Review: Jane Doe No More by M William Phelps with Donna M Palomba
Title: Jane Doe No More: My 15-Year Fight to Reclaim My Identity – A True Story of Survival, Hope, and Redemption
Author: Phelps, M. William with Donna M. Palomba
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography
Publisher / Year: Lyons Press / 2012
Source: From the publisher for review.
Why I Read It: Amazon recommended this book to me, and I love them for that. I immediately emailed the publisher to
beg for request a copy for review.
Date Read: 16/07/12
An emotional story of a journey from rape through to the reclamation of identity and power, this book has something for everyone. Phelps worked with Donna Palomba to get all the facts and details of her story, and helping to do the additional research to include all relevant facts. Throughout the book, Palomba is given space to write her own thoughts and feelings at various points in the story.
One night, the first night her husband had ever been away from home, a masked stranger entered Palomba’s home and raped her. After reporting the rape, she was further victimized by the police who instead of pursuing the leads, chose to attack her for making it all up. As many can attest to, often times the treatment by those in a position of authority to rape can be almost worse to deal with than the act itself, because it completely tears away all semblance of safety. You now know for sure there are people out there who will hurt you… and you also now know that those who are supposed to protect you actually won’t. This is a very important case and book for examining that phenomenon and working to make things better.
As with many of the stories of rape that are put out there for us all to learn from, this is another case of the stranger type. While it happened in her house, it wasn’t a known assailant or someone close to Palomba (at least that they could tell at the time). This is the type of rape that we can talk about openly, that gets reported more often, and that has a slightly better chance of being believed. That being said, a main fact that differentiated this case from others is the fact that the rapist appeared to have a key to enter the house, which was a main reason as to why the police didn’t believe her and instead blamed her. The factor that links her rape to that of many of us who are more commonly raped by someone we know is exactly what sets her up in the eyes of the police as a liar. I think this shows a lot as to why the reporting rate and conviction rates are so low.
Here’s a fact for you from a footnote, that I had to look up further. How much false reporting of rape is there? It turns out about 2-8% of all rape allegations are false. Two to eight percent. Think of that next time you hear about accusations of rape. Also, read this which has more details. And the law is heavily stacked on the side of the rapist, with survivors/victims having to jump through hoops to convince detectives, judges, and even the public that they have done nothing wrong – often needing to prove they’ve done nothing wrong in their entire life to be able to actually get support from many sources. Palomba is a great example of this, with basically a spotless record and perfect character but yet still, a rumour can ruin her life and allow the authorities to disbelieve her.
As I’ve said before, it is so important for more books like this to come out. I can’t thank Palomba enough for sharing her story, and Phelps for writing it. As they mention in the book, the more people speak up, the less shame and stigma other survivors will feel. Palomba herself talks about the difficulty she had in making the decision to come forward, but also about how important it was for her to feel like she could help others avoid the same type of treatment by being open. I really appreciated this discussion because it is one that many struggle with. Not everyone chooses to be open about what has happened to them, and that is fine, but I am so happy that there are some who can. They truly make it better for all of us.
My one issue with the book was the way it was laid out. In the advance copy, at least, the sections written by Palomba herself are written in italics. I find it difficult to read large sections written in italics, and I suspect that it’s not just me. This layout decision did disrupt the reading experience. Other than that though, well-written. Despite the heavy and emotional subject, the book was a fantastic and never got to be too much.
I high recommend this book to all, as it contains information that everyone needs to know. Also, do please check out the Jane Doe No More website, it is truly amazing – this is an organization that does important work.