book isn't just about Jane Doe's story. It educates readers on rape. For educational purposes and to help understand a system run by men, she goes into detail about how the degrees of rape are determined to be violent or non-violent, each carrying a different level of punishment. Because Jane Doe was not stabbed or cut, beat or mutilated her rape was considered non-violent. Hello? The man held her down in her own bed, in the privacy of her own home and thrust his penis into her without her consent. Sounds violent to me.
The transcripts and journal entries are laced with drawings and sketches, some by Jane Doe and some by Shary Boyle. While some were obvious, others were over my head and made no sense whatsoever but I did get a kick out of the psychologist holding up an ink spot of a vagina.
There are two sides to every story as well as individual perspectives. Everyone thinks their side is the right one. Is Jane right? She does use documented data from court reports, news files etc. Her side is believable. I winced at the beginning of the book where a few chapters were written from the perspective of the officers involved in her case. In these chapters Jane Doe speaks from what she felt was their perspective. Obviously no one could know what they were thinking (and she admits to this) but these views actually give more insight into what Jane Doe was feeling by their presence and actions.
There were periods where I was lost or bored, like when she spieled on about what is and isn't feminism. Most importantly The Story of Jane Doe raises questions about our legal system, how rape is defined, how law enforcement is trained and how victims and convicts are treated. It shows how women can and should take charge of their lives after an attack.
Even though we don't know who she is, these are her words, her story, and after being repeatedly misquoted in the media and elsewhere Jane Doe is finally getting her say. You should pick up a copy and have a listen. (...)
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