What Does A Rapist Look Like?
In other circumstances, Alex Kelly and the woman who accused him of rape in the trial that just ended in a hung jury might have been friends. After all, they come from the same milieu: these are two kids of privilege, whose parents were able to provide them with nearly every opportunity that would help them succeed in life. Both families attained the goals many of us strive toward a comfortable life in a lovely home, shielded to a large degree from the more disturbing facts of life. Those small details that connect members of an affluent community the right addresses and schools, common volunteer activities could have blossomed into the kind of friendship that leads to shared holiday dinners and ski vacations.Instead, these two families will be linked in our minds forever by an event that happened on a cold, snowy night more than 10 years ago. The daughter of a Darien family says that on Feb. 10, 1986, Alex Kelly raped her in the cargo area of his girlfriend's family Jeep Wagoneer and then threatened to do it again and kill her if she told anyone.In spite of that threat, and after much coaxing from her sister, she did tell. She told her parents and she told the police. In telling, this girl (who had just turned 16) set into motion a drama that would seem overwrought as a made-for-television movie. The allegation of a second rape, which allegedly happened just four days later (the complaint was filed on Valentine's Day) would stretch disbelief even further. Kelly insists that the sex they had that night was consensual. After all, why would someone like Alex Kelly rape anyone? It's a question Kelly himself asked on an April 9, 1996 segment of the ABC News show Turning Point. Forrest Sawyer asked Kelly, "Did you rape these two girls?" "Kelly replied glibly, Why would I rape somebody?" When Sawyer repeated his question, Kelly said, "No, I did not rape anyone. I did not commit these crimes."SMASHING STEREOTYPESA lex Kelly does not fit our stereotype of a rapist a point that State Attorney Bruce Hudock made in his closing argument. "The defendant is really insulting our common sense when he asks us to maintain our stereotype of what a rapist is," Hudock said, eloquently making the point that as a society, we think of rapists as being "other" somehow. That when confronted with someone of Kelly's social class and race, our minds balk at the idea that he could be a rapist. It seems unthinkable that those whom we admire (whether it's for their achievement in sports, a career, or simply because they are attractive) would need to commit a crime as heinous as rape. In the words of one survivor of sexual assault, whom we'll call Evelyn: "I think [Kelly] is one of people's biggest misconceptions...they don't want to believe that someone like that can commit a crime like rape. Some people look at Kelly and think: "Oh, this is someone I'd want my daughter to be with."The truth is rape and sexual assault happen with sickening regularity, and they are crimes perpetrated by men of position and power, who would seem to have it all. It happened in Glen Ridge, N.J., when a group of jocks sexually abused (with a baseball bat) a girl whose protests they didn't take seriously because she was mildly mentally handicapped. It happened at Tailhook, where male officers in the Navy sexually assaulted female officers during a ritual known as "the gauntlet" at an annual get-together. It has happened so often at Army bases around the country that a full-scale investigation is presently under way. And it happens often in cases that, for a number of reasons, receive no media attention.At the time of the alleged rapes, Kelly had it all. His family was wealthy and well-established in status-conscious Darien, he was a star athlete, he was good-looking, he had a beautiful girlfriend. But what seemed to clinch his status as "coolest kid in school" was the fact that Kelly was also known as a rebel. After all, he was convicted of of nine counts of burglary and nine counts of larceny in June 1984, when he was 16. At that time, he was also convicted of possession of marijuana with the intent to sell. This image of Kelly as a "rebel without a clue" seems to have made him something of a folk hero among his peers. A court-imposed stay at a rehab facility only helped him. He came back from that, hit the honor rolls and became captain of the wrestling team. Kelly was a member in good standing of a specific group that entitled class of men who believe, and in some cases have proof, that the rules that govern the rest of us don't apply to them. That sense of entitlement was certainly still in evidence every day during the trial. Surrounded by reporters and television cameras, Kelly strolled along, firmly gripping the hand of his girlfriend redux, Amy Molitor. His parents, Joe and Melanie, trailed behind, their carefully maintained distance from each other serving as a stark contrast to Alex and Amy's ostentatious displays of intimacy. And his attorney, Thomas Puccio, took it all in stride, spouting sound bites into the cluster of microphones shoved in his face.One would think that after spending eight years avoiding attention as he made his way around Europe, Egypt and India during his flight from justice, Kelly would be uneasy being in the spotlight. In