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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?

Risky business. Attacks upon female real estate agents

The number of violent attacks on real estate agents has increased significantly over the years. The brutal slaying of 49 year old Beverly Carter, a real estate agent from Little Rock, Arkansas, is the latest tragic incident. Carter was killed while showing a home to a man she had thought was a potential buyer.   Her body was later found in a shallow grave about 20 miles north east of Little Rock, Arkansas. As Aaron Lewis was being brought into the police station by arresting officers, the 33 year old suspect answered reporters’ questions. “Why, Beverly?” one asked him.   Arron Lewis replied matter-of- factly, “Because she was just a woman who worked alone —a rich broker.”

Tracey Hawkins, a security expert who advises real estate businesses on safety issues, personally knows of at least six other attacks on realtors this year.   Homicides of female real estate agents have occurred all over the country. In 2007 Kosoul Chanthakoummane was found guilty of the murder of Sarah Walker, a top selling realtor for D, R. Horton in McKinney, Texas. Kosul had requested an appointment with a female realtor to see a model home. The body of Sarah Walker was found on the premises. She had been robbed, beaten and killed. In 2011, 27 year old Ashley Okland was killed on the job in Iowa.

A woman alone in an empty house is also seen as easy prey by serial killers. Mike DeBardeleben posed as a businessman who was about to be transferred to the Great Barrington area of Massachusetts, and needed to find a suitable home for himself and his wife.  One of the appointments he made was with Terry Macdonald.   When Terry didn’t make it back to the office, her colleague drove to the isolated home she had had been due to show DeBardeleben,. He found her tied up in the basement, where she had been asphyxiated with a pair of her own tights. “Mom was just a very unsuspecting, very trusting person” Terry’s daughter Lynn remembers. “She always looked for the good in people. She was always positive about them.”

FBI profiler Roy Hazelwood who specializes in investigating sex crimes, comments: “The real estate women are available, accessible. To me, it is the most dangerous legitimate profession in America. They go with total strangers to isolated areas on weekends, nights and holidays. And I think that’s the reason DeBardeleben chose them as victims.”

The murder of Beverly Carter this week has been a wake up call, according to the real estate office she worked for. From now on potential buyers will be required to show up at the office first, where their identification will be requested and checked. Tracey Hawkins, the security agent, hopes the industry will remain vigilant. “My fear is, for a while, agents will be all shook up…but what happens is everyone gets complacent.”

 

How do sex predators see the world?

To protect yourself against serial rapists and serial killers, it’s a good idea to see them as they see themselves.   Ted Bundy claimed that he had “ a consciousness which is comparable to a predator”, and that consequently his homicidal behavior was not influenced  by any “intellectual, moral, obvious considerations.”  What was he talking about?   Bundy, a psychology graduate, was talking about how he saw life through the lens of a psychopath.

In recent years, criminologists have established that 95% of serial killers are psychopaths; so are up to 90 percent of serial rapists. To a psychopath, everyday life is a jungle. If he’s not dominating, manipulating and controlling other people, he will be prey, like those he victimizes. And, he cannot allow that to happen. “Psychopaths say there are predators and prey. When they say that take it as factual,” states Dr. Robert Hare, who invented the Psychopathy Checklist, a diagnostic tool applied by doctors and criminal profilers around the world.

Psychopathy is a ‘personality disorder.’ Brain scans have shown psychopaths have little to no activity in the two areas of the brain that are connected to empathy and conscience. Answering the question of whether he felt guilt for murdering innocent people, David Gore said it was the opposite: “I actually thrived on killing.”

Dr. Hare, widely regarded as the world expert on the subject, describes the psychopath as a “human predator” or “social predator. To a psychopath, compassion, sincerity and kindness are just weaknesses in other people that he can exploit. This perception is not rooted in mental illness. It’s in his DNA. Nothing happened to him during his childhood to turn him into a psychopath, he was born that way. “Predatory violence is not independent of the psychopathic process and, in fact, appears to be quite dependent upon psychopathy” writes Dr J. Reid Meloy in his book Violent Attachments (p293.)

The psychopath’s personality is selfish, aggressive, manipulative, deceitful and prone to cruelty. He regards those qualities as among his strengths. Because it is a personality disorder — not psychosis or schizophrenia— there is no medication a psychopath can take to change his behavior. And if one existed, he would be unlikely to take it. The simple fact is that psychopaths enjoy preying on other people. Nor do psychopaths improve with therapy. If they go at all, they play games with the therapist. On one occasion Edmund Kemper had a victim’s head in the trunk of his car, while inside his psychiatrist’s office, the disturbed 21 year old was found to be ‘rehabilitated’, and no danger to society.

