Sean Druktenis seemed to be the oppo site of scary. Described by a news paper reporter as handsome with chi seled features, intense dark eyes, and a sweep of styled brown hair, he hailed from a prominent family in Santa Fe, New Mexico, drove a Lexus, and worked as a car salesman and mort gage broker. He was also adept, prosecutors claimed, at charming women he met in bars-right up till the moment he allegedly raped them. By the time Druktenis went to jail in 2003 for violating probation, at the age of 33, the convicted sex offender had left a trail of 30 sexual-misconduct charges against 11 women-including seven counts of rape. One of the alleged assaults even occurred while he was out on bond, under investigation for other sex charges. His accuser reportedly told the police officials that he seemed like a nice guy when they were out on a date, until he got inside her home. Then, she allegedly said, he turned cold and vicious.
He walked into her bedroom without being invited and took off his clothes. When she told him "I think you need to leave; this is not going to happen," she said he replied, "You shouldn't think. I didn't take you for a tease like the others were." She told police that while raping
her, he said, "You can at least act like
you like it."
Druktenis is typical of thousands of so-called date or acquaintance rapists, contends rape expert David Lisak, Ph.D., who testified for the prosecution at Druktenis's probation-violation hearing. Lisak told the judge that the evidence he'd looked at suggested that Druktenis fit the pattern of a typical serial non stranger rapist, someone who methodically stalks his "prey," charms her, gains her trust, and then eventually rapes her. What is not typical about Druktenis is that he was actually caught and sent to jail. Lisak is a psychologist at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, US, and he has spent decades researching what he calls the undetected rapist. Most non stranger rapists, he says-many of whom behave completely normal in the world at large and who may be someone you'd meet in a university classroom, an upscale bar, or through a friend-function much as Druktenis did. And most of them go undetected for years, often forever, both because they seem so nice and because they are very cunning at what they do.
The very term date rape is misleading, says Lisak, because the typical date rapist does not ask out a woman with the idea of starting a relationship but instead usually assaults someone he has just met and doesn't plan to see again. "The phrase date rape can sound like rape lite," says Lisak, but it is at least as devastating as stranger rape...and much more likely to occur. "Undetected rapists represent the vast majority of rapists and account for the vast majority of all rapes," says Lisak. Just because one is out on a date, doesn't make it any less criminal! Consider the math: It is estimated that three out of four rapes are committed by someone the victim knows and up to 85 percent of rapes are never actually reported. There is one beacon of light in this tunnel of darkness here though: Most of these date rapists share many traits. The more you learn about their habits and psychological makeups, the better are your chances of not being a victim. Here, Cosmo goes inside the mind of the undetected rapist to reveal how he operates.
He carefully plans his attacks
The central myth about date rape, says Lisak, is that it often boils down to a miscommunication between two people who've been drinking. While that can happen, the vast majority of sexual assaults are not random occurrences. "Non-stranger rape is like any other predatory behaviour," says Lisak. "That is, these men develop a systematic method that works, honing their skills until they are very effective." They don't allow anyone a chance to doubt them!
Lisak describes what one of his research subjects, Scott (not his real name), told him about his approach for a frat party, a formula echoed by many other date rapists. He and his frat brothers would choose a group of "targets" (often freshmen) to invite to their "exclusive" frat party, where they'd serve a sweet punch spiked strongly with alcohol. At the party, Scott would start grooming his target-complimenting her, flirting, plying her with drinks, and finally suggesting that they go upstairs where it was quieter. There, Scott would start kissing his victim while stripping off her clothes, ignoring her protests. Then he would hold her down, have sex with her, get dressed, and go back to the party as if nothing had happened. The key turning point, says Lisak, is when the rapist isolates his prey by con vincing her to leave a public place like a bar or party and go somewhere pri vate (a room, a car, or an apartment). You should never go off alone with someone you barely know; and if you think you've had too much to drink, always call a cab rather than accept a ride home. You might be in for more than you had bargained for in the first place.
Your gut instincts are your best protection here-so don't ignore them at any cost. "I've counseled many rape victims who blamed themselves because they could tell that the guy was too pushy and wasn't listening to them," says Katie Gentile, Ph.D., an associate professor of counseling and gender studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and director of its Women's Center, US. "Of course, it's always easier to recognise these things in hindsight, and many victims have said they felt that, though difficult to heed, the signs were there all along." You must trust your gut in such situations and if you are plagued by the slightest hint of doubt, listen to your instincts instead of ignoring it.
He is likely a serial rapist
The research of Lisak and others shows that close to two-thirds of unde tected rapists are repeat offenders. "Those repeaters commit so many assaults," says Lisak, "that even though they're a small percentage of men in a given community, they account for an enormous percentage of the rapes being committed." These guys can be so compulsive that some even commit rape while out on bail on other sexual-assault charges, as Druktenis allegedly did. In another case, 23-year-old Preston Gaddis, of Spring Mills, Pennsylvania, US, pleaded guilty last January to sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman. At the time of the assault, he was out on bail for a statutory sexual-assault charge against a 14-year-old girl. This repetitive pattern means that these guys are extremely practiced and very deft at manipulating women, which is why you have to consider what he does and not just what he says.
