When Joanna Connors of The Plain Dealer in Cleveland agreed to tell the story of her 1984 rape in the paper's pages, she expected strong reaction.
But even she was surprised at how many of the 220 or so e-mails and voicemails responding to the special section in Sunday's paper about her experience were from women who had been raped, but had never told anyone.
"Two people at the paper came up to me and said they had been raped and one had never told anyone," Connors, 54, told 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 actually raped while on the job during her stint as a Plain Dealer theater critic. She writes, in graphic fashion, in the first of several stories that ran Sunday about being 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. But, as she writes in the first of the stories that made up the 16-page special section last Sunday, she wanted to reveal her story after taking her daughter on a college campus tour in 2005.
As she began to write about the experience and do research for a book on the subject, Editor Susan Goldberg approached her with the idea of writing it for the paper. "Joanna had this story to tell and we thought it was important and only she could tell it," Goldberg recalls. "We decided to put it out there and the response was overwhelming and overwhelmingly positive."
Connors said she had to think long and hard about whether to put the story into the paper first: "It was a process for me that was cathartic. I really had to think about it."
One stipulation Connors put before Goldberg was that if either of her children, a 22-year-old son and 19-year-old daughter, objected to the package when it was done, they could veto it. She also required approval from her husband, fellow Plain Dealer writer Christopher Evans, who is mentioned in the stories.
"Even though their last name is different form mine, Cleveland is in some ways a small town and everyone would know this is their mom," Connors said. "I did not want them to suffer for this at all." As for Evans, from whom Connors has been separated since last year, she said he has been most supportive and she wanted him to feel right about it as well. …