fact, he seemed surprisingly comfortable as he made his way through the hordes of photographers and reporters who surrounded him as he entered and exited the courthouse. Whenever he stepped into the cameras' range, Kelly put on his game face a bland expression that exposes nothing, the look of a young man walking into a cocktail party or some kind of meeting. But he seemed unable to help the hint of a smile that played at the corners of his mouth, a look that is as natural to men of his socio-economic status as the blue blazer he sported every day. It's that look which caused one cameraman from a major TV network to mutter after Kelly had passed, "I'd like to wipe that smirk off his face just grab him by the back of his head and scrape his face along the sidewalk." But nothing seemed to faze Kelly, not even the catcalls from some bystanders that the microphones didn't pick up. "God is watching," one woman intoned repeatedly as she followed the pack, her voice rising when there was no response from the Kelly camp. "Enjoy prison," a man shouted as he watched the spectacle. "They gonna love you in there, pretty boy!"The only comment that elicited any kind of response from Kelly, in fact, was when a man driving by in a pickup truck yelled, "Way to go, Alex!" Kelly started to raise his hand up to acknowledge this message of support, a move he'd probably made thousands of times in his days as a high school sports star. But a look of doubt suddenly passed over his face, as if he were wondering how this action would play on the nightly news. Abruptly changing course, he ran his fingers through his perfectly combed hair instead.While seated in the courtroom, Kelly usually wore the look of a schoolboy who has been accused of spit-balling the teacher a sort of open-mouthed gape that seemed to imply that the proceedings going on around him had little, if anything, to do with him. It was the look of a kid who couldn't quite believe anyone would think badly of him. Some members of the public who managed to find seats in the packed courtroom made no bones about their contempt for Kelly and for his parents. "It must be nice to have that kind of money so you can protect your no-account son," said one woman, sitting one seat away from Joe Kelly, Alex's father.WHAT DOES A RAPE VICTIM LOOK LIKE?Just as Puccio would have us believe that Kelly doesn't fit the rapist stereotype, the New York lawyer reasoned that the alleged victim does not fit our idea of a rape victim, either."Her testimony was a beautifully scripted and rehearsed performance," Puccio said in his closing arguments. Puccio submitted that the alleged victim lied because she met an older attractive boy and had sex with him for the first time around the corner from her home. Her reaction, he said, was "guilt induced by regret" for having done that, so she lied to her family and her family took the situation out of her hands.While Puccio tore into his client's accuser, Kelly alternated between staring stoically ahead and peering at the jury with a grief-stricken, pitiful look on his face. The alleged victim and her family appeared to fight back tears at times, during what must have seemed to them like a second assault. During a press conference after the mistrial was declared, Puccio again attacked the alleged victim, saying that she did not appear terribly victim-like. Then he spewed his vitriol on her family, making the outrageous statement that they had appeared to enjoy being in court, "totally coifed and dressed to kill." "What does a rape victim look like?" asked an angry Carla Gisolfi, executive director of the Rape and Sexual Assault Crisis Center in Stamford. "Rape victims aren't supposed to be able to call themselves survivors? They're not supposed to be able through therapy or whatever means of healing they come through to get on with their lives, forge ahead and try to redeem themselves? I was so disgusted and so upset when I heard that comment. We know that 78 rapes occur to an adult woman every hour in the United States. So what does a rape victim look like? Any one of us."In his rebuttal, Hudock referred to Puccio's claim that the sex was consensual as the ultimate speculation. "She really went for him, she couldn't control herself in that car. She got in the back of the Jeep and, on a cold winter's night, on top of cable wires, she lost her virginity," he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "She gave up her virginity in the back of a Jeep owned by his girlfriend's family to a man she'd known for a few minutes! It was all very romantic, but it didn't happen that way."Hudock argued that the defense was asking the jury to believe what he called "Victorian attitudes toward sexual behaviors. What we're being told is how a rape victim should act, should be injured." It is a tragedy that, as it stands now, the Kelly trial has been yet another missed opportunity to shatter those stereotypes. Puccio was able to instill doubt in at least two of the jurors' minds. That was enough to result in a deadlock, which in turn resulted in the mistrial. But our stereotypes about this crime are, like most stereotypes, wrong. After hearing the compelling testimony of the alleged victim, even seasoned journalists were hard-pressed to maintain their objectivity. When there was still