Category Archives: Launch

The issue that’s missing from the Republican debates? Sexual violence.

The US Centers of Disease Prevention and Control reports that 1.3 million women annually are victims of predatory sexual violence. They regard it as a public health crisis. One could reasonably expect that this epidemic of sexual violence would be of vital concern to our leaders, but did you hear it raised in the Republican debates? I didn’t. Planned Parenthood. Immigration. The budget. Building a wall on the Mexican border. Hillary Clinton’s emails. Syria. There was lots of anger and sparring on these issues. Sexual violence? No opinion.It seems the candidates regard the war on women as a lost cause. Either that, or it’s so unimportant to them, they don’t give it a second thought.
There is no reason for our leaders to be so complacent. Nothing has improved.  While other types of violent crime have decreased, the incidence of rapes and sexual homicides have skyrocketed. Even simple measures could make a difference. For example, rapists are known to follow their victims as they walk home along darkened streets. City councils could be providing better street lighting. Getting rid of the backlog of untested rape kits would make an even bigger difference. The Joyful Heart foundation reports there are hundreds of thousands of them. Yet it’s so often the case that after DNA testing leads to an arrest, it turns out the perpetrator was a serial offender. By failing to test rape kits, cities allow serial rapists to roam free, attacking more women.
Sexual violence is not an issue that galvanizes our leaders. They don’t debate it, they don’t campaign on it, they don’t ask women’s organizations, “what can I do to help make a difference?” They regard it as a non issue. Is it cynical to think that if 1.3 million males were raped annually in the USA, crimes of sexual violence would be a recurring topic in the Republican debates?

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Stig Larsson and the U.S. Congress

In 2009 President Obama declared a National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. “Sexual assault is pervasive in the United States,” stated the President. “One recent study found that 18 per cent of women in this country have been raped in their lifetimes.” Barack Obama issued a rallying cry. “ I urge all Americans to respond to sexual assault by creating policies at work and school, by engaging in discussions with family and friends, and by making the prevention of sexual assault a priority in their communities.”
Well, he did his best. Did it become a priority in most communities? Nope. Did it become a priority for state governments? Hardly. The President’s call to action pretty much fizzled, while statistics for sexual assault continued to rise. Does this nationwide indifference  encourage rapists to believe no one takes attacks on females seriously? Of course. How could it not?
Several years ago TV journalist Jane Velez-Mitchell declared that there was a “war on women.”’ She’s right. With nearly one in five women in the USA having experienced at least one rape, that’s a useful way to look at it. After all, Congress has a history of funding wars with taxpayers’ money. Now, imagine if Congress became just as committed to fighting the “war against women. ” Imagine if from middle school on, all females received training in how to escape dangerous individuals and situations.
Schools are mandated to instruct students —female and male—on what to do if a gunman is loose on school premises. So, ironically,  girls learn how to protect themselves against a mass killer— it is unlikely they will have to use these skills, but better safe than sorry! —but they don’t learn how to fight off a sexual assault. Although twenty percent of them will face that situation one day!
As well as training girls how to deal with dangerous individuals and unsafe situations, schools should be training boys as well. Not just how to lead other students to safety when a gunman roams the halls—although that is laudable— but how to stop a rape, and ensure the victim’s safety. There are a lot of boys who would welcome that training.
Stig Larsson was once a boy like that. As a teenager, he witnessed a gang rape. He felt powerless. He didn’t know what to do. His failure to act haunted him for years. As a result he created the character of Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. From a young age, Salander trained herself how to defeat any man who attempted to hurt her. The author said through his protagonist’s example he wanted to empower girls to be able to fight back effectively.
Wouldn’t it be something if Congress saw the same need, and actually did something about it?

A Girl’s Guide to the Criminal Mind

I just wanted to let everyone know that I finished my second book. It’s called “A Girl’s Guide to the Criminal Mind; Fighting Back Against Sexual Assault.” It will be published as an e-book first, and I’ll provide a link to it when it comes out next month.
“A Girl’s Guide to the Criminal Mind”is about how to deal with sexual predators: serial rapists, date rapists, and serial killers etcetera. You will learn from experts in criminal behavior about how a sex predator’s mind works, and how he plans his crimes. You’ll find out his favorite locations, the most popular ruses he employs, the favorite fake identities he assumes, and how, why and when he selects victims. Why? So that you can recognize and avoid him. My purpose in writing the book was to give us all a better chance of escaping sexual predators. Since they usually have surprise on their side, we can make it a lot harder for them if we take away their ‘opportunity.’
I am incredibly grateful to the leading criminal profilers and forensic psychiatrists who have interviewed serial killers and serial rapists in order to understand their mentality. It’s largely from their research that I drew my information. There is a wealth of knowledge out there, but it’s not easy to access it unless you’re in criminal justice or forensic psychology. But now it is. It’s there between the covers of my latest book.

Thought Crimes and Gilberto Valle.

Last night I watched the documentary ‘Thought Crimes’ on HBO. Did you see it? The subject was the Gilberto Valle trial. You’ll remember that he was freed by Judge Gardephe on appeal. The judge’s decision still baffles me. He ruled that Valle’s plans to kidnap, rape and cook women existed only in his own imagination. The judge said he was persuaded by the defense argument that the Cannibal Cop was merely sharing fantasies on the internet to like minded deviants: they were ugly, and misogynistic but essentially harmless.

But Valle had specific women in mind, not fictional ones. And he admitted to using police computers to track down addresses of the individuals he had described to his online buddies as his “prey.” To me, that shows he wasn’t musing; he intended to carry out the detailed plans he described. He was found guilty of “intent” to commit a crime.  Judge Gardephe’s decision that Valle doesn’t pose a risk to society disturbs me. Would the judge have felt the same way in a case where a man had not only been online discussing plans with co-conspirators to bomb City Hall, but had also done illegal searches on police computers, and tried to learn how to make bombs (in Valle’s case, it was chloroform) If the man argued it was merely a “fantasy”, would the Judge have released him back into society. I don’t think so. And what about Jeffrey Dahmer? If he had been chatting to fellow cannibals online about his heinous plans to capture and dismember young men,and he had done surveillance on them too, would the judge dismiss Dahmer as a harmless fantasist? He’d be irresponsible if he did. Anyway, I came away from the documentary believing that Valle was a dangerous individual who poses a danger to women, including his own wife.  I wrote a post a while back, addressing the Judge.  Here’s what I said:

Why was Gilberto Valle released yesterday after being found guilty in 2013 of conspiracy to kidnap? Oh yes, the judge who heard his appeal, decided the former New York City cop was harmless. Just a regular guy —like Jeffrey Dahmer was a regular guy. “This is a conspiracy that existed solely in cyberspace,” said the judge, Paul G. Gardephe. Well, I’m never going to get to meet you in person Judge, so I’ll just have an imaginary conversation with you in cyberspace.

I disagree with your decision, Judge Gardephe. I believe you’re wrong to regard the internet as a forum where psychopaths reveal murder fantasies to each other to great applause, but that’s as far as it ever goes. Recently, Elliot Rodgers went online to PickUpArtists, another website where men express hatred of women. Rodgers outlined his plan to shoot as many women as he could, and he went out and completed the task. He killed six people and wounded 13 others near the University of California before his rampage was ended.

Now, I have a question. If you had been given a transcript of Elliot Rodgers’s chat room conversation where he announced his intention to murder women, would you have dismissed it as insufficient to prove intent to harm? If you had, that decision would have come to haunt you. Well, Judge, like Elliott Rodger, Gilberto Valle was writing of his intent. And you have released Gilberto Valle. I hope that decision doesn’t come back to haunt you.

You ruled that a plan to commit a crime if it is shared on the internet —no matter that the research has suggested extensive planning—should not be taken seriously. I can assure you that if a plan to kill the President was discussed on the internet and the offender had been to scout out the White House, it would be treated as a credible assassination plot. No federal judge would release the prisoner from jail so he could walk free around Washington. DC.

And what if you were the intended victim? If a rage-fueled individual with a hatred of the justice system shared his plan online to break into your home and abduct, torture and kill you, and if he had located your address and followed you there, would you dismiss it as harmless fantasy and sleep peacefully in your bed at night? I doubt it.

