“Murderers are not monsters, they’re men. And that’s the most frightening thing about them.”―Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones
(The subject matter here is rape. This could be pretty harsh territory for some, so tread lightly. You are warned.)
Last Friday morning I awoke to the voice of my husband muttering angrily, “You shut your damn mouth right now!” to the radio. What garnered such a reaction? The morning show host’s opinion of Darren Sharper. The host was saying that Sharper was “an idiot” and “didn’t have to do what he did” because he was in the NFL.
Like the idea of raping unconscious females has everything to do with a guy who simply wants sex. YEAH.
Of course, a good number of people make this mistake: Darren Sharper was an NFL star. Darren Sharper was seen as a dedicated father and spoke out against domestic abuse. Darren Sharper didn’t fit the mental image of what a rapist/abuser is–the slimy looking guy in the torn wife beater who runs the scrapyard, has two or more snarling pit bulls chained outside and owns a white panel van. Darren Sharper was the polar opposite of that, which is why our esteemed radio show host could only stammer out that he was an idiot and not a criminal. In his mind, it was about sex and nothing more. It wasn’t about abuse you see, because Sharper never fit that part.
It’s all about the perception, the outer image of what we believer a rapist/abuser may look like. The reality of the situation is that abusers and rapists–shock of shocks–look like everyone else, like normal people who live next door to us.
Or worse, they are people who live with us. That’s the most frightening thing about this. Darren Sharper was not an idiot. He was an NFL star. He was seen as a hero. He was also a rapist and a human being. He was the furthest thing from a monster which is why society in general has such difficulty in accepting the idea that he is capable of monstrous things. It’s ignorance at best and cognitive dissonance at worst but it’s all the root of one of our massive problems with abuse in general.
We don’t want to believe that it can happen to us. We don’t want to believe that an abuser looks like a guy off the street. We don’t want to believe that we can, in fact, be victimized as well. We want to believe that we are smarter than that, that we can see past all the phony charms and walk away from the situation before it turns “bad”. And when we can’t walk away from the situation or we hear that someone we trusted could harm others, we’d rather believe the comfortable lie that someone, somewhere was too stupid to see the signs. That the person who did this had no common sense.
We don’t want to hear the truth: it can happen to anyone, because abusers are human. That’s the cold, hard reality of the situation.
Darren Sharper got eighteen years. I don’t think it was enough, as his victims got a life sentence. But considering how some athletes are treated, it’s a mercy that Sharper even got sentenced at all.