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?


Stalking as domestic terrorism

In 2009, the US Justice Department released the results of the largest survey ever done in the USA on stalking. The report stated that 3.4 million Americans had identified themselves as having been stalked during a one-year period. Some were male; the vast majority of those being stalked were female.

In this study, stalking was defined as a course of conduct directed at a specific person on at least two separate occasions that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear. The most common forms of stalking were unwanted phone calls (66 per cent), unsolicited emails or letters (31 per cent) or having rumors spread about them (36 per cent).

Nearly 75 per cent of the victims were familiar with their stalker who, in most cases, was an ex-spouse or ex-boyfriend.

A spokesperson for the US National Victim Center recently states un-categorically: ‘All stalkers have personality disorders.’ Narcissists, those with Borderline Personality Disorder, and Psychopaths are the most likely to stalk ex partner.Forensic psychiatrist Dr Park Dietz agrees. “None of the people who engage in stalking behavior are normal individuals.”

Criminologists say that non stranger stalking is triggered by the same emotionally inadequate response to losing control that serial killers exhibit. Robert Keppel, the lead detective in the Ted Bundy case, says that stalkers are typically “people who have abnormally short tempers, who snap at those around them during stress, who are prone to violence as a first resort . . . and who are almost pathological about exerting control over others and over events around them.”

The majority of domestic stalkers express their hostility towards a rejecting wife or girlfriend without murdering them. They stay at whatever is for them a ‘compensatory ‘level of violence. But the threshold between that and domestic homicide is ‘frighteningly narrow and the numbers of people on the edge so great,’ says Keppel.

According to experts, stalkers should be regarded as ‘terrorists’: whether they are stalking an ex-wife by spreading false rumors about her and sabotaging her employment, or breaking into her home.

How a psychopath thinks

Ted Bundy once described the typical serial killer as possessing “ a consciousness which is comparable to a predator.” He said his behavior was not restricted by any “intellectual, moral, obvious considerations.” So what was he talking about?

“Predatory violence is not independent of the psychopathic process and, in fact, appears to be quite dependent upon psychopathy,” forensic psychologist Dr J. Reid Meloy explains in his book Violent Attachments. 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 is merely prey. 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.’ It is estimated that one in 25 people are psychopaths. They are born, not made. 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.” The high Gore felt in taking away a life is a not dissimilar from the elation that a psychopathic businessman feels when he “crushes” the opposition. Both live for the “hunt.” They regard other humans as prey, and themselves as successful predators.

One in four female college seniors experience a sexual assault

When parents send their kids off to college, they expect the college to assume responsibility for a safe campus. To that extent, the college becomes loco in parentis. A lot of colleges take that responsibility seriously. And a lot of them just take the parents’ check.
Last week the Association of American Universities released its survey of sexual violence on campus. This study—one of the largest ever undertaken— found that one in four female college seniors had experienced a sexual assault. Almost 75 percent of them did not report the assault for fear that they wouldn’t taken seriously by authorities, and they might even be blamed for their own victimization.
How did this state of affairs come about? Rape is not a minor crime like having your bicycle or your laptop stolen. Yet there are still plenty of colleges where a student accused of cheating is more likely to be expelled for bringing dishonor to a school than one accused of rape. When colleges fail to take strong action against rapists on campus, they ensure that more rapes will follow, since campus rapists almost invariably turn out to be serial rapists. In this regard, the college administrators are contributing to an unsafe environment.
Rape has far reaching implications for the victim. Her quality of life may change dramatically. She has been traumatized, so she may find it hard to leave her room. Maybe she has chronic insomnia. Maybe she starts drinking heavily or using drugs to blot out the flashbacks. Maybe her grades fall. Maybe she drops out of school. For a long time she may find it difficult to trust men.
Whatever changes she might undergo, one thing is certain: a rape victim never sees the world the same way again. Her life has been altered, not by her own agency but by the man or men who violated her. And when college administrators refuse to expel her rapist/s, they contribute another layer to this horrifyingly different experience of the world. As well as feeling unsafe, now the victim feels alone, betrayed by those she trusted to find justice for her. The perception she is living in a world where the innocent are punished, and the guilty walk free, may lead to despair, self-harm, and worse. This is a far cry from the education her parents had in mind for their daughter when they signed the first tuition check.
Rape is a hate crime, and it should be prosecuted as such by college administrations. Just as a lynching would not be tolerated, neither should a rape be shrugged off. Rape is not the product of sexual desire. Rape is the product of a sense of male entitlement and a lack of respect for women. Rape is brutal and since it is intended to cause suffering. As such, it is sadistic.
It is a grave error for college administrators to minimize rape as hi-jinks that got out of hand, or an alcohol fuelled misunderstanding where No was read as Yes. Rape is a serious crime, prohibited by law. It is not a minor crime like being caught with a small amount of marijuana in your possession, so why do some colleges persist in treating it as such?