speculation that Kelly would take the stand in his own defense, one journalist remarked that he had to testify. "There has to be a cleansing of his soul," she said. That would only be true if Kelly were actually guilty and if he believed he had done something wrong.IF THE PROFILE FITS...According to research by A. Nicholas Groth, a specialist in the field and author of Men Who Rape: The Psychology of the Offender, there are three basic types of rapists: the sadistic rapist, the anger rapist and the power rapist. "The power rapist uses whatever threat or force that is necessary to gain control of the victim and overcome resistance," writes Groth.According to David A. D'Amora, director of Connecticut's Special Services Center for the Treatment of Problem Sexual Behavior, 60 percent of rapists fit the power rapist profile. While D'Amora is officially precluded from talking specifically about the Kelly case, one specialist we spoke with off the record did say that, "Kelly fits the profile of the power rapist."More often than not, power rapists use the minimal amount of physical force needed to gain control of their victims. "What they use is strength, in the sense that "I'm stronger than you, so if you don't, I will hurt you," the threat of violence, intimidation, explained D'Amora. While power rapists may indeed use some physical violence, it's usually not their intention."Power rapists, by and large, are not looking to hurt their victim," D'Amora added. "I know that sounds very strange, but in fact, that isn't necessarily their goal. It's certainly a result of their behavior, but they've been able to distort their thinking to such a degree that they can say, at least initially, "Oh, that wasn't my intent." "You hear the argument that it was consensual," D'Amora continued. "When you hear their description of what they mean by consensual, you sort of raise your eyebrow and say, 'Well, come on now, wait a minute.' But in that moment of the offense, they're able to rationalize it and convince themselves that it is [consensual]."At the time of the alleged rape, Kelly was a champion wrestler strong for his size, trained to overpower and manipulate another young man of equal weight and training without causing injury. His own coach, Jeff Bouvier, told Vanity Fair that Kelly approached wrestling on a "primal level." That would certainly jibe with the alleged victim's testimony: "He grabbed my throat and said that I was going to make love to him or he was going to kill me," she recounted for the court. "And he told me, 'This can be easy or this can be hard.'" Ten years after the event, her voice still quaked as she recounted her version of what happened that night, and she had to take a moment to collect herself before she continued. Because she was afraid, because she believed his threat, she got into the cargo space of the Jeep. She took off her clothes when he told her to, and she did not scream. As a result, her physical injuries were minor. Later, after she had told her parents what happened to her, her father called the Kelly's home. "You're son just raped my daughter. Get him under control," the alleged victim's father told Kelly's father, Joe. According to Joe Kelly's testimony, when he woke his son Alex up to ask him about this allegation, his son replied, "We had sex, Dad. Go back to bed." Unbelievably, Alex Kelly's father did just that. Groth also found that in the case of power rapists, "offenses are repetitive and may show an increase in aggression over time." In her complaint against Kelly, the second alleged victim tells a story that is similar to the first victim's. She was attacked in Kelly's car after he drove her away from the Wee Burn Country Club against her will. She says she did not cooperate. Her injuries were more serious and the rape was more brutal. The charges against Kelly in that case include sodomy. "The primary reason behind rape behavior is that the male is acting out a need for power and control," D'Amora explained. We have such misconceptions of rapists we assume that they're these sort of ridiculous men who are a combination of topologies that don't exist in real life."WHY WOULD I HAVE TO RAPE ANYONE?That misconception is so deeply embedded in our minds that even men who have been convicted of rape maintain denial about the crime, D'Amora said. The Special Services Center for the Treatment of Problem Sexual Behavior works with men who have already served time for rape and are on probation. D'Amora is careful to point out that the treatment the center provides is not rehabilitation. "We call it habilitation rather than rehabilitation because 'rehabilitation' suggests getting them back to some level of functioning that worked," he noted. "We need to bring them to a point that they were never at in life." Denial about having committed rape is more the norm than the exception, according to D'Amora. And the first step in treatment is usually to break through that denial."Their initial reaction is that they are not rapists," D'Amora explained. We don't argue with them, we just say 'Let's just check to see if you did what this report says you did.' We'll read [the report] and we'll say, 'So, is this how it went down?' And they'll say, 'Well, yeah.' We'll say, 'That's rape.' And they'll say, 'No it's not; I'm not