Rape victim writes book about police attitudes

‘Jane Doe’ won civil case against Toronto force
Paula McCooey, The Ottawa Citizen, March 08, 2003
Seventeen years ago, a man stalked a woman in her 30s in her downtown Toronto neighbourhood without her knowing, climbed onto her second-storey apartment balcony while she was asleep and raped her at knifepoint. The woman, known only as Jane Doe, won a civil suit against police for failing to warn her there was a serial rapist stalking her neighbourhood. Her case, which inspired her to write a book — The Story of Jane Doe, to be launched in Ottawa April 24 — also set a precedent as to how the police in Ontario handle serial rapist investigations.
But yesterday, as a spokeswoman for the rights of rape victims, the woman told University of Ottawa law students that there still are problems with the way police deal with cases of rape. She told the aspiring lawyers to ask themselves how they would deal with future clients who come to them with a sexual assault case.
“What will you do to challenge the system or law?” Ms. Doe asked, looking around the room.”What will you do if you are asked to think differently?What if she doesn’t have enough money?”
What enraged Ms. Doe the most when her case was investigated was the fact the police had known about a serial rapist before her attack and never issued a warning via media or posters. “I met with the investigating officers a few days after the rape and was told I was raped by a serial rapist,” said Ms. Doe, who was the man’s fifth victim. “And all the victims lived in second- and third-floor apartments. We had been stalked and had 100 (common) identifiable factors and all lived within a six-block radius. If they had all this info, why not tell people?”
She won her civil lawsuit against the Metropolitan Toronto Police in July 1998. She had sued them for failing to warn her about the serial rapist stalking her neighbourhood. She was awarded $220,000. But she said her victory was bittersweet and stressed how society must change the way these issues are approached. She said the Toronto police’s reason for not issuing a warning was to stop women from becoming “hysterical.” She was told if that happened, the rapist would flee.
She also had a problem with the Toronto police’s cross examiner referring to her rape as “non-violent” because the assaulter did not cut her with his knife. “The man who raped us was someone who lived a block away with his wife and had a regular job,” she said. She told her audience a woman is raped every 17 minutes in Canada and nine out of 10 women don’t report it because they are afraid they would not be vindicated. She stressed her ordeal in court was unbearable, with her character raked over the coals and her personal life poked and prodded, and she couldn’t imagine how it would be for those who have society’s preconceptions working against them. She said it’s no wonder people are hesitant to come forward. “I am what they (Toronto police) called a good girl rape,” she said: “Not too young, not too old, middle class, white. Asleep in bed with the doors locked. Horrifying as it is, imagine for the poor woman who is raped who is black, lesbian, disabled, drunk, a prostitute. They wouldn’t be treated the same.”
The trial set a precedent that changed how police services across Ontario approach sexual assault cases. The Toronto Police Service made efforts to reverse a history of bungled investigations of serial rapists stretching back over the past two decades. Toronto’s city auditor Jeffrey Griffiths said the Toronto police needed more training to better handle sexual assault cases and released a report that included 57 recommendations to the police board. Two years ago Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino said he agreed fully or in part with 55 of the 57 recommendations. And said he would implement 52 of the 55. But Ms. Doe, who was named Chatelaine magazine’s Woman of the Year last year, said yesterday nowhere near that number of recommendations have been put in place.
Read also: Jane Doe Unfairly Ripped for Telling the Truth Michele Landsberg, November 1998