Starting a dialogue about rape

Jane Doe, winner of a landmark lawsuit against Toronto police, will discuss the politics of rape at Concordia March 14
March 5, 2012
By Karen Herland

Nice girls don’t talk about rape.

Most discussions about rape focus on warning women to avoid wearing certain clothes, along with considering their choice of routes, bars and escorts.

“All of these warnings suggest that women are supposed to take responsibility for rape, instead of making the perpetrator responsible,” says Jane Doe, who sees this as one of the many ways rape is mishandled, with devastating results.

“We are told that crime rates are down,” she says, “but the incidence of rape and sexual assault are climbing, and the national conviction rate is only about five per cent.” 

Jane Doe published an account of her experiences.
Jane Doe published an account of her experiences.

Doe will challenge several myths about rape on Wednesday, March 14, when she is a guest of the Simone de Beauvoir Institute. Her talk will be followed by her signing copies of her book, The Story of Jane Doe.

The event is presented by the Simone de Beauvoir Institute with support from: Concordia’s School of Community and Public Affairs; the Dean’s Office, Faculty of Arts and Science; McGill’s Women’s Law Caucus; and the Mobile Media Lab.

Using the name that police employ to protect the anonymity of women involved in violent crimes, Doe will speak about her own rape in Toronto in 1986, and the subsequent legal battle she waged against the Toronto Police Service.

The force knew about her rapist, but stuck with its policy of not informing women in order to avoid causing panic. During her civil suit, Doe’s lawyer argued that this policy put women, including Doe, at risk. After 11 years, she won her case and was awarded more than $200,000 in damages. The landmark decision has been taught in classrooms across Canada. Chatelaine magazine named Doe its Woman of the Year in 1999.

Her book documents the failures and gaps of the medical, social and legal systems in addressing the crime of rape. Part scrapbook, part journal, it presents her own experience, backed with research, insight, character, and even humour.

Despite her efforts, Doe recognizes that not much has changed. She says that society’s treatment of rape, and everyone involved, needs to be drastically reconsidered.

“What we’re doing isn’t working,” she says. “This is an opportunity for creativity and progressive thought and policies.”

When: Wednesday, March 14 at 5:30 p.m.
Where: Alumni Auditorium, Room H-110 of the Henry F. Hall Building (1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.), Sir George Williams Campus

Related links:

•    Simone de Beauvoir Institute
•    School of Community and Public Affairs
•    The Story of Jane Doe, A Book About Rape
•    Mobile Media lab 


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