Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Level 3 sex offender charged with recent murder

Curtis Thompson spent 17 years in prison for 4 rape convictions. He had a history of sexual sadism and was deemed highly likely to offend again. Released in 2003, he is now being charged not only with murder but another rape and several other felonies. Prior to his release, prosecutors had sought his commitment to a facility for sexually violent predators because he was highly likely to offend again, but "a King County jury was swayed by his attorney's arguments that he had been a model prisoner and developed good relationships with women who worked for the Department of Corrections." (The Seattle Times, 8/22/06)

Most of us would love to believe that we can tell when someone is sincere, and when they are lying. In fact, the vast majority of us are not--our judgement is about as good as a guess. However, a small percentage of us are indeed very good at deceiving others. Thompson apparently is one.

Dr. Robert Hare has conducted research and written extensively on people he describes as psychopaths. See this page for a listing of his more recent writings.

Hare "points out that among the most devastating features of psychopathy are a callous disregard for the rights of others and a propensity for predatory and violent behaviors. Without remorse, psychopaths charm and exploit others for their own gain. They lack empathy and a sense of responsibility, and they manipulate, lie and con others with no regard for anyone's feelings."

As well as no regard for anyone's safety.

I believe it's important to cultivate people-reading skills, and that takes time and education. However, if we're to have a safer society we need those who decide the fate of violent offenders to understand the manipulations used by them. And for the rest of us, too, so we can become more adept at dealing with those who mean us harm.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Victor David was released from prison

Victor David was released from prison on Monday, August 21.

If you've lived in the Puget Sound area since 1997, you know the story. An emaciated Linda David was found stuffed in the bow of their boat, covered in vomit and dog feces, her body wracked by years of physical trauma. Her husband Victor was convicted of second degree assault in 2001. This case made headlines due to the viciousness of the beatings and the environment surrounding Linda. Linda David--now permanently brain-damaged and disabled--is cared for 24/7 by nurses and an appointed guardianship firm, paid for by a multi-million dollar settlement from Washington state. Her location is kept secret from Victor, and her caregivers have pursued divorce on her behalf. Restraining orders are in place to keep him away.

According to The Seattle Times (8/24/06), Victor believes that Linda does not want the divorce. He speaks of being happily married for over 25 year. He wants to reunite with her, return the settlement money to the state, and "whisk her away to Iraq, where he plans to drive an oil-tanker truck." However, Victor, a Canadian citizen, now faces deportation because of his felony conviction. Victor is apparently appealing both the dissolution of the marriage and deportation.

Victor David was exceptional only in his level of brutality, as he reflects all-too-common patterns of abusers. He is persistent in his pursuit, even over the years. Significant numbers of abusers refuse to let go. In fact, the most dangerous time for many abused women is while they are trying to leave and shortly afterwards.

Isolation in various forms is a common abuser tactic. Linda fell through the cracks in Washington state's social service agencies, despite clues that something was very wrong. Victor tightly controlled when and how social service personnel were allowed to see Linda, and when he denied access they did not persist (until 1997). She was isolated: physically on the boat; socially from what was left of her family, and she had no friends of her own; financially as Victor controlled her state-given disability.

Denial is yet another abuser tactic. Victor denied his role in Linda's injuries, instead blaming her repeatedly falling or on the multiple sclerosis (that she did not have). Denial also takes the form of defining another's experience for them, as in Victor's answering for Linda on those few occasions when social service officials were able to interview her. Many abused women in fact deny that they're being abused, as they've accepted blame for the isolation, threats and beatings.

Abusers are often very skillful at manipulating the social service and justice systems, way better than are their partners. Abusers recognize that social service officers are grossly overworked and highly regulated, and hone their skills at telling officials what they'd like to hear. Although individual officials may want to pursue cases that appear irregular, the agencies are often reluctant to allocate the "extra" resources.

This story may be exceptional for its brutality, but also for the amount of press it generated. Somewhere between 20-25% of women will be touched by domestic violence in their lifetimes. DV is the most common reason for a woman to be in a hospital emergency room. About half the homeless women with children in Seattle are fleeing an abuser. Yet we hear little about DV unless the result is sensational. When such cases do hit the press, DV hotlines get an extreme spike in calls as women watching the news suddenly recognize their own situations and realize they CAN take action.

The Seattle Times credits itself for forcing authorities to arrest and press charges when it ran it's 1999 story chronicling how the state mismanaged Linda David's case for years and that Victor David was still at liberty. You can read their news archives at: