Friday, December 13, 1996

Rosie DiManno

One rape victim's long fight to prove police negligence

SHE IS, as she notes with a soft chuckle, the last of the surviving Jane Does.

"It's lonely and isolating," she says, "being a Jane Doe."

A 40-ish teacher and publicist who has been fighting her exhausting battle for almost a decade. Not just for accountability from Metro police, not just for some acknowledgment that cops were partly responsible for the rape she suffered at the knife-wielding hands of a stranger, but also for some assurance -- enshrined in police protocol -- that what she has suffered will never again be repeated, at least not for the specific reasons behind her sexual assault.

This Jane Doe, now nearing the end of the discovery stage in her $1.2 million negligence lawsuit against Metro police and the police services board (her case is set for trial on May 5), was raped on Aug. 24, 1986, the last of five victims of the so-called Balcony Rapist. Her assailant had gained access to her second-floor apartment through a locked balcony door. A month later, police arrested Paul Douglas Callow, who was subsequently convicted and sentenced to 20 years.

Jane has maintained from the beginning that police were reckless and negligent in not warning women that a likely serial rapist was at work. All the victims lived in the general area of Wellesley and Church Sts., all were white with dark hair, all lived alone in second and third-floor apartments. Yet no alarm was raised, no public alert issued.

It was, Jane charges, as if police were using women as bait, either because they feared that a warning would provoke mass hysteria among women in the city, or because they were deliberately trying to lure the rapist into being caught.

These are charges that, of course, have yet to be proven in court. (A publication ban prevents me from providing more details, including the procedural notes and investigative memos in the police case file from that time.) But it took Jane three years alone, and a Supreme Court ruling, to even secure the right to sue police under such circumstances -- a right that now exists for all.

A month ago, another Jane Doe -- an occasional prostitute and emotionally fragile woman who had been coerced into providing sexual favours to a Metro police sergeant under threat of arrest (to which he pleaded guilty under Police Act charges) -- died suddenly at the age of 36. With the suicide in 1989 of Robin Voce, another young woman who had been sexually victimized by Metro officers -- sex in their cruiser; she called it rape -- this Jane Doe now stands alone.

Jane recalls how she deliberately went out to look for the semi-prostitute Jane Doe, after the latter had come forward to provide information at the Gordon Junger inquiry.

"We used to laugh over the fact that I was the Good Jane -- a teacher, raped at home, in bed -- and she was the Bad Jane -- the prostitute," she says, with sad humor in her voice. "But I thought she was so brave, taking on the cops all by herself."

This Jane, for all the support in the rape counselling community, and the steadfast representation of the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund, is still alone in many ways. Not the least of which is the fact that she, like her late friend has never told her family about her rape, that she is that Jane.

And, despite her long legal battle, Jane says she needs that upcoming trial. "I want the opportunity to tell my story with my own voice."

Police have never offered to settle outside of court, although their lawyers did, says Jane, promise not to sue her for court costs if she dropped her lawsuit. But then, in the discovery process so far, she feels police lawyers have demonstrated no tact or sensitivity for her (undisputed) rape.

"I have suffered considerable damage, and I can never go back to the life I had before that night," says Jane. But she adamantly opposes the image that has been perpetuated about rape victims, which casts them as either emotional wrecks or accomplices in their own fate. "Somewhere between madonna and whore," she snorts.

She believes, adamantly, that her rape was a "political act." Not just in the narrow sense of her own circumstances. But, in the broader sense, that police, the courts, and the state have not taken sufficient measures to address the fact that a woman is raped every 17 minutes in this country.

"I believe men rape because they can."

More about Fiona Stewart... [Toronto '96] [News by region] [News by topic]

Created: January 5, 1997
Last modified: April 4, 1998

Walnet Walnet, c/o Walnut Society
Box 3075, Vancouver, BC V6B 3X6
Tel: +1 (604) 488-0710