The Story of Jane Doe
The Story of Jane Doe
A Book About Rape
Vintage Canada, Paperback, 9780679312758, 384pp.
Publication Date: April 20, 2004
Startling, incisive and surprisingly funny, this is the true story of a woman who challenged stereotypes, the justice system, the police -- and won.
On an August night in 1986, Jane Doe became the fifth reported woman raped by a sexual serial predator dubbed the Balcony Rapist. Even though the police had full knowledge of the rapist’s modus operandi, they made a conscious decision not to issue a warning to women in her neighbourhood. Jane Doe quickly realized that women were being used by the police as bait. The rapist was captured as a result of a tip received after she and a group of women distributed 2,000 posters alerting the community. During the criminal proceedings, Jane Doe became the first raped woman in Ontario to secure her own legal representation -- allowing her to sit in on the hearings instead of out in the hall where victim-witnesses are usually cloistered. As a result, Jane heard details of the police investigation normally withheld from women in her position, which revealed a shocking degree of police negligence and gender discrimination. When the rapist was convicted, the comfort was cold. In 1987, Jane Doe sued the Metropolitan Police Force for negligence and charter violation. It took eleven long years before her civil case finally came to trial -- the rest is history.
This extraordinary book asks the diffcult question: Who benefits from rape? Popular ideas about rape still inform the way police and society behave around raped women. Despite decades of trying to rewrite the myths, the myths still exist, and they tell us that women lie about rape, that women enjoy it, that women file false rape reports to seek revenge and money. They tell us rape can be non-violent. They tell us that women can make good or bad rape victims or that women cannot be raped at all. They tell us nonsense -- and Jane Doe gives us a unique view on why.
This is a book about rape that is not about being a “victim.” It’s about a woman who wanted to ensure that she, the person most involved, directed her case and the course of her life. It’s about external elements colliding to provide a small window of redress for women who experience crimes of violence. Jane Doe was a test case -- the right woman in the wrong place at the right time -- and she made legal history.
In The Story of Jane Doe, she asks us to challenge our own assumptions about rape and, in the process, surprises us with a story that is by turns sweet, tragic and fantastical. But most of all, this book celebrates what is most common in human nature -- our ability to overcome.
“Rape stories are not new stories. They are as old as war, as old as man. Many bookstores have sections devoted to them, and I read them. I read them “before,” too. I have found most rape stories to be either chronicles of fear and horror, victim tales that make me want to run screaming from the page (although I do not). Or they are dry, academic or legal treatises on why rape is bad, written in language I must work to understand. Both are valid. But both somehow limit me from reaching a broader understanding . . . No book has ever reflected my lived experience of the crime.” -- Jane Doe
“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