So, what is it about the internet in this particular case that makes it a crime free zone for you? I don’t understand why you believe Mr. Gilberto Valle—a man with a manifest rage against women—did not have the intention to carry out his heinous plans. After all, he made plans. What if plans for the kidnapping of the famous Lindbergh baby had been discovered before the event actually occurred in the 1930s? Should a judge dismiss such plans as ‘fantasy’ because the child hadn’t yet been kidnapped? Should the conspirators be given their freedom even if they had tracked down the address of the Lindbergh baby, and had started lurking outside? Of course not. They had intent. And in the case of the Cannibal Cop, he had crossed the boundary from planning into action. He had taken the risk of illegally searching for his proposed victim’s addresses on a law enforcement data base, and he had begun stalking them. Doesn’t that imply intent to kidnap and kill?

“The highly unusual facts of this case reflect the Internet age in which we live,” you ruled. When it comes to sex crimes, the boundary between fantasy and realization isn’t as thick as the Great Wall of China, Judge. It’s thin. Every criminal profiler knows that. In the 1980s FBI profilers interviewed hundreds of homicidal sex predators in jails around the USA. John Douglas recalled: “One of the things we clearly established was that in any sexually related predatory crime, the fantasy always precedes the acting out.”

Roger Depue was head of the FBI’s Behavioral Sciences Unit at Quantico at the time. In his memoir, he wrote that it is inevitable that once a violent fantasy takes root, the homicidal sex predator becomes obsessed with figuring out how to bring it to life. Other interests are pushed aside. I’m guessing Gilberto Valle didn’t have much time for other hobbies while he was researching torture. The guy was a ticking time-bomb.

But let’s give the last word to serial killer Edmund Kemper who brought mayhem, death and suffering to eight women. “I knew long before I started killing that I was going to be killing, that it was going to end up like that. The fantasies were too strong. They were going on for too long and were too elaborate.”

You should have done your homework, Judge Valle before you let the prisoner walk.

Why hasn’t the Equal Rights Amendment been passed?

I guess it was rather idealistic of me when I was a high school student to think that the birth of the women’s movement had been the death knell to gender discrimination. In fact, I confess that way into my thirties I always assumed the ERA had been passed. But more than forty years after it was introduced,the Equal Rights Amendment still hasn’t been ratified. Now obviously if the ERA ever passes, it won’t mean the end of misogyny. Legislation doesn’t end hatred. We know that from the continuing prevalence of racism. Nevertheless the passing of civil rights legislation that affirmed the races were equal and must be treated as such did result in sweeping changes. Passing the ERA would be evidence that women and men are also regarded as equal under American law. Refusing to pass it is proof they’re not, that the fight for equality isn’t over. It’s still a battle that needs to be won.

Psychopathy and its Relationship to Serial Murder

I came across this recently.  The FBI Symposium happened in 2005 but its findings are just as relevant today.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation hosted a multi-disciplinary Symposium in San Antonio, Texas, on August 29, 2005 through September 2, 2005. The goal of the Symposium was to bring together a group of respected experts on serial murder from a variety of fields and specialties, to identify the commonalities of knowledge regarding serial murder.

Attendees at the Serial Murder Symposium agreed that there is no generic profile of a serial murderer. Serial killers differ in many ways, including their motivations for killing and their behavior at the crime scene. However, attendees did identify certain traits common to some serial murderers, including sensation seeking, a lack of remorse or guilt, impulsivity, the need for control, and predatory behavior. These traits and behaviors are consistent with the psychopathic personality disorder. Attendees felt it was very important for law enforcement and other professionals in the criminal justice system to understand psychopathy and its relationship to serial murder.

In  my first book The Girls’ Guide to Predators; the Games Some Men Play I recommend something similar: that women who are being stalked, learn all they can about the characteristics of psychopathy.  These guys actually do seem to play by the same rulebook, so it can’t hurt to Know they enemy!   Estimates vary among the experts but the general consensus is that between 50 and 90 percent of men who stalk women are psychopaths. (So that’s somewhere between half of them, and almost all of them!)  If she understands how a stalker thinks and behaves, a target will be better able to anticipate his next move and take precautions, rather than being caught off guard. One excellent resource is the Love Fraud website, which is run by Donna Anderson.