Because of their rock hard refusal to submit to treatment, many doctors today refuse to accept them as clients. It’s a thankless task, they say when psychopaths have no intention of changing.

To avoid being targeted by a psychopath, one has to accept that there really are people —4% of the population— who see other people as prey, and then learn how to recognize them by their behaviors. Predators are good at reading people. We need to be equally good at reading predators.

Rape and PTSD recovery

There was an excellent op ed piece in the New York Times today by a war veteran, who described what PTSD feels like to him. He also made the point that it is experienced by the people who care about the sufferer, too. He expressed his gratitude to his wonderful family for their support.

As I read, I thought about victims of rape, who also experience PTSD, and the kind of support they should be able to expect not only from their families but the rest of us.

Almost one in 5 females in the USA have been sexually assaulted. One in 4 girls at college experiences a sexual assault before she graduates. One could describe rape as a national epidemic. One could describe it as a war. Both descriptions fit. Either way, this country should all be doing more to fight sexual violence.

Here’s what FBI criminal profiler John Douglas says on the subject.
“Violent predatory crime is a scourge that has become intolerable.  When violent predators go unchecked in society, we all become victims…We either become victims of the criminals themselves, or we become victims of fear for ourselves, our families, our children.”

But there has been progress. While sex crimes have risen in number, in the aftermath of such crimes, victims have become more proactive about pursuing justice in the courts. Rather than stay silent and “forget about it” as well meaning family members used to advise, victims in increasing numbers are trying to put their rapists behind bars so they can’t hurt others. And often times, families are sitting with victims in the court room, adding their support.

What’s particularly brave is that often the victims speaking out, are doing so despite their struggle with PTSD.
“ Victims traumatized by abduction for sexual purposes usually experience degrees of post traumatic stress disorder that impacts victims for the rest of their lives.” explains Dr Eric Hickey, a leading forensic psychiatrist: “ We need to be as compassionate toward these victims as we are as passionate about punishing the offender” .

But are we compassionate enough? What is shocking to most of us is the way aggressive lawyers will try to rip the reputations and shred the credibility of those traumatized victims. This is not to establish the facts of what happened as much as it is to intimidate the witness. Speaking of his work with Linda Fairstein, head of the Sex Crimes unit from of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office from 1976 to 2002, criminal profiler John Douglas reflects: “Everyone is entitled to a vigorous defense, but neither Linda Fairstein nor I can quite stomach the perceived need to revictimise someone who has already experienced the worst at the hands of the man now being given every conceivable benefit of the doubt.”

As for a defense attorney who comments on what the victim should have done to avoid being raped, “I’m always outraged” says Douglas. “Perhaps it’s my own perversity that I’d like to see that individual faced with the same situation himself.”

Unlike the lawyer hammering away at her in court, the rape victim didn’t have wisdom in hindsight. Like a soldier in battle, she had to figure out what to do at the moment the shocking situation was unfolding.

The fact she survived is a tribute to the choices she made, but it’s even more heroic that she would put herself through the psychological wounds inflicted by criminal defense lawyers in order that the rapist won’t be free to harm anyone else.

Revictimizing rape victims is still common procedure in courts all over the country. And the knowledge that is likely to happen to them is enough to keep most traumatized rape victims from pressing charges.

What can lawyers do differently? They can begin by according the victim the same respect and courtesy they give their own client in court..
What can judges do? They can inform juries that rape is a crime against humanity.

Dr Marie- France Hirigoyen is a world renowned psychiatrist who writes upon on the impact of psychological abuse. Her statement below on ‘respect’ is relevant to both rapists and aggressive counsel.
“To respect another person is to value their humanity and acknowledge the suffering we can inflict upon them.”

So what can friends and family members do to help survivors of rape recover ?

We can recognize that there is no one way that trauma behaves. Just as with soldiers suffering from PTSD, there is no time frame for recovery, because every person’s journey is different. The trauma is expressing itself rather than the other way around.

Often the victim struggles with the sense she has lost control over her life. She also grieves for the past when she was happier and more carefree. It is a period of deep mourning.

John Douglas who has worked with countless victims of sexual crime advises “Any woman who emerges from a sexual attack alive should be recognized for her courage and resourcefulness, and no-one should ever second-guess her tactics in handling the crisis.”

While Douglas states emphatically that “ it is completely insensitive for anyone to set what he or she believes is a reasonable time frame for someone else’s recovery”,  he does go on to reassure loved ones that “victims do generally recover, and go on to lead fulfilled lives” especially with our ongoing support.