For instance, he can put on a convincing show of geuine concern about whether you've had too much to drink- while he's pressing another drink into your hand. Often the disconnect between those two actions doesn't hit until much later when the damage is done. The best protection, says Lisak, is using the buddy system religiously. Agree beforehand with a friend to look out for each other and even discuss how you will communicate that you think a guy is creepy, perhaps by a certain sign or expression or a trip to the ladies' room to dish. "Often someone not being groomed by the predator is more likely to see that grooming is going on," Lisak points out. Turn to your friend in such a scenario and work together as a team.
He holds stereotypical views of men and women
Date rapists often have views like these: Women say no to sex even when they want it; many women are "teases" who either secretly want to be coerced into sex or else "deserve" it.
The tough part, says Lisak, is that the undetected rapist can "talk the talk" when it comes to being a caring, sensitive new-age guy. Also, his traditional ideas often express themselves in ways women still think of as gallant or romantic, says Gentile: opening your door, pulling out your chair, acting very protectively. "It can seem simply like this guy is just tak ing care of you," she says. But if he also seems bossy or pushy or patronis ing about women and their abilities or desires, he could harbour old-fashioned ideas about women as bimbos and conquests. They are driven by what they think is right or wrong and other considerations seem immaterial to them. Listen for com ments that might betray hostility, things like "women just can't be trusted". Gentile's research on college campuses also suggests that a guy's friends can be a tip-off. "If his pals are telling sexist jokes, making fun of women, commenting on their breasts," she says, "he's probably doing that too-just not in front of you, but behind closed doors with his mates."
In the undetected rapist's mind, says Lisak, a woman is not really an equal but both someone he wants to dominate and, conversely, someone he fears being controlled by. In his world it's the man who is in charge and any attempt made at jeopardising this setting is totally uncalled for. This complex of emotions leads to anger when the rapist isn't getting what he wants. Scott, for instance, told Lisak that he was "pissed" when the intoxicated girl he was attacking tried to fight back.
Many of these guys are more sexually active than average men, says Lisak, "because their self-esteem is very much tied up with their sense of sexual prowess, which they measure by frequency." Their rapes are not about sex per se; they're about power and about reinforcing their masculine identity. Rape is equivalent of a conquest to them and the reinforcement of this affirmation that they've still got it together is of prime importance.
He uses alcohol and/or drugs as a tool
Another myth about date rape, says Lisak, is that drinking too much makes it happen. In fact, it's the other way around in reality: Alcohol is a weapon in the rapist's arsenal, woven inextricably into the pattern of his attacks. "It's part of the grooming phase before the assault actually takes place," explains Lisak. "His plan is to ren der his victim as intoxicated as possi ble, so that they have only faint recollection of what might have taken place." So a first line of defense against acquaintance rape is to be very wary of anyone who presses drinks on you, when you are way above your limit. That includes buying another before your first is finished and urging you to try something different that could be made particularly strong.
One rapist Lisak studied, Bruce (not his real name), established a home turf at several local bars and made friends with the bartenders. When he was buying a woman drinks, one of his friends would make them especially strong, and Bruce would be sure her glass was never empty, urging her for a refill. Then he'd suggest that she'd had too much and he should take her somewhere away from the bar to sober up.
"This is a sophisticated psychological ploy," says Lisak, "because by seeming concerned for her, he's increasing her trust, while in fact he's rendering her much more vulnerable, alone in his car, away from her circle of friends." In one case in which the victim later brought charges, Bruce said he had left his bank card in his apartment and asked if they could stop by and get it. But when they finally got there, he instead poured her a glass of wine.
Just as it was dawning on her that something wasn't right, he moved in: He put his arm around her, and when she resisted, he forced himself on the unwilling girl. That very moment, when the commonplace suddenly becomes terrifying, is so identifiable that Lisak calls it the Hitchcock moment: the instant when you realise you are in grave danger.
He uses psychological dominance more than brute force
The Hitchcock moment, says Lisak, has tremendous psychological power on an individual. Suddenly, nothing is what it seemed-this guy you decided to trust
turns out think clearly and rationally. Most humans are more prone to freeze than to fight back when confronted with someone who is threatening or more powerful." By the time the intended victim is intoxicated and isolated, the threshold for this freeze response has been lowered considerably. Many rapists, says Lisak, also make one small move: "They put a hand, briefly, around the victim's throat-it's not a strangulation hold, but is on the neck area which is extremely vulnerable when someone takes control there, threatening to cut off breathing or blood flow to the brain. This needless to say instills a high level of fear." At that point, your terror is just about the only weapon he will need to get what he wants out of the effort he's put into chasing you. But now you have your own psychological weapon that's equal in power to his: the knowledge that can stop this predator in his tracks.