Life Stories #84: Emily Winslow

Life Stories: Emily Winslow

In the winter of 1992, Emily Winslow was a young theater major getting ready for her next semester when she was followed into her building by a stranger who then forced his way into her apartment and raped her. Over the years, she had kept in touch with the sex crimes unit of the Pittsburgh police, even after she moved to Cambridge, England. Then, in 2013, the DNA evidence finally produces a match. The suspect is arrested, and the path to justice begins. Jane Doe January is Winslow’s account of the months that followed—including her frustration when many of those close to her, unsure of how to address the situation, kept an emotional distance that was, just then, the very last thing she needed.

In our conversation, we talk about that, and about why she maintains that what she did isn’t “brave,” and didn’t bring her “closure.” She also dispels an assumption I had made about the journals she was keeping throughout these events, and how it was only later that she decided to turn them into a memoir. No, she told me, this was the plan all along:

“People talk about writing about traumatic experiences as being therapeutic, because it helps you get it out of you. That is true, but for me, that is step one. For me, what’s therapeutic about it is not just letting it out; it’s letting it out and picking it up and using my skills and using my talent to make something that stands alone from me, apart from the crime, and is something beautiful. I wanted to write a beautiful book. I wanted to write a book that was interesting. So for me the therapeutic aspect wasn’t just letting it out. It was, from the very start, crafting it. Because that’s what I do—I use words. That’s what I do.”

Listen to Life Stories #84: Emily Winslow (MP3 file); or download this file by right-clicking (Mac users, option-click). Or subscribe to Life Stories in iTunes, where you can catch up with earlier episodes and be alerted whenever a new one is released. (And if you are an iTunes subscriber, please consider rating and reviewing the podcast!)

photo: Jonathan Player

13 July 2016 | life stories |