Discovering Ted Bundy

      “When confronted with the rare extremes of human perversity, we are forced to re- examine our attitudes about ourselves and our species”

                                                                 (Dr Robert Hare, ‘Without Conscience: the disturbing world of the psychopaths among us’ p 121’)

When I was younger, I shied away from violent films featuring psychopaths. I had walked out of ‘Silence of the Lambs.’ Because Hannibal Lecter and Wild Bill disturbed me too much. I detested Tarantino bloodbaths. Yet, my aversion to such personalities had not protected me.

After a psychiatrist told me the man who had stalked me was a psychopath, I realized I needed to find out more about the nature of my opponent. Why? So I’d make better relationship choices in the future.

At the true crime section of my local bookstore, I found a book of interviews with a diagnosed psychopath, serial killer Ted Bundy. It was by New York Times journalists Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth, and their book is where I started my education into psychopaths.

Why Ted Bundy? I was confronting my fears. I figured if I could learn to recognize the personality of a Ted Bundy, I’d feel a lot safer in my life. After all, he was the most frightening example of a psychopath I could imagine. Frightening not just because of what he had done – murdering upwards of 38 young women, some estimates are 100 – but because of the invisibility of his predatory nature. The guy was a chameleon.

For example look at any photo. The face, the hair, and the eyes? Ted Bundy was good-looking, but he was also fun to be around. He seemed to like and respect women. He helped his fiancée Liz Kendall raise her young daughter. He was close to his mother and two half sisters. He had women friends, some of whom were colleagues, like Ann Rule, the crime writer, whom he partnered while a volunteer answering phones at the Seattle Crisis Center, and Carol Ann Boone, whom he met while working at the DES, and later married on Death Row.

All his friends believed in his innocence, until the evidence against him in court proved overwhelming.

What struck me from the interviews was how articulate Bundy’s answers were. He was intelligent, and personable, and he went to pains to appear sincere to his interviewers, as he dodged, manipulated and deceived. By that time of his life of course, he had dragged a lot of people into his web of lies, including police interrogators. Detective Robert Keppel, traumatized after days of interrogating Bundy, referred to him as a ‘black hole’.

Meantime I went over the interviews with a fine toothcomb, trying to learn what I could about psychopaths. I could see Ted Bundy, a college graduate with an honors degree in psychology, was sophisticated and intelligent. His answers were thoughtful. Was he crazy? He didn’t seem to be. His crimes may have appeared to be the results of a deranged mind, but he seemed sane.

He sounded quite reasonable as he discussed his horrific murders, mostly keeping it theoretical. He was controlling, deciding how much information to release. He was shaping the direction of the interview.

What would give him away? I was testing myself.

Well, for a start, he was extremely narcissistic. The more I read his words, the more I could see how he reveled not only in being the focus of his interviewer’s attention, but that of his readers to come. It was a performance. He was also highly manipulative.

Bundy’s relentless egocentricity, his gamesmanship, his verbal dodging and his tendency to play the victim card were characteristic of any psychopath’s conversation.

Chillingly, Ted Bundy said he had no remorse for the rapes and murders of young women. He was simply a victim of his compulsions. He slept well at night. Yes, the serial killer was completely unrepentant.

That sealed it for me: no empathy, no remorse, no compassion, and no guilt. And above all, no conscience. He was a psychopath alright. Ted Bundy was worth future study.

One in 25 People

    “It is very likely that at some time in your life, you will come into painful contact with a psychopath. For your own physical, psychological and financial well-being, it is crucial that you know how to identify    the psychopath, how to protect yourself, and how to minimize the harm done to you.”

                                                                     (Dr Robert Hare “Without Conscience”, preface x11.)

Dr Hare is widely regarded as the foremost authority on psychopaths. His Psychopathy Checklist is applied by doctors all over the world as a standard test for psychopathy. Hare describes psychopaths as ‘social predators.’

Psychopaths are sane, but ruthless, dedicated to achieving power and control. They are personality disordered, but not mentally impaired. They pride themselves on a strong will. They manage to get their own way through a combination of charm, manipulation, deceit, violence, intimidation, bullying and cunning. Hitler was a psychopath. Ted Bundy was another. Ariel Castro is another recent example of remorseless psychopath. As you’ll remember, he kidnapped and sexually enslaved three young women in his house in Cleveland.

As they age, psychopaths move along a spectrum of violent behavior, triggered by the normal upsets of life. Their violence always moves forwards, never back. As criminal expert Robert Keppel points out, the difference between an insecure, angry, domineering spouse and a serial killer like Ted Bundy is just one of degree.

One in 25 people is a psychopath. That’s an awful lot of people.

