What is Rape and Who is Jane Doe?

I have had a rough couple of weeks.  I have been struggling to find my way and it has left me exhausted.  I am worried and afraid about things that I have no control over.  I’m not sure if it is my approaching birthday, the fact that my son has his own car and is out and about on his own, or the fact that I am simply emotionally spent and therefore misinterpreting things that are said to me from a place of frustration, rather than gratitude.

My spiral began when I started to read up on the rape case in Steubenville, Ohio. That social media helped convict two young men of rape was fascinating to me.  It is proof of the power of a blog that a blogger blew this case wide open.  I started to read because I was interested in the social media aspects of the case, but quickly became consumed with the story.  The way the Jane Doe was treated broke my heart into a million pieces.

The 16 year old girl at the centre of this story has been disrespected and discarded over and over again.  It speaks to our society that this girl is being blamed for ruining the lives of the boys who raped her.  That this is how rape victims are treated is mind boggling to me.  I am offended not only as a woman, but more importantly as a human being.  People need to understand that rape is a word that covers all sexual assaults.

Rape is a violation and there are many ways in which someone can be raped.  You can talk to a hundred rape victims and all their stories will be different in terms of what their experiences were, but at the core, the violation is the same.  The emotions that come wtih being hurt this way are the same.  Rape can mean a lot of different things and each definition is a form of abuse and should not be experienced by anyone.

The boys who were convicted in Ohio are the same age as my own son.  I can sympathize with their families, but at the same time I question what was taught and not taught in their homes.  My son is being raised to respect not only women, but himself.  I know that people never think this can happen in their families, but I know what I have taught my child and he knows what is right and what is wrong. That is a fact.

I was the victim of a very violent sexual assault when I was 22 years old.  I spent a year in and out of the hospital, and another year in and out of court, as I fought for my voice to be heard.  The pain and torment was worth it when my attacker was convicted of kidnapping, forcible confinement, and rape.  Many lives were altered with the conviction.  Not only the lives of my family and me, but also for my attacker and his family.  It is hard to leave Jane Doe behind.

In reading about Jane Doe in Ohio, I have had an opportunity to revisit my 22 year old self and I am really proud of her.  I have never been shy about speaking my mind and standing up for myself and what I believe in, but my experience at 22 really shaped who I am now as a person and has provided me with a grace I never knew I would have.  I am not writing to talk about rape, as much as I am writing to talk about hope for Jane Doe.

Today is the beginning of Passover, which commemorates the liberation of Jews, so as Pesach approaches I am going to liberate myself.  My name is Ilana Angel and I was a Jane Doe.  It does not define who I am as a human being.  I survived a horrific experience, but I am thriving, strong, and I am wise.  I am a wonderful person who has love and a full life.  I am free of the label and believe that this day can come for every Jane Doe.

I want this young girl in Ohio to know she is going to be okay.  She will heal from the humiliation, pain, and deep and crippling sorrow that comes from being Jane Doe.  She will reach a point when she will find love, give love, accept love, and not question love.  She will be all the things she wanted to be before she was labeled with the horrible status of Jane Doe, and she will take a special feeling of pride in each step she takes forward.

For those who celebrate Passover I wish you a happy Pesach and hope you have Seders full of love, laughter, and joy.  I am going to mark the holiday by releasing the chains that label me what I am not.  My life is blessed and many experiences have made me who I am.  I will always keep Jane Doe in my heart and pray for all who share the name are able to experience their own Exodus to freedom. I pray that they lose the label and keep the faith.