a rapist.' Then we ask them to describe who a rapist is, and they'll then describe this person who is an ugly, nasty criminal, often [a] poor person who, of course, is nothing like them." Kelly looks exactly like what he is-- an upper-class young man. His family has been able to post a $1 million bond to allow him to remain free while he awaits the retrial on the first charges and trial for the second. He reportedly spends his days shopping and working out at a local wall-climbing gym, accompanied at all times by one of his parents, one of the conditions of his bond.According to D'Amora, there are no studies that focus on incidents of rape by men of the entitled class. "When you look at the issue of economic status, you don't find anything that stands out," he said. Except that a number of studies show that the person [who rapes] tends to have lived an irresponsible and undirected life and that there were a variety of behavioral problems in school and childhood." Even before he became a fugitive from justice, Kelly had his scrapes with authorities. Kelly failed to appear for his Feb. 18, 1987 trial and eventually left the country for an eight-year "vacation," ice climbing, skiing and scuba diving in chic enclaves like La Grave and Chamonix. Running away was, according to Puccio, the action of a scared kid. Understandable, perhaps. Until one remembers that, just weeks before this most recent trial began, Kelly totaled his girlfriend's car, then ran through the woods to his home leaving Amy Molitor in the wreckage with broken ribs and other injuries. "I was scared," he said. Of course, he did make his 9 p.m. curfew that night. In fact, when the police arrived at his door, led by a dog who had followed Kelly's scent from the site of the accident, it was Kelly who met them, claiming that he knew nothing about the whole thing. Kelly is not a kid anymore; he's 29 years old.Although there are no exact figures, studies show that the majority of men who rape are involved in a consensual sexual relationship, typically with someone other than who they've raped, D'Amora explained. That makes it easier for them to maintain their denial about the crime, allowing them to ask themselves and their accusers, Why would I have to rape anyone? "That's a very common response," D'Amora added. "I don't need sex, I don't have to pay for sex, I don't have to beg for sex." And our response is we agree with you, you've just sort of proved the point it's not about sex. It really was about these other things. During her testimony, Amy Molitor described her relationship with Kelly at the time of the alleged crime as being intimate. In his fierce cross examination of Kelly's accuser, Puccio repeatedly suggested that what happened that night was consensual sex. "Were you jealous or concerned about the fact that he had a girlfriend?," Puccio needled. "That you had sex with someone who had a steady girlfriend and nothing could come of it?""I was raped," she said firmly, as she looked Puccio in the eye. There was silence in the courtroom. Alex Kelly stared at some middle distance, his face impassive except for a slight lift of his eyebrows. Because they do less physical damage, D'Amora says, power rapists are the most difficult of all rape offenders to prosecute. "There tends to be less physical evidence--it really plays into people's lack of understanding of the dynamics of rape and what it's like to be cornered or victimized by someone whom you know can hurt you badly if they choose to.""It's a difficult balance because in men, particularly, how we react to sexuality and aggression has been shown to be very closely related in just how we're built, quite frankly," D'Amora continued. "It's a very difficult distinction to make. But the point is, with rare exceptions, [sex] is not the primary reason for the behavior."HOW COULD SHE LET THAT HAPPEN?"Fear plays a huge part in all rapes," Gisolfi of the Rape and Sexual Assault Crisis Center explained. "It probably is the most frightening and traumatic experience a woman ever goes through. We think that what is foremost in a woman's mind is, 'Am I going to survive this?'" she added. "From the testimony in the Kelly trial, this was obviously the case for the victim."Taking the stand nearly 11 years after the night she was allegedly raped, the victim told a chilling story. Although she has gotten on with her life she finished high school and went to college, embarked on a career, and got married last year it was clear that the events of that night have remained vivid in her mind and heart. When she was asked to identify the man she says raped her, she took a deep breath, stood up and pointed at Kelly. He did not meet her eyes, but kept doodling on a legal pad before him.After describing what started out as a typical night in the life of a popular teenage girl, she admitted that she accepted a ride from Kelly. Despite feeling uncomfortable getting into a car with a young man she'd just met, she was concerned about getting home in time for her 11:30 curfew. They drove along in silence, she said, until he stopped the car and tried to kiss her. She rebuffed him, and they continued on, the only conversation between them occurring when Kelly asked her if she wanted to go to his house and get high. She said no, she wanted to get home. When they were in sight of her house, she asked him to let her out at the end of the driveway but he drove by, saying he'd turn around on a side street. "There's a kind of circle on Leeuwarden Lane, and he drove about three-quarters of the way around it and stopped. He put the car in park and I said, 'What are you doing? My house is over there.' The defendant leaned over and came over on to my side and sort of got on top of me. He tried to kiss me. I pushed him away and said, 'What do you think you're doing?' I started to get very scared."When asked if she had tried to get away, she said she did. "But he had his leg over mine and only about this much of me wasn't pinned down," she said, indicating her right arm, shoulder and part of her chest. She testified that he also had one hand on her neck, choking her and making it hard for her to breathe."I had pushed myself up off the seat with my hands so I could breathe. I tried to find the door handle, but I couldn't. It was dark, I couldn't see anything. I couldn't breathe." When Kelly told her to get in the back seat, she walked on the backs of her hands through the space between the two front seats. When he ordered her to take off her clothes, she did. 'This can be easy or this can be hard,' she said he told her. She said that when she resisted, he threatened to make it hurt more.When it was over, she asked Kelly, "Why did you do this to me? 'I don't know,' she said he replied. I couldn't control myself." And then, while he drove her the short distance to her home, he told her that he had used a condom so she didn't need to worry. He also allegedly said, "If you tell anyone, I'll do it again and I'll kill you."RAPISTS HAVE BEEN GIVEN PERMISSIONThe fact is most rapists do indeed go unpunished for their crimes. D'Amora pointed out that while the sadistic rapist who usually tortures and/or murders his victims makes up less than 2 percent of rape offenders, they usually get "an undue amount of press" because of the horrific nature of their crime. "And we then tend to measure 'is something a rape' by comparing it to that one very small, and not really representative, group of men," D'Amora added. Studies have shown that only one in 10 rape trials end in conviction.Victims in high-profile cases like Kelly's and William Kennedy Smith's who was acquitted of raping a woman he met in a bar are often not believed. While there are a number of reasons why a jury could reach this conclusion, one could be if a man does not fit the stereotype of a rapist, or if the victim doesn't look sufficiently victim-like, the chances are he will get away with committing the crime. "It does feel almost as if rapists have been given permission in all of this," Gisolfi concurred.The pain of the actual rape is made worse by the fact that a woman's attacker often escapes conviction or receives a sentence that does not reflect the lasting psychological damage inflicted by the crime. Sentences for sexual assault can be as short as one year, depending upon the degree of the crime. A person convicted of robbery can serve five years. "It's not right," said Evelyn. "People can get more of a jail sentence for stealing an item from you than [for] stealing your person," she said. "The worst thing [my attacker] took was my freedom, and I'll never be who I was."In the aftermath of the mistrial, however, sympathy for the alleged victims in both of the cases against Kelly has grown. According to Gisolfi, the Rape and Sexual Assault Crisis Center has been deluged with telephone calls and letters from people who want to send messages of support to Kelly's alleged victims. On one recent morning, the center fielded at least a dozen such calls before 9:30 a.m. Women from all over the country have sent letters of support to the victims in care of the center, which has forwarded those letters."Our concern is for the community at large," Gisolfi said. "What will the effects be on victims trying to determine if they should proceed with charges in their own cases? And what about the future victims who may be out there saying, 'See, nothing happens if you pursue it, why bother?' For those victims, we need to say, 'We do believe, and we will continue to believe and lend our support in whatever way that we can.' "We've had quite a few clients call saying that this case brought up incredible anxiety for them," Gisolfi, added. Victims of rape carry the memory of their attacks for the rest of their lives. A notion exists in our culture that men can't really be held responsible for their sexual activity, explained Debbie Pauls, coordinator of victim's services at the Crisis Center.Women who have been raped feel shame, a natural response to a situation in which we lose control. "There are a lot of contradictions in our cultural mythology, but it goes back to this: We still expect that the woman in any situation is the one who is going to be responsible for what happens," Pauls asserted."[The victim] should be on top of the world," said Hudock in his closing arguments. "But there is one thing that cannot change in her life. She is a survivor of rape and she will be until she dies. She is a captive of that past and there is nothing we can say or do to change that. But we can listen with our hearts and minds. We can listen with our common sense."