Tag Archives: serial rapist

no verifiable threat to his safety at this time

From Amy: Brent Brents applied for protective custody at his new prison and was turned down. Here’s an excerpt from the “Notice of Protective Custody Decision”:

“The Committee determined Brent Brents should not be placed in protective custody due to there being no verifiable threat to his safety at this time…”

Generally, inmates in prison for being serial rapists don’t fare well in general population. We’ll see how this goes.

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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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What I Said During the TEDx Talk: Have You Ever Met a Monster? Part I

Note from Amy: A woman contacted me the other day and said she would love to have the transcript of what I said during my TEDx talk.

So as not to overwhelm readers, I will post it in excerpts, starting with this first one:

Have you ever met a monster? someone so scary they alerted the reptilian part of your brain?

One morning as I was going to my job as a criminal justice reporter in Denver, I stepped into a crowded elevator, faced front and got the sense someone behind me in that was watching me. I glanced over my shoulder to see this man staring at me in a very calculating way, with cold shark eyes. So I stared back—and my look said, Rude person! and he didn’t drop his eyes, so I ended that contest and turned back around, alarm bells sounding in my head. I instantly decided I didn’t want him to know which floor was mine, so at the next stop just before the doors came together I darted out at the last minute, and then I flew up the stairs and ran into the newsroom, my heart pounding.

The fear of monsters is instinctive.

In Denver in 2005 reports of a serial rapist had residents so frightened some were carrying baseball bats.

Police released his name, Brent Brents, and the media scrambled to find out whatever we could on this guy. A reporter at the rival newspaper got Brents’ sister in Arkansas on the phone, and she said, “He deserves whatever he gets” before hanging up. One sentence, but, we’d been scooped!

Get thee on a plane to Arkansas, my editors said. Find his family, and get them to talk. So I did. Brent’ mother described him as willful, intelligent. He had grown up hunting and fishing, ran track, wrestled, boxed. He had a learning disorder, and became frustrated, then angry, in school. He started smoking pot and drinking at age 10, and that’s when he began beating his mother. When he was 13 he pulled a switch on a railroad track and was sent to juvenile detention, where he was in and out until the age of 18 when he was convicted of raping two children. He served sixteen years in prison before being released without supervision.

His sister mentioned that Brent had a lot of anger toward their father, who had died the year before.

So I turned to the mom and said, I’m sorry to ask, but this is a standard question when someone sexually abuses others. Was Brent ever abused as a child?

There was a long pause. And then looking down she said, Brent makes up all kinds of lies.

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Have You Ever Met a Monster?

Giving a TEDx talk was not on my bucket list.

But a friend sent me a link to submit a talk proposal and before I knew it, I faced the daunting task of trying to condense this story–of how covering the case of serial rapist Brent Brents changed my life–into 18 minutes.

Two days before the scheduled date of the talk, I threw out my back (I wish I could say I was bungee jumping, or ice climbing, but the truth is I was emptying a wheelbarrow full of horse manure into a compost bin), resulting in a) no sleep and b) shooting pain with every step.

So the finished product is not pretty. It’s not full of video or power point dazzle. But those 18 minutes contain some tough truths about rape, sexual assault, incest, child sexual abuse, and, most startling of all, forgiveness. I wanted to share it with you, so click on my TEDx talk here: “Have You Ever Met a Monster?”

And then let me know what you think.

–Amy

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what creates sexual abusers

Note from Amy: The following comments were sent to this Diary of a Predator website on May 30 by a viewer who watched the Paula Zahn episode on Investigation Discovery detailing the case of convicted serial rapist Brent Brents. It’s always heartening to me when people understand the importance of “why.” It’s the reason I continue this work.

Here are the comments:

Hello Amy, I applaud your efforts to understand what creates sexual abusers. As someone who has known several victims of sexual abuse I feel that it is very important to understand the psychological causes of the compulsion to violently sexually dominate others. I hope that I can one day contribute as much to society as you have…

I first saw your story on Paula Zahn and I was impressed with your commitment to presenting both sides of the story, no matter how repugnant Brent Brents actions were.

-Eric Washington

 

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Monster, yes. Damaged child, yes.

Note from Amy: This very kind comment was sent to this Diary of a Predator website from a woman who read my book, Diary of a Predator: A Memoir, which is about my covering the case of serial rapist Brent Brents, and how that changed me.

It was a tough book to write, and I’m sure parts of it are very tough to read. So when someone takes the time to tell me they appreciate the book and that they understand what I was trying to accomplish, it fills me with both hope and gratitude that somehow, we’ll all make a difference.

Thank you, Tracy.

Here’s what she wrote:

Amy, I just finished your book. You are a brilliant writer and a very brave woman. Your story hit on the complex issue of abused becoming perpetrator. How can we not feel pity for Brents? Monster, yes. Damaged child, yes. His life would have been very different had he not endured horrific abuse as a child.

In 1983, I did an internship for the Wyoming Board of Charities and Reform. I researched the history of the Wyoming Children’s Home and the need to transition it into a Residential Treatment Facility for Emotionally Disturbed Children. I wrote a report to present to the WY Legislature in which I strongly recommended the transition. I researched the physical and sexual abuse that Brents, and other children, experienced while in the Home, and reading this portion of your book broke my heart. The cover photo on your book jacket looks very much like a boy I worked with from the Laramie Crisis Center in 1982. I remember this boy above all others because I took him to my home and introduced him to my husband and 2-year-old son. He had dinner with us, played games, and did not want to go back to the Center. I was severely reprimanded for doing this!

Thank you for writing your story, Amy.

Tracy Hauff

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Reader Reaction to Amsterdam Comment: Easy to say if you yourself are not a victim

Note from Amy: I received the following as a comment to this Diary of a Predator website, which is about the case of serial rapist Brent Brents. The comment was apparently a reaction to the reader who said she was interested in understanding perpetrators of violent crimes . Most of the comment was written in Dutch, so I put the English translation (per Go0gle Translate) beneath it:

For the Dutch lady: easy to say if you yourself are not a victim of this disgusting guy!

Voor de Nederlandse dame: makkelijk praten als je zelf niet een slachtoffer bent van deze walgelijke kerel!! Men heeft altijd een keuze tussen goed en kwaad, ongeacht of je zelf een slachtoffer was, immers als men dat niet had of heeft zit de halve wereld in de bak! Dus complete onzin.
Voor deze lui als Brent Brents wegwezen kost de maatschappij alleen maar geld.

(Translation: One always has a choice between good and evil, whether you were a victim yourself, after all, if one has not had or is half the world into the bin! So complete nonsense.
For these guys as Brent Brents now costs society only money.)

Dirma

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