Beyond Rape: Joanna Connors raises the bar at The Plain Dealer

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It’s not often that you open up The Plain Dealer and find a story so riveting, so fascinating, that you can’t put it down. But it does occasionally happen. Take, for instance, this month’s Beyond Rape: A Survivor’s Journey by Joanna Connors, a Plain Dealer writer who was raped in 1984 while on assignment as the paper’s theater critic … Connors’ five part series, which ran each Sunday this month, isn’t simply a gut wrenching retelling of the event, but an incredible foray into the mind of not only the victim, but the rapist too. Connors spent months seeking out her rapist’s family, friends, and history. She befriended his sisters – rape victims themselves. Found more of his victims – including a priest. And finally revisited the scene of the crime in an attempt to let go of a moment that has defined her life for over twenty years. Not only was it incredibly brave of Connors to come forward with her story – which she describes in painful, terrifying detail – but her search for the truth about her attacker, her artful handling of complicated race and class issues as a subtext, and the way she unfolds her adventure is compelling. How Connors managed to paint such a human, sympathetic portrait of her rapist -- David Francis, who died in prison in 2000 – is beyond comprehension and incredibly touching. If you didn’t get a chance to read the series, it’s all available online along with an epilogue with updates on all the characters. – Denise Grollmus

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