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Questioning the politics of rape

by The Concordian March 20, 2012

Activist and author Jane Doe lectured at Concordia on March 15, where she spoke about the politics of rape and how her story shaped the Canadian legal system.
It is with a red square on her vest that Doe began to speak about her journey. Her talk, entitled “The Politics of Rape,” detailed her precedent-setting story of her own rape, to her judicial battle against Toronto police.
‘‘My work is not about rape per se, but about defining it, the nature of its harm […] and to examine how our institutions benefit from sexual assault,’’ she said.
Doe was raped in Toronto in 1986. She did not know that the police had been aware of a serial rapist but failed to inform the women in the neighbourhood that he was lurking in the area.
‘‘The police informed me that I was the fifth woman getting raped in a six-block radius of downtown Toronto,” she said. “They knew the attacks were cyclical. In fact, I was raped a day before they thought the suspect would strike again.”
Doe said the police did not inform the population because of two myths that are still ongoing about rape and sexual assault: if informed, women would become hysterical and the rapist would flee.
After the rapist was convicted and sentenced to 20 years—something practically unheard of at the time—Doe was expected to put it all behind her and get on with her life.
‘‘That wasn’t working for me,’’ she said. ‘‘I didn’t feel like justice had been done. Some other men could rape again; other men were doing it daily. Other men have done it to their friends and family.’’
She said that if the police had issued warnings, those rapes might not have happened in the first place.
Doe engaged in an 11-year-long lawsuit against the Toronto police’s Board of Commissioners for negligence and charter violation, which she won. Her book, The Story of Jane Doe, was published in 2004.
Jenn Clamen, a professor at the Simone de Beauvoir Institute, said that they were really proud to have Jane Doe speaking at Concordia.
‘‘Jane Doe has impacted on the study of sexual assault in Canada and internationally,” she said. “Her name, experience and struggle for justice are integral to the study of law, criminal justice and sociology.”

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