Scientists have recently discovered that psychopaths think differently from the rest of us. Their recorded brain activity is not like that of non-psychopaths. Theirs is a genetic inheritance. Though it can be severely worsened by poor upbringing, head injuries, sexual and physical abuse, none of those factors caused a person to be a psychopath.

Psychopaths are born devoid of conscience and empathy. Since childhood, they have adapted by imitating normal people. But as they pretended to have a conscience or values, and faked empathy, they despised those they manipulated. By adulthood, these imposters are skilled at blending in. Because they have been brought up alongside normal people, they also know how non-psychopaths think.

Thus they have an advantage over most people. They can fly under our radar, camouflaged by an appearance of normalcy and respectability.

They have been pathological liars and manipulators all their lives. These days most psychiatrists concur that psychopathic patients are untreatable. In fact many are refusing to take them on, citing not only the waste of their time, but also their own need to protect their mental health.

Not only do they have no intention of changing, psychopaths delight in outwitting medical staff.

When we don’t have a clue about what makes them tick, the advantage is definitely with the psychopaths, from white collar psychopaths like John Grambling who remorselessly defrauded people of their life savings, to serial killers. Because as John Douglas, a former FBI profiler and an expert on serial killers, warns psychopaths are “expert in assessing people.”

The odds are strong that you have encountered many psychopaths, also known as sociopaths, and anti-socials, as you went about daily living. The more successful you are in broadening your life, the more of them you will encounter. Some of them could just be an annoying irritant. Others might rob you of your savings, your spouse, your self-confidence, your job, your reputation, even your life.

Dr Hare. “Everybody has met these people, been deceived and manipulated by them, and forced to live with or repair the damage they have wrought.”

My message is a hopeful one. We can significantly improve our odds, by learning to recognize the red flags of psychopathic behavior.

Psychopaths are Social Predators

              “Everybody has met these people, been deceived and manipulated by them, and forced to live with or repair the damage they have wrought.”
                                                                      Dr Robert Hare “Without Conscience”, preface x11

Psychopaths are, as Dr Hare describes them above , ‘social predators.’ They harm us at every level of our lives: governmental, societal, financial, domestic, emotional. They are ruthlessly dedicated to achieving power and control over others, which they do through charm, manipulation, deceit, violence, intimidation, bullying and cunning. Hitler was a psychopath. Ted Bundy was another. So was Bernie Madoff.

Psychopaths move along a continuum of antisocial behavior. Their behavior always gets worse, never better. As criminal expert Robert Keppel points out, the difference between an insecure, angry, domineering spouse and a serial killer like Ted Bundy is just one of degree.

One in 25 people is a psychopath. That’s a lot of people.

Scientists have recently discovered that psychopaths think differently from the rest of us. Their recorded brain activity is not like that of non-psychopaths. Theirs is a genetic inheritance. Though their acting out can be severely heightened by poor upbringing, head injuries, sexual and physical abuse, none of those factors caused a person to be a psychopath.

Psychopaths are devoid of empathy. Brain studies have revealed there is little to no activity in the parts of their brain governing conscience and compassion. In childhood, they adapted to social standards by imitating their peers.

They have been pathological liars all their lives, even as kids.. By adulthood, ‘nature’s con artists’ have become are skilled at blending in. They fly under our radar. Having grown up alongside normal people, they also know how non-psychopaths think. Thus they have the advantage over those they dismiss as ‘Normals.’

To defend ourselves, we have to learn how they think. Because we don’t have a clue about what makes them tick. Yet as John Douglas, a former FBI profiler warns, psychopaths are “expert in assessing people.”

These days most psychiatrists concur that psychopathic patients are untreatable. In fact many are refusing to take them on, citing not only the waste of their time, but also their own need to protect their mental health.

The advantage historically has been with the psychopaths, from the white collar psychopaths like John Grambling who remorselessly defrauded people of their life savings, to serial killers.

The odds are strong that you have encountered psychopaths, also known as sociopaths, malignant narcissists and anti-socials, as you went about daily living.

The more successful you are in broadening your life, the more of them you will encounter. Some of them could just be an annoying irritant. Others might rob you of your savings, your spouse, your self-confidence, your job, your reputation, even your life.

“It is very likely that at some time in your life, you will come into painful contact with a psychopath. For your own physical, psychological and financial well-being, it is crucial that you know how to identify the psychopath, how to protect yourself, and how to minimize the harm done to you.”
(Dr Robert Hare “Without Conscience”, preface x11.)

My message is a however a hopeful one. I believe we can significantly improve our odds in the predators game, by learning to recognize the red flags of psychopathic behavior.