The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right sidebar.
Jane Doe January by crime writer Emily Winslow is a personal memoir of a horrific tragedy, a rape she was forced to endure. While turning the pages people will get fresh insight into the world of the victim as Winslow confronts issues. Readers will begin to understand how there is no set stereotype for a victim, since not everyone is going to act and feel the same way.
Winslow commented to blackfive.net, “I tried to understand and accept that the jury could only like me if I conformed to some very narrow range of emotion. I could not be angry. When on the stand I would have to show emotions of vulnerability and hurt; yet, hold back on other emotions. I wondered how do you let sadness show but keep anger in, and be vulnerable but keep my dignity.”
Through this book Winslow takes readers on a journey with her as she delves into her past, reconnects with the original detective on her case, and works with prosecutors as they prepare for a trial. The story travels back in time to the morning in January 1992 when she was raped. Over the course of the next two decades she marries, has two children, becomes an American expatriate living in Cambridge England, and becomes a crime writer. The story reveals how she had to become her own legal advocate to get possible retribution. She would encounter a revolving door of detectives as she tried to keep her case alive through inquiries. Only through pure luck, when a friend of another victim convinces a cold case detective to test the DNA, do they find the rapist, Arthur Fryar. After matches were found to provide sufficient evidence he was prosecuted in 2013. Although the ending would not be happily ever after Winslow did get the truth and some kind of justice.
The most interesting points are when Winslow displays her emotions. She does not comply with the usual portrayals of rape victims as seen on the TV shows. Readers learn how she did not shy away from the rapist, but became obsessed with him, taking to social media to find as many facts as she could by delving into his family and past. Beyond that she talks to the reader through her writings, letting them know that she is not going to forgive him and that she is not going to cower, instead showing feelings of anger and defiance. Finally, people see how the judicial system can let down a victim as Winslow confronts extradition, statutory limits, and sentencing guidelines.
She wants people to understand there is no one fits all type of victim noting, “It’s like people want the victims to follow a script. I write in the book, ‘What I feel is that I would like him to be sentenced long enough that he will surely die in prison.’ Yet, it seems so important to people that I forgive him. I think they want it so I would go along with the perfect victim story. Being a devout Christian, I tried to figure out what forgiveness was supposed to look like. It was like they were trying to rationalize reasons for my attitude. They wanted me to say I was testifying to save potential future victims. I thought what happened to me is enough of a reason to testify. People tried to see me as selfless, which I gently corrected.”
Jane Doe January is very powerful because it allows people to think how they would have reacted. It is written in almost a diary form as Winslow recounts her quest to seek justice in a very open and honest way. People should read this memoir to get invaluable insight into the mind and heart of a victim.