I met a man

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 Women’s 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 he was certainly 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 didn’t seem much different to 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 her 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 protecting university students from being raped.

However, there is a new generation coming up behind them, and I have high hopes. A couple of months ago, 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 at the injustice of it all.

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.

B.T.K. wants to tell his story. Is that a good idea?

In August 2005, Dennis Rader pleaded guilty in a Kansas courtroom to 10 murders. Addressing the judge in a monotone, Rader, otherwise known as the B.T.K. Strangler, provided graphic details about each murder. He might as well been reading a shopping list. Rader’s flat delivery in the witness box added to the horrors he was describing. There was never a hint of remorse. Rader seemed to enjoy having everybody’s attention, and the TV cameras proved that he was no longer a nobody. Pausing in his testimony, he instructed the judge on the difference between “trolling” and “stalking.” His manner resembled a boring headmaster The only times there was a glimpse of the monster inside was an occasional smirk, quickly suppressed.

Since Rader is serving ten life sentences in the El Dorado state prison, one could reasonably expect that would be the last we heard of him. But not so fast. Serial killers are highly narcissistic. Rader was no exception. The attention-seeking prisoner missed being the spotlight. He even considered writing a book. Why not? He couldn’t profit from it of course, because of the Son of Sam law, but he would be back in the headlines. Luckily for the victims’ families as well as the rest of us he didn’t write his self-serving memoir. However, last year, Katherine Ramsland, a well-respected non-fiction author of 54 books, reached out to him. She wanted to write a book to help investigators and criminologists understand serial killers like Rader: would he co-operate with her? Would he what? Rader didn’t need any persuading. He embraced the idea.

Katherine Ramsland is a professor of forensic psychology at DeSales University in Pennsylvania who has in mind, she says, a “non sensationalist” book. Rader has in mind something different: a return to public attention. It’s a pity he will get it. Shortly after agreeing to co-operate, Rader sent a four page handwritten letter to a Kansas newspaper, to announce a book was on its way. The letter was labeled “From the Desk of: Dennis L. Rader.” He claims his intention is to help the victims’ families. “I can never replace their love ones, my deeds too ‘dark’ to understand, the book or movies, etc. is the only way to help them.” Obviously he’s hoping that his story will reach the big screen, too.

I’m not sure profilers will learn anything about the mind of a serial killer that they don’t already know. From the 1980s on, FBI researchers and criminologists have interviewed hundreds of serial killers in American prisons. There is also a first rate book written by veteran profiler John Douglas and Johnny Dodd called “Inside the Mind of BTK”. Still one has to applaud Professor Ramsland’s fortitude: I can’t imagine a more odious and unpleasant task for an author than to be in regular contact with Rader. Getting the truth from him is also going to be hard. As a psychopath, he will be determined to control the material. He might believe he can manipulate Professor Ramsland. He’s wrong of course. Ramsland is a highly respected psychologist who will recognize such tactics, but I don’t envy her the tug of war. The only person who will be enjoying himself is the subject. Just when you thought you had heard the last of him, Dennis Rader is back.

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.