Tag Archives: empathy

Inspired by the Diary of a Predator story, this high schooler won a local competition with her play, and her troupe needs help getting to state

Ms. Herdy,
I read your entire book “Diary of a Predator,” read part of “Betrayal in the Ranks” for a school assignment, saw your Ted Talk and saw “The Bleeding Edge.” I wrote a play inspired by your story and the overall message is that no matter what hell we go through, we pay for the consequences of our actions. This was for competition since I act in a drama troupe, 0063. I won Superior for that play (highest medal) and we’re going to States an annual acting event. It is expensive so there is a Snap Raise fund where you can donate money to if your hearts allows it.

Your story should be told and retold as a lesson for humanity and compassion like you said. It has led me to see the dichotomy we all have and it has led me to see aspects in myself in Brents whilst at the same time seeing aspects in myself in the victims. It has expanded my empathy while at the same time has helped to be unafraid to show it at the most dire of times. Thank you.

Isabel

Note from Amy: In case any of you are wondering if this is a scam, it’s not–I checked it out thoroughly. And I hope that like me, you are heartened that a high school kid has the wherewithal and interest to tackle such a complex social justice issue. It gives me faith that our future generations will care enough to enact change. So if you can spare a few dollars, please help send Isabel and the drama troupe to state. Thank you.

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see spot get robbed at gun point, how does spot feel?

Hello all.

So last week i started this tv class. Victim Impact Listen and Learn. I watch the program on tv, then do the work assignments in the work book.

So to be truthfull, the work book half is boring. And doesn’t challenge my brain the way the questions i get on the blog do. They are basically like see spot get robbed at gun point, how does spot feel?

I’ve spent about 38 yrs in treatment programs of one kind or another. So the questions are too easy to answer. Spot is scared, he’s unsure of strangers, thinks he’s weak etc. He has to replace all his credit cards, drivers licence and so on.

Ok lets be real, i have a short attention span when i’m not challenged. So my answers although spot on, are w/ out much meaning. However i asked for this class. Why becouse of the video part.

The video features victims/ survivors of all types of crimes. Ranging from property crimes to rape, robbery, murder, child abuse, and domestic violence. This part challenges my mind and heart. I’m pretty new to actual empathy, and true compassion for people.

So any time i hear 1 of your/ their stories, feelings, thoughts, fears, ideas, etc. I learn from a different perspective than i did all those yrs ago. I feel the sarrow, empathy, hurt, betrayal, all of it. And am able to truly understand the impact i had on the people i hurt, their families, friends, and loved ones. The communities, law enforcement, every one.

I’m not letting it go in 1 ear and out the other. These past 10 or so yrs things really get to my heart, and i feel hurt and pain for those who suffer at the hands of criminals like me. So yes i’m doing this class as honestly as i can. The written part is getting easier as well. I still dont like the simplicity of the questions.

I do answer brutaly honest though. As w/ every thing, its the best policy in my case. Thank U to all of U who check this blog and use to help themselves and others.

Sincerely;

Brent.

5-17-18

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I won’t hurt this person, but its tearing at my soul

Hello people.

I might sound like an asshole tonite. Well i’m pissed off. See we have this person who drives on every fiber of my being. He’s a totally fucked up piece of shit! Sorry i know i shouldn’t judge people. But if any of U spent 10 minutes around this guy you’d be wearing my hate filled shoes.

He is full of hate, talks constantly about beating peoples children to death w/ a ballpien hammer. And other sexually violent things about peoples children. Its driving on me, i hear this motherfucker talking this shit all day long every day. What can i do…

My faith and the fact that i cant afford to end up in GP ( general population ). I pray people, it came to a head tonight. I will not have this person around me. I aint going to do any thing to him. But damn it my mind is totaly against me. I’ve spoken to U all before about how i think when super super stressed.

Like i said i pray. I ask God to help me not to follow thru w/ my violent desires. I cant tell U how angry i feel w/ this guy. Lets just say i get how alot of U feel about me. Man i get the hate alot of U must feel. Also though i believe this is coming from empathy. I can’t emagine why this person wants to do these things. But his vocalizations R so upsetting.