Those untested rape kits

In Detroit, vast quantities of untested rape kits were discovered in an abandoned police warehouse in 2009. There were 11,000 of them. Since then, it has transpired that this systematic failure to test rape kits is not limited to Detroit. Hundreds of thousands of rape kits across this country have also never been tested —despite the fact that in 2004 Congress passed the Debbie Smith act to reduce the backlog of rape kits. Where did the funding go? Often it was spent on other things, like improving laboratories. It certainly didn’t go where it was intended: to achieve justice for victims or keep rapists off the streets. The lack of federal oversight, and the absence of a serious commitment amongst the states which received the funding is obvious once you start looking at the numbers. For instance, 5231 rape kits were collected in Las Vegas, between 2004 and 2014 but only 846 were actually sent to a lab for testing. In Seattle, 1641 rape kits were gathered between 2004 and 2014, but only 365 were ever tested for DNA.
As a result of the failure to test those hundreds of thousands of rape kits, the criminals themselves remained free to victimize other women and girls. For example, since state officials in Detroit began processing the untested rape kits in 2009, about 100 serial rapists have been identified and charged. One hundred serial rapists —probably more—in one city alone .
The issue of untested rape kits is upsetting in itself, but it points to a broader problem. Are the neglected rape kits a byproduct of a refusal to treat violence against women seriously? Is there today a widespread acceptance of sexual violence towards women and girls as an inevitable—albeit regrettable— fact of life?
According to government figures, one in five females has experienced a rape or attempted rape, Over half of the country— fifty one percent of Americans— is female. So why isn’t reducing sexual violence the number one priority in the corridors of power? In fact, is it a priority at all? Members of both political parties have never joined together to declare a War on Sexual Violence, as they did with the ill-fated War on Drugs. Politicians don’t even bother addressing the issue of sexual violence on the campaign trail (where it’s common practice to make promises that are discarded after winning office). It’s because ending sexual violence against women isn’t a priority for the majority of politicians—it isn’t even an issue!
And that’s what those hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits are telling us.

Cannibal Cop Leaves Jail

Why was Gilberto Valle released yesterday after being found guilty in 2013 of conspiracy to kidnap? Oh yes, the judge who heard his appeal, decided the former New York City cop presented no danger to the women he made plans to rape, torture, dismember and cook. In other words, despite tracking down their addresses, and researching ways to abduct, kill and cannibalize their remains, he was harmless. Just a regular guy —like Jeffrey Dahmer was a regular guy.

“This is a conspiracy that existed solely in cyberspace,” said the judge, Paul G. Gardephe. Well, I’m never going to get to meet you in person Judge, so I’ll just have an imaginary conversation with you in cyberspace.

I disagree with your decision, Judge Gardephe. I believe you’re wrong to regard the internet as a forum where psychopaths reveal murder fantasies to each other to great applause, but that’s as far as it ever goes. Recently, Elliot Rodgers went online to PickUpArtists, another website where men express hatred of women. Rodgers outlined his plan to shoot as many women as he could, and he went out and completed the task. He killed six people and wounded 13 others near the University of California before his rampage was ended.

Now, I have a question. If you had been given a transcript of Elliot Rodgers’s chat room conversation where he announced his intention to murder women, would you have dismissed it as insufficient to prove intent to harm? If you had, that decision would have come to haunt you. Well, Judge, like Elliott Rodger, Gilberto Valle was writing of his intent. And you have released Gilberto Valle. I hope that decision doesn’t come back to haunt you.

You ruled that a plan to commit a crime if it is shared on the internet —no matter that the research has suggested extensive planning—should not be taken seriously. I can assure you that if a plan to kill the President was discussed on the internet and the offender had been to scout out the White House, it would be treated as a credible assassination plot. No federal judge would release the prisoner from jail so he could walk free around Washington. DC.

