Local family’s story of the ether rapist on Dr. Phil
February 17, 2012
OPINION By ROBERT SACHS
This morning I was contacted by an NBC affiliate in Oklahoma. The reporter was asking me if I was the person who wrote the article that appeared in the CalCoastNews over two years ago about the assault and near rape of my daughter while we were living in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The man, Robert Howard Bruce, who attacked her had become known as the “ether rapist” and had been arrested by a vigilant police officer in Pueblo, Colorado. While the news was just beginning to circulate about this serial rapist, my article went out and seemed to attract some national attention. Cosmopolitan contacted me in the fall of last year as Bruce was convicted of assault, being a peeping tom, and trying to kill the arresting officer by attempting to bomb his house while awaiting his court date.
After taking his DNA, which is what Bruce was most afraid of, over 40 rapes in several states were attributed to him. The rapes known were in New Mexico, Texas, and Colorado. Officials thought there were more and some even out of the country. I had learned more about these cases only recently. My daughter and I had been invited to be on the Dr. Phil Show on CBS. We met Bruce’s former wives, kids, and other victims of his sick mind.
And then the day after Valentine’s Day, just a day after filming the Dr. Phil Show, Oklahoma officials announced that eight rapes in Oklahoma were linked to Bruce via the DNA evidence he presented.
The reporter wanted my comments. I gave a few general comments that were clarifications from my CalCoastNews article. But, after I hung up, I began to ponder: If three states had already matched DNA evidence taken in rape kits to Bruce, why had it taken over two years for the Oklahoma officials to look at the kits they had on hand? The case had been growing in scope. It had made the national news that this man was a serial rapist. Oklahoma is close to New Mexico and Texas. You would have thought it was a no brainer that the officials in Oklahoma would look at unsolved rape cases to see if any matched up with Bruce.
But they didn’t.
And it brought me back to one of the original points I made in the first article. Rape kits are gathered but less than 50 percent are ever really collected by law enforcement and checked. There are probably some regional, cultural, and socio-economic reasons why they are looked at in some places more than others. But, the fact remains that rape does not get as much attention as murder, arson, or robbery.
And, in my opinion, as brazen and broad-brushed as it may seem to some, I believe this is because as a society we do not value women or the roles they play in general.
Young women are sexualized, from as early as possible. Barbie dolls have disproportionate figures that girls are taught to see as the ideal. Consider the tragedy of JonBenet Ramsey. Recently, my six-year old grandson was taken to a dance performance of a middle school dance troupe. Lots of grinding and pelvic thrusts. His comment to my daughter (his mother) was, “Mom, that was just wrong!” And, yet the wisdom that even a six-year old knows is disregarded as fashion and media encourage sexual display as a sign of growing up, becoming part of what is in, hot, or cool. My daughter now teaches in the California public school system. Girls come to class in body-tight tube tops, skirts that are just slightly better than belts, and high heels. She says they look like street walkers. And the number of sexual assaults on young women and the proliferation of date rape drugs go almost epidemic.
Women in their twenties and middle years learn quickly that the roles that are of value in society are the roles of men. My daughters have told my wife and me that virtually none of their female friends know how to cook. Home economics doesn’t even figure as part of public school curriculum and if it is there, it is either for dumb people or people that want an easy “A.” And, I am so sick of hearing wonderful women say apologetically, “I am just a housewife.” Or, “just a mom,” as if one of the hardest jobs in the world – raising civilized beings – was easy. In a talk once given to a number of doctors, a dear friend, Edgar Cahn, once asked them who provided the greatest number of healthcare hours in America. They mentioned themselves, or maybe nurses or Pas. The answer, in fact, was mothers. How many kids would be alive today if their mothers did not clothe or feed them? And yet, this most essential role to the survival of civilization, is looked down upon – a sign of a woman’s failure to want to achieve.
And, of course, most women will even tell you that if they abdicate all these roles and embrace the ones that society deems more prestigious, the “glass ceiling” is a reality. The message: not even at your best are you worth a man, not matter even if you are ten times more competent.
And, for this age group of women, along with rape, there is domestic violence which again, is often downplayed in its significance.
And then there are our grandmothers. They often outlive their partners. And, the fact is that there are more old women in nursing homes than old men. One could argue it is because they simply outlive their men. But, is it possible that we do not value them enough to bring them into our own homes; these, our own mothers? Disregarding our elder women is the final insult to motherhood. They birthed us, fed us, kept us alive and more than likely did so at the expense of their own convenience. And we return the favor by visiting them once a week or whenever while they are tended to as a patients in the “care” of others.
Being sexualized, having basic roles seen as lesser than, why would we expect our society to REALLY take rape seriously?
Rape is not about sex. It is about power and subjugation. If this was not true, it would not be used as a weapon in warfare. It demoralizes and disorientates. It leaves scars sometimes seen, sometimes not. Women never get over rape. Some may successfully learn to integrate the experience into their lives in a way that allows them to function in more healthy ways. But this takes work and lots of love a support from the people around them. Yet because this is a sexual action and sexuality is something that we as a society are obsessed and conflicted about, guilt and shame often prevents women from stepping forward to seek help. And, when they do, we sadly turn our backs on them. They subject themselves to pelvic exams so semen and other DNA rich fluids can be gathered for criminal investigation. And then we don’t even bother to look at the evidence in a timely fashion.
Which brings me back around to local events in my own community. After hearing from Oklahoma in the morning, in the evening I turn on my local evening news to learn that SARP, the Sexual Assault Recovery and Prevention Center is closing its doors. Lack of local support and state funding is the reason.
As the case of Robert Howard Bruce mushrooms into something larger in the national arena, we need to look more closely at what we are doing. By just focusing on the sensational and just laying the blame on one sick man, we run the risk of missing an opportunity to seriously, collectively re-examine how we treat women and the priorities we have in all aspects of our society.
And, like those in the sustainability movement say, we need to think globally, but act locally. In that regard, I hope that there is a local outpouring of support for SARP and that someone, maybe a local council person or representative who can lobby on their behalf and all such agencies in the state can strongly emphasize to those who control the purse strings that we can no longer accept rape and sexual abuse as a minor concern that do not need funding. For these acts cut to our core. If we do not give them proper heed, then it will not be possible to provide meaningful support in any other sector of our society.
The safety of women is paramount to the success, strength, and viability to civilized society. It’s way past time. Give more funding to such efforts, and you will see that all sectors of society will thrive.