It took 24 years, but when Joanna Connors of The Plain Dealer in Cleveland finally decided to reveal her 1984 rape in the paper's pages, she expected strong reaction. But since her lengthy, and often graphic, account ran on Sunday, the response has shocked even her. She has already received hundreds of emails and phone messages, and some carried startling information.
"Two people at the paper came up to me and said they had been raped and one had never told anyone," Connors, 54, told my magazine, E&P, today. "So many of the people in the voice mails and e-mails said so, too. We really absorb that message [as victims] that it is uncomfortable for everyone."
Connors was raped while on the job as a Plain Dealer theater critic. She was attacked at the student theater of nearby Case Western University by a man who cornered her in the empty backstage area.
For years, she never wrote about the incident, which resulted in the eventual conviction and imprisonment of the rapist. The paper covered the trial -- but kept her name hidden.
But she felt tempted to tell all after taking her daughter on a college campus tour in 2005. She agreed to write it for the paper only after getting her two daughter's okay -- and that of her husband, fellow Plain Dealer writer Christopher Evans.
Connors said the paper set up a special e-mail and voicemail line for reaction. "I would say there were maybe a total of five bad ones," Connors told E&P's Joe Strupp. "It has been amazing." She said that at least one person, a black man, commented on the racial aspect of the incident, given that Connors is white and her attacker was black. "He said he was sick of 'all of us bearing the brunt of what one person did.'"
But she said the majority were positive and a surprising number were fellow rape victims admitting their personal stories for the first time.
Connors said she still believes that newspapers should not print the names of rape victims, at least not without their permission. "Because of the fear that the guy would come after them," she says. "That unintended consequence is very powerful."
Her article can be found here.
Greg Mitchell's new book is So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits -- and the President -- Failed on Iraq.