Rebecca's Reviews > I Will Find You: A Reporter Investigates the Life of the Man Who Raped Her

I Will Find You by Joanna Connors
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bookshelves: memoirs, read-via-edelweiss, true-crime

Connors was a young reporter running late for an assignment for the Cleveland Plain-Dealer (still her employer) when she was raped in an empty theater on the Case Western campus. She had ignored the twinge of alarm she felt when a young guy with an Afro invited her in to see his work on the lighting– not wanting to be that stereotypical white woman afraid of black men – and that was it. By using present-tense narration, Connors makes the events of 1984 feel as if they happened yesterday: a blow-by-blow of the sex acts forced on her at knife-point over the nearly one-hour duration of her rape; the police reports and trials; and the effects it all had on her marriage and family.

It wasn’t until 2005 that Connors, about to send her daughter off to college, felt the urge to go public about her experience and discover the traces of her rapist. “I will find you,” he warned her as he released her from the theatre, but she turned the words back on him. Although she quickly learned that David Williams had died after 16 years in prison, that didn’t deter her from locating his family and learning everything she could about what made him a repeat criminal. And the truth she found is just heartbreaking: Williams’s family story is a terrible welter of violence, abuse, drugs and prostitution. She never uses this to explain away what Williams did, but it gives her the necessary compassion to visit the man’s grave. As his imprisoned brother asked, “What did we do wrong to deserve such a tragic life?”

The 1980s were a key time for advances in rape legislation and medical examination. Yet Connors recognizes that the social implications of a black man raping a white woman were the same as they’d been for over a hundred years:

I’m the perfect witness because I’m a journalist, trained to observe details and remember them. But I know what he really means. To him, I’m the perfect victim because I happen to fulfill just about all the requirements of a woman accusing a man of rape, going back to before the Civil War. I am white, educated, and middle-class. I resisted, and I have a cut on my neck, bruises still healing on my spine, and a torn and bloodstained blouse to prove it. I immediately ran to report the rape.

Needless to say, David Williams is the perfect defendant: black, poor, and uneducated, with a criminal record. If only I’d been a virgin, too, [the prosecutor] would have had everything he needed for a swift and successful trial.

This is an excellent work of reconstruction and investigative reporting. It’s not actually the best rape memoir I’ve encountered this year; that honor goes to Ruined by Ruth Everhart, though it’s a close-run thing. The fact that there have been a whole cluster of rape memoirs this year (also including On Being Raped by Raymond M. Douglas and Jane Doe January: My Twenty-Year Search for Truth and Justice by Emily Winslow, both of which I also intend to read) proves this is an issue that needs to be in the public eye.

Connors was struck by how many women came to her with their own rape stories, including two colleagues and two of Williams’s sisters. None of them saw their rapists brought to justice. In many cases rape is still not even reported, often for fear of not being believed. Statistics suggest that 1 in 5 American women will be raped in their lifetime. Those numbers are an affront, and to add insult to injury by not prosecuting most cases is unacceptable. Let’s hope books like Connors’s help to change the culture.
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Reading Progress

January 19, 2016 – Shelved
January 19, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
January 19, 2016 – Shelved as: memoirs
January 19, 2016 – Shelved as: read-via-edelweiss
March 22, 2016 – Started Reading
March 26, 2016 – Finished Reading
April 1, 2016 – Shelved as: true-crime

Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)

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Caroline This sounds so good. I'm adding it.

Rebecca Definitely a worthwhile read. It's out next Tuesday.

message 4: by Rae (new) - added it

Rae Meadows I'm adding it, too. Always important to tell these stories given the shame that often keeps them hidden. And it sounds like the fact that she's a journalist gives her story a a precise lens. (I grew up in a suburb of Cleveland so there is particular resonance for me.) Thanks, Rebecca!

Rebecca Thanks, Rae. I agree it's vital for people to speak out. Connors certainly gives what you'd call a journalistic account, but doesn't leave out her emotions either. You'll be interested to hear about the different socioeconomic regions of Cleveland.

message 6: by Vicki (new) - added it

Vicki Definitely adding it. Thank you, Rebecca, for having the courage to tell your story.

Rebecca I'm just recounting the author's story, but thank you.

message 8: by Kimberly (new) - added it

Kimberly Prezioso My type of story! Adding it to my list.

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