Yes this is me of all people disgusted w/ him, and myself. I mean i’m fantasizing bad shit about this dude. So i’m mad at myself for thinking this kind of shit. Talk about being a hypocrite. I won’t hurt this person, but its tearing at my soul. The sick talk about hurting kids, and his other bs is eating at me. I’m at the point where i don’t even want to come out of my cell.

I’ll get thru it, i know this is a test.

-Brent Brents 4-30-2018

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Replying to a reader: Describe your father in 1 word. Describe your mother in 1 word.

Michelle,

First of all thank U for sharing that experience w/ all of us. This must be the week where people challenge my thinking. Which i take seriously. I wish i could have found it in my heart to forgive my dad his wrongs on his death bed. Although i was not there, i know full well i had too much hate and bitterness toward him to do so.

I have struggled w/ that issue for years. Finaly being able to find some understanding and insight into him as i learn about myself and why i chose to be this way. We were both sick, scarred, and programed violently @ the hands of our parents. We both chose to be predatory instead of vulnerable.

I don’t know about him but i had chances to make the changes necessary to become a productive and compassionate individual. I chose hate and predation as my armor. I enjoyed hurting people. I was a coward just as he was. I could say it was my parents fault. Yet that would be total bullshit.

The truth is i (chose) this way of life. Although i have gained the ability to feel compassion and empathy for people. I still suffer the addiction to sexual violence. It is a shame i deal w/ daily.

So in one word how would i describe my father… ( Incapable ). Because he was controlling and manipulative right up to his death in 2004. And was incapable of change. I’m not sure if it was because he didn’t care to or that he had behaved violently and hurtfully for so long he just didn’t know how.

My mother…This one is easy. ( sick ). She was molested by her father, uncles, brothers. She was literaly used by the men in her family as a sexual apperatus. From a very young age. Then she marries my father. Horrible choice.

The woman only knew to equate love and sex as the same thing. The incest w/ me was her way of loving me. I dont really hate her for it. Although it was clearly a crime against myself. I not only enjoyed it, but i also equated this sexual behavior as love.

It was a sickness we shared. A way to love one another in his little private kingdom. I have forgiven her as well. My anger was not at what she did to me. Rather at her not working w/ me to hash it out.

To find a place of understanding between us. Where we could finaly put it all behind us and heal together and seperately. To exercise our own demons. And love one another as a mother and child should have from the beginning…

But the reality is shit happens. I made shitty choices that had absolutely nothing to do w/ the abuse i endured as a child. Broken system or not. I chose to be what i was. I am addicted to sexual violence. My brain is and has been fucked up for years.

That however is no excuse for how i chose to live my life. In a nut shell, the one word i would use to describe myself now: ( Learning ). How would i have described myself 14 years ago. ( Evil )!!!

So Michelle i hope i have provided some insight into myself, and how i see things. As for the abuse i went thru as a child. It honestly was not what made me who i was. Though it is easy to say my parents created an animal. Its simply not the case.

They are probably responsible for my sexually violent addiction. However i made the choice at around the age of 10 to be predatory. Because it gained me what they took from me. And that was my ability to control my own emotional safety and security. As well as my physical and sexual well being. I created me, i truly believe this.

Just as i am now recreating myself. Molding a compassionate and caring human being. And its not easy. But necessary.

-Brent Brents

1-24-18

————————————————————————————————

I read your book and still follow the blog, and find the story of Brent compelling, and so incredibly sad.

I have my own history of abuse at the hands of a parent, and luckily for me, my healing was healthy and empowering. I began to realize it was him who was damaged and sick. I look in the mirror every morning and I like who I am. I don’t know what he sees when he looks in his mirror … a couple of years ago, I was at his death bed, holding his hand as he approached mortality and I asked, “How would you describe your father in 1 word?” His response, “… distant … ” Ok, interesting… “How would you describe your mother, in 1 word?” “… Vain” and my eyes began to well up. He was raised by parents who were distant and vain. Jesus Christ, what had THEY done to HIM? and the empathy and compassion I felt for him, my abuser, was overwhelming … it literally washed over me that, he was not who he was supposed to be. Someone did something to change him. I don’t relieve him of his responsibility for those things done to me and others … but I had a window into the “why”…and the timeline of cause and effect.

