I read way too many books about how abuse affects a woman's later health and wellness. There are the technical books which are frequently a slog and then there are the memoirs. Joanna Connors' I Will Find You fits into that latter category. Connors, a reporter, who admits to living largely without fear before her rape decides to investigate the life of the man who raped her after realizing that she cannot put the rape behind her. I Will Find You is that story.
"I will find you," is what Connors' rapist David Francis says to her after leaving her bloody and shocked in a university theater. Spoiler alert ahead. He doesn't. Francis was sentenced to 30-75 years for raping Connors. But Connors after realizing that even after the trial, the trauma remained with her. She returned to her daily routine seemingly without much therapy (asked to express her anger on a pillow by a therapist early on, Connors decided not to go back) but unsurprisingly the rape changed not only her life but the life of her partner and later her children's. Rape is like that; there is always a before and after for survivors. What sometimes proves crucial in the healing process is the decision to honestly acknowledge the abuse and its impact and to take the time to process that. It's a road that looks different for all survivors but the commonality is that no one really wants to go down it. Twenty-one years after the fact, Connors decides to find Francis, to learn about who he is, only to discover early in her quest that he died in prison.
For Connors, this journey led to painful conversations with relatives of Francis' as she learned more about who he was. Connors bravely enters these conversations and unmasks herself early on as Francis' victim. It's really raw reading at points because her vulnerability is right there in front of us. The reader worries for her in those moments. These are the best points in the book, however. It's gratifying to read how Connors' disclosure as the woman who Francis raped is received by the women she tells and how then, almost immediately afterward, they disclose their own rapes to her. Connors then gets to be in that healing position of telling them, as she was told, that the rapes were not their fault. That what happened to them was wrong.
In I Will Find You, Connors touches on a lot of big themes that feel relevant for many of us today (regardless of whether or not we are a rape survivor) including how someone's race influences our behavior. Connors, who is white, writes at one point, "this new fear of black men shamed me more than the rape,". Francis, who was black and Native American, was the "typical" criminal: black, uneducated and poor with a previous record. It also turns out he was abused himself as a child and came from a family where physical and sexual abuse as well as mental illness and substance abuse were daily threats to the safety of Francis and his several siblings. This was a hard discovery for Connors. She, like the rest of the population, had very little understanding of how abuse affects later health and wellness.
I Will Find You is a story that rape survivors should read. It can be triggering but it's also inspiring and plants the seed that it's never too late. A message we all need to hear more often.