And what if you were the intended victim? If a rage-fueled individual with a hatred of the justice system shared his plan online to break into your home and abduct, torture and kill you, and if he had located your address and followed you there, would you dismiss it as harmless fantasy and sleep peacefully in your bed at night? I doubt it.

So, what is it about the internet in this particular case that makes it a crime free zone for you? I don’t understand why you believe Mr. Gilberto Valle—a man with a manifest rage against women—did not have the intention to carry out his heinous plans. After all, he made plans. What if plans for the kidnapping of the famous Lindbergh baby had been discovered before the event actually occurred in the 1930s. Should a judge dismiss such plans as ‘fantasy’ because the child hadn’t yet been kidnapped? Should the conspirators be given their freedom even if they had tracked down the address of the Lindbergh baby, and had started lurking outside? Of course not. They had intent. And in the case of the Cannibal Cop, he had crossed the boundary from planning into action. He had taken the risk of illegally searching for his proposed victim’s addresses on a law enforcement data base, and he had begun stalking them. Doesn’t that imply intent to kidnap and kill?

“The highly unusual facts of this case reflect the Internet age in which we live,” you ruled. When it comes to sex crimes, the boundary between fantasy and realization isn’t as thick as the Great Wall of China, Judge. It’s thin. Every criminal profiler knows that. In the 1980s FBI profilers interviewed hundreds of homicidal sex predators in jails around the USA. John Douglas recalled: “One of the things we clearly established was that in any sexually related predatory crime, the fantasy always precedes the acting out.”

Roger Depue was head of the FBI’s Behavioral Sciences Unit at Quantico at the time. In his memoir, he wrote that it is inevitable that once a violent fantasy takes root, the homicidal sex predator becomes obsessed with figuring out how to bring it to life. Other interests are pushed aside. I’m guessing Gilberto Valle didn’t have much time for other hobbies while he was researching torture. The guy was a ticking time-bomb.

But let’s give the last word to serial killer Edmund Kemper who brought mayhem, death and suffering to eight women. “I knew long before I started killing that I was going to be killing, that it was going to end up like that. The fantasies were too strong. They were going on for too long and were too elaborate.”

You should have done your homework, Judge Valle before you let the prisoner walk.

Cuomo promises an overhaul of how New York colleges deal with rape cases.

I met a man at a fund raising event. When I first walked in the door I realized with some dread, that I couldn’t see a single person I knew, so when the stranger introduced himself, it was a welcome relief. We fell into easy conversation. He was in his sixties. He was a pleasant, lively and intelligent conversationalist. I learned that he was a professor at a liberal arts college. I remember he was passionate about the environment, and that he was divorced, with a daughter in her twenties. We were getting along like a house on fire, until the moment he asked me what I was writing about, and I answered that I was writing about sexual assaults on campus.

My fellow guest chose to interrupt me at that point. He informed me stiffly that his college had been one of those investigated by the New York Times for its inadequate and improper handling of a sexual assault case. I remembered the story. The administration had treated the distressed victim unfairly, and despite compelling evidence, the rapist had gone unpunished.

I gave him a sympathetic smile. I assumed the professor’s sudden tension resulted from his embarrassment at the way his college had mishandled the case. Hell, I would have been embarrassed. But he wasn’t embarrassed, he was angry about the negative publicity. Nor did he appear interested in what I had found in my research into campus rapes. He already had the answer to the problem: he said, college girls just had “to stop drinking and dressing like sluts.” It astonished me that this man who had been in college in the late 1960s, when the Womens Liberation movement was flourishing on campuses, blamed victims of rape for “bad choices” and didn’t have a word of blame for the rapists. His underlying attitude was that boys will be boys, and they can’t be expected to control their urges. Odd to reflect that I actually have a higher opinion of men than he does. Because I don’t believe most men will automatically take advantage of inebriated girls in sexy dresses. I believe predatory men do that, and in many cases they have spiked the drink that got their victim inebriated.