I forgave the man. I will never forgive the acts. I loved him but I was afraid to be near him most of my life. I second guessed every comment, every intention…and I hated that, but it wasn’t of my choosing. I am so grateful that although it took until the end, I gained even more perspective and true forgiveness.

I look at Brent and I think, he was born a beautiful perfect little being … what the hell did they think they were doing, and creating out of him???? I don’t forgive his acts, they are his to own. But it sickens me that he was changed. He was forever altered through no fault of his own. I wonder how he would answer the questions:

Describe your father in 1 word.
Describe your mother in 1 word.

-Michelle

January 19, 2018

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I just don’t feel the need to get off every time Some Violent Sexual BS gets in my Brain.

It’s weird, I Love Classic Rock. But it seems the older I get i’m Liking some harder music. I think it’s my brains way of easing out its aggression.

Hey a TMI but an important thing, No Masturbation in 2 1/2 years!!! It’s True!!! Even though I’m Not on Depacote and it works again I’ve been a good boy. Amazing if you ask me. For a sexually addicted individual, i am good. It’s easier than i thought Not to spank the bastard.

Says a lot about my state of mind, my spirituality, and my thinking in general. I just don’t feel the need to get off every time Some Violent Sexual BS gets in my Brain. I think my heart has a lot to do with it.

Having Love, Compassion, empathy, really makes me feel a whole Lot different about Life, the way i think, Feel, and behave. Plus, NO Bullshit this Abilify is Really helping me keep my head on straight.

-Brent Brents 3-31-18

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Describe your father in 1 word. Describe your mother in 1 word.

I read your book and still follow the blog, and find the story of Brent compelling, and so incredibly sad.

I have my own history of abuse at the hands of a parent, and luckily for me, my healing was healthy and empowering. I began to realize it was him who was damaged and sick. I look in the mirror every morning and I like who I am. I don’t know what he sees when he looks in his mirror … a couple of years ago, I was at his death bed, holding his hand as he approached mortality and I asked, “How would you describe your father in 1 word?” His response, “… distant … ” Ok, interesting… “How would you describe your mother, in 1 word?” “… Vain” and my eyes began to well up. He was raised by parents who were distant and vain. Jesus Christ, what had THEY done to HIM? and the empathy and compassion I felt for him, my abuser, was overwhelming … it literally washed over me that, he was not who he was supposed to be. Someone did something to change him. I don’t relieve him of his responsibility for those things done to me and others … but I had a window into the “why”…and the timeline of cause and effect.

I forgave the man. I will never forgive the acts. I loved him but I was afraid to be near him most of my life. I second guessed every comment, every intention…and I hated that, but it wasn’t of my choosing. I am so grateful that although it took until the end, I gained even more perspective and true forgiveness.

I look at Brent and I think, he was born a beautiful perfect little being … what the hell did they think they were doing, and creating out of him???? I don’t forgive his acts, they are his to own. But it sickens me that he was changed. He was forever altered through no fault of his own. I wonder how he would answer the questions:

Describe your father in 1 word.
Describe your mother in 1 word.

-Michelle

January 19, 2018

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Reader: my emotionally and physically abusive father is not a monster – he is a sick person

I can’t believe the timing of finding your Ted Talk video. I haven’t even actually finished it, but I’m so amazed that you have articulated what I only just began to realize through my CBT sessions myself: my emotionally and physically abusive father is not a monster – he is a sick person who needs help. Although he is very intelligent, he lacks empathy and inflicted pain and suffering on those closest to him.

I’m only just starting to unravel the pain of my childhood and was recently ‘diagnosed’ with PTSD. I don’t know anyone else who’s ever gone through this, so I am in awe that you mirrored my recent breakthrough, that was years in making, into a 17 minute speech.

I’m crying right now because I am so relieved.
Thank you very much,
Ashley from Montreal, Canada

January 10, 2018

——————

Dear Ashley,
 
Thank you for taking the time to send such a thoughtful email. It’s very gratifying to get a message like this one; it reinforces that this work is worthwhile. 
 
