Jane Doe January: My Twenty-Year Search for Truth and Justice by Emily Winslow

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Jane Doe JanuaryTo say that Jane Doe January is a haunting read is a vast understatement, but it is the best term I can come up with to describe this book. While this book is at times both brutal and thought provoking, it is also frustrating and emotionally draining. This is a story of two women raped by the same man twenty years apart. The victims are known to the press only as Jane Doe January and Jane Doe November. Winslow was Jane Doe January, hence the title of the book.

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Emily Winslow was a drama student at Carnegie Mellon when she was raped, but the perpetrator was never found. From within, she drew the courage to pull her life together and move on. She moved to England, married and had two children and became a crime fiction writer; a career which proves helpful when twenty years after her attack, the rapist is caught after raping another woman. This time, due to better DNA testing, he is identified. As the prosecutors prepare to bring the man to trial, Winslow begins to relive her experience. She wants to face her attacker. She draws on her skills as a crime writer to run her own investigation to find enough evidence to have the perpetrator charged in her case as well.

While the book does get bogged down at times with the author’s thoughts and the various legal maneuvers, it is hard to walk away from it. While I set it aside a couple of times after a few too many pages of cross examinations and trial strategies, or because the emotions in it were just too much, each time I found myself drawn back in. It is easy to get caught up in the frustrations Winslow experiences along the way; the people, including clergy, who don’t help, or worse turn a blind eye to her plight. This was a brave book for the author to write, and in the long run, possibly a comfort to others in similar situations.