It surprised me that an intelligent, liberal and educated man of his age, was so comfortable trotting out these sexist clichés, but there it was. On the issue of global warming, he was well informed , and concerned about the planet, but when it came to violence against women he was neither well informed nor concerned. He may as well have been born a Martian because we didn’t seem to inhabit the same world. Had I time traveled to the 1950s? Or were we now living in Iran? The professor’s attitude that it was the responsibility of women not to dress in a way that inflamed male lust isn’t different from attitudes in patriarchal countries like Saudi Arabia where the morality police have the right to arrest a woman for improper dress, such as not wearing their veil.

The flipside of the attitude that it’s the woman’s responsibility not to get raped is of course that it’s a woman’s fault if she does. In that argument, sexual violence is not the responsibility of the rapist. And that’s the attitude behind every college administration which has absolved young men of rape on the grounds their victim was dressed sexily or had one drink too many.

I am not saying my companion is typical of a 65 year old white male in this country, but I do think he’s probably representative of the older male politician who historically has shown zero interest in the issue of violence against women. There are many such men in Congress and the Senate who are more interested in protecting corporations from higher taxes than in protecting university students from being raped.

However, there is a new generation coming up behind them, and I have high hopes. I was heartened to read in the New York Times that Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced at a press conference that he had instructed ‘ the State University of New York to overhaul its approach to investigating and prosecuting sexual assault, including making affirmative consent the rule on all 64 of its campuses.’ Declaring campus sexual assault to be a national epidemic, Cuomo said that these changes would lead to a statewide law “regulating sexual assault at all New York colleges and universities.”

My interlocutor from the prestigious New York college must be bristling with the injustice of it all.

The Most Common Victim Profile

With few exceptions—such as Edmund Kemper whose final victims were his mother and her best friend— serial killers only target strangers. This is not because they don’t have any rage to direct at family members. Most of them do.   John Wayne Gacy hated his father, a bully who beat him.  Ted Bundy bitterly resented his mother for hiding his illegitimacy from him, and pretending for years to be his sister. Bobby Joe Long despised his suffocating mother Louella.

But it’s a matter of self-preservation not to target family members. Serial killers know they will be interrogated if a family member is murdered, because detectives always investigate the family first. Knowing that, Kemper immediately turned himself into police after killing his mother, bringing his career as a serial murderer to an end. However, by choosing strangers, and committing what detectives refer to as apparently “motiveless murders,” a careful serial killer can elude the police for years, even decades as in the BTK and Green River Killer cases.    There is also the sexual component.   Serial killers- like serial rapists— get off on forcing sex upon a struggling, frightened stranger. It’s an act of cruelty that satisfies the psychopath’s sadistic drive to dominate and humiliate others.

The most common victim profile is that of a young female stranger. In a recent study, it was found that eighty six percent of individuals murdered by serial killers were female, and of those, three quarters were between the ages of 15 and 28. FBI researchers into victimology have also established that young females are at higher risk of being targeted if they display either a “a naïve, overly trusting” stance” or a “careless stance,” towards their safety.

The serial killers tended to search for victims the following categories of victims. They are in order of preference:
1. Women and girls of high school or college age, including prostitutes, addicts and runaways.
2. Children.
3. Travelers.
4. Women home alone.

They considered prostitutes the easiest victims to abduct, serial killers told FBI researchers, because a predator only had to drive to the red light district or a truck stop, and a female would willingly climb into his vehicle. They described an additional benefit: the women were less likely to be missed for a couple of days. The serial killers saw addicts and runaways as low risk for the same reason.

However, such victims were likely to be street-wise and wary of strangers compared to high school or college students. The serial killers remarked that college age and high school girls were also at the top of the list, because they were prone to risk taking behaviors, and a lack of suspicion. Pedro Alonso Lopez told detectives he watched for girls who appeared “gentle and trusting, innocent .” Lopez murdered over 300 girls in Peru, Ecuador and Colombia

“One reason why he targeted high school and college students” said David Gore, remembering a particular conversation he had with his friend Ted Bundy at Florida State Prison, “ was because at that age you think you are invincible.” Albert De Salvo expressed contempt for the college girls he used to fool with his ruse of being a modeling agent. “I hated them girls for being so stupid.” Serial killers have no compunction about preying on the young or innocent. It’s not intended to be a fair fight. They deliberately choose those they perceive to be less powerful than they are. They’re predators, after all.