I’m sorry to hear about the abuse your father inflicted upon you, and I applaud you for working on your healing. And I’m very glad that my TED talk was able to help you in any way. 
 
I would like to post your letter on the Diary of a Predator blog–not identifying you of course–if that would be OK with you? Please let me know. If it is, let me know how you’d like to be identified-such as first name only, or no name at all.
 
Again, thank you for writing. It’s letters such as yours that keep me motivated to do this kind of work. 
 
All my best,
 
Amy Herdy
January 10, 3018
———————–
Hi Amy,
You are welcome to post my email, and pls identify me only as Ashley… You can include Montreal.
I read more of the letters you posted and I’m surprised by how many people suffer from PTSD as a result of abuse. I guess I’m naive, because I thought it was only something soldiers had.

I wish you success in your work, and if you ever come to Montreal for a talk, I will be sure to attend 🙂

Best,
Ashley
January 11, 2018

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What would Brent Brents tell his younger self? “That the empathy he has, and is about to abandon is crucial to becoming a man”

So what would I tell the younger me. Honestly that would depend on what age were talking about. I suppose it really wouldn’t be that complicated. I was a pretty savy individual at the age of ten.

So first thing would be run, and run far. And stay away. I have put a lot of thought into the years between ten and thirteen. Being beaten wasn’t nearly as damaging to me as the rape. The rape taught me how to be deviant. And it was about this time I learned it could cause much more than just physical pain. I began to get an understanding of emotional abuse.

So I think I would like this kid to know that the secret world of abuse was not shameful or ok. I would tell him that the empathy he has, and is about to abandon is crucial to becoming a man. I would tell him that he should tell every one he could about the abuse at home. Every time, and not give up in that pursuit at getting his life back…

Even though I was savy, I wasn’t mentally capable of dealing with the the emotional conflict inside. Even then I couldn’t deal with the ridicule, and I got enough of it as it was. I suppose the biggest thing would have been nurturing the empathy I did have. Had I done that. Maybe I would be writing this in the comfort of my own home, instead of a prison cell. So yes I would yell that kid to love every one and every thing. Have those painful feelings when he sees wrong. And feel empathy and embrace it like his life counted on it.

-Brent Brents 7-23-16

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Have You Ever Met a Monster, Part III: What are we doing wrong as a culture that we continue to produce rapists?

It turned out that Brents had followed my work. A few months before he was released from prison I had finished co-authoring an investigation into how the military mishandles domestic violence and sexual assault. It resonated with him, not because he was a perpetrator, but because the angry man-child within him, considered himself a victim.

Records and accounts from family members indicate that Brents’ father was a violent, sadistic man. The two children from his second marriage were removed from the home because of his abuse, and Brents and his brother, the product of his father’s third marriage, were also removed from the home, although for unknown reasons, Brent was returned.

Brent BrentsThis is Brent’s first grade picture. His father had been raping him for three years by then.  A few weeks after this next picture was taken,

Brent Brents

BRENT J. BRENTS — At age 13

when Brent was 12, his father beat him so badly that Brent suffered what medical records described as a left orbital blowout fracture—his left eye socket was broken.  He’s had seizures ever since. I will spare you the details of the sexual torture he endured. He said his father told him that he himself had been beaten and sexually abused as a child by his father, Brent’s grandfather.

And so the pattern repeated. Pain, degradation, shame. Brent Brents did to others what had been done to him as a boy, and while he was still a boy, like many victims, he blamed himself. He once wrote, “I can’t remember much about when I was real young except fear and shame and lack of courage.”

Shame is an enormous trigger of violence. Brents told me that after that detective said to him, Turn yourself in you little punk, he, Brents, worked himself into a rage. Then he went on his final horrifying crime spree.

I’m not saying these factors are an excuse for the violence Brents inflicted upon others. He made choices.  He absolutely deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison. But knowing what happened to him helps explain why someone like Brents committed such violence with a lack of empathy–that his brain was predisposed toward it, and the abuse inflicted on him was his model.

It’s human nature to want to distance yourself from someone like him. Label him as a “monster,” dismiss him as evil, because we don’t want to have anything in common with such a monster–it could mean we, too, are capable of monstrous things.

It also makes it too easy. When we put rapists in the category of “monster” it may make us feel safer today but it’s more dangerous for tomorrow. Because then we won’t believe that the “monster” can be a neighbor, a good friend, a coworker. That enables them to hide in plain sight.

The dominant theme of how to prevent sexual assault today is cloaked in helpful advice, like don’t walk alone, don’t drink, don’t put yourself at risk—and the message, primarily to women, is, Don’t. Get. Raped.

How about we turn the spotlight to a different population and say, Don’t. Rape. And then take it one step further and ask, what are we doing wrong as a culture that we continue to produce rapists? Because whether it’s the ex-convict who attacks a stranger, the college boy who rapes his girlfriend or the celebrity who drugs and assaults his victims—they’re all choosing to exert their anger, power and control over someone else. With that choice, they are all the same, and they all leave pain in their wake.

I’ve interviewed more than fifty survivors of campus sexual assault in the past two years alone and the details I learn about their perpetrators paint a picture of SO MANY young men being deliberately predatory. They isolate their intended victim, ply them with alcohol or drugs, lock doors, ignore tears, ignore pleas to stop or ignore the fact their victim is limp with fear or is unconscious.

Ten years ago, Brent Brents was sentenced to 1,509 years. Today all over this country we are seeing new generations of serial rapists. Why is this still happening?

Why do we continue to reinforce the message to boys and young men that their worth is linked to their ability to dominate?

What if we prized compassion more than power?

When they’re little, we tell our children to play nicely in the sandbox.

As they get older, we say, don’t get in fights on the playground. Take a breath, count to ten, walk away.

Then they get even older and we teach them about the biological aspects of sex—health and reproduction.

What if we evolved those conversations with our youth, and teach them how feeling shame, feeling powerless or feeling angry–all of which cover up hurt and rejection—COULD cause them to want to dominate someone else?

And that they can learn to recognize triggers and not act upon them.

At least start that conversation.

And then speak up if you witness predatory behavior—and you’ll know it when you see it. Don’t make excuses.  Don’t look away. Don’t cover it up.

And because sexual violence happens on a continuum—escalating from verbal harassment to physical attacks–Speak up when you hear or read a joke about sexual assault, or victimization. It’s not funny, it’s not sexy. It’s dangerous.

If someone confides in you they’ve been assaulted, believe them–false reporting is extremely rare, so yes, believe them. Listen to them without judgment. Help them find resources, and then support whatever they decide to do.

For perpetrators– Brents told me that group counseling for sexual offenders in prison does not work. For an inmate to even be seen going to sex offender group risks their safety, and once there, they don’t want to be seen as vulnerable. It’s hard to change when you’re living in fear. And if we really do want to help them try to change, let’s offer more of the respect and compassion that can be felt with one-on-one, focused attention—something a damaged person desperately needs.

Instead of building more prisons and focusing only on punishing the perpetrators, why don’t we try to prevent them?

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Fighting flashes of hatred and rage

Note from Amy: Apparently I set this letter from Brent Brents aside in order to post several blogs from it and then got too busy. I uncovered it today on my desk, hence the reason why it’s dated from April. So here’s the first of several excerpts to come from that letter:

So i want to share something with you that has been going on in my mind Lately. My outlook on life has so freakishly changed these last few years. For example this empathy that continues to grow inside for others and the plight of humans everywhere. Don’t get me wrong I still harbor some bitterness, and hatred toward my family (parents). And I don’t trust any man…I’m getting so sick of death and violence. Rape, Domestic Violence. all of it on TV. Read about it in newspapers. And worst of all thru war stories told by cold and brutal men who are only steps from my own cell door. And within this cell, in this head is a brain that is constantly telling itself No more violence. Fighting flashes of hatred and rage. Trying to unlearn old habits. Pushing pride and ego aside, to make room for humility.

–Brent Brents 4-30-15

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