Dr. Wendy L. Patrick, San Diego deputy district attorney, special operations division, spoke to a crowd of more than 100 attendees during a professional forum at Marshall Auditorium Thursday, Aug. 6. The event was presented by the United States Army SHARP Academy and the title of her presentation was "Sexual Predators and Stalkers: Increasing Public Awareness and Protecting the Community."
Patrick has been a lawyer for more than 20 years and the majority of her career has been prosecuting sex offenses, domestic violence crimes -- crimes of violence against victims. She spent a majority of the last decade specializing in sex crimes, including sexually violent predators, child molesters, human traffickers and rapists.
"In the course of that experience, I decided to get a PHD, and while the topic of the PHD was theology, the topic of the research was the psychology of attraction," Patrick said. "I used what I'd learned prosecuting sex offenders and working with their victims to find out the reasons bad people look good, dangerous people look desirable."
She discusses how humans are innately able to detect danger, but in today's modern world we have found numerous distractions, which hinder our natural ability to identify incoming threats.
"We are all outfitted with some good instincts," Patrick said. "The problem is that a potential victim would have sunglasses on her eyes, a hot cup of coffee in her hand, earphones on her ears and be glued to her iPhone. So, she not going to be in a position to allow her instincts to kick in as they naturally would otherwise. Now if she was paying attention, she would notice what the potential offender's focus of attention was. He would look completely at ease. He would be dressed inappropriately or appropriately for the conditions. He would be nervous. He would have muscle rigidity, which is a very common symptom of someone who is getting ready to commit a crime. In other words, they don't look like they just came back from vacation. They look like somebody who's about to make a move."
Even though situational awareness is a key part in preventing violent crime, not every assault situation can be as easily defined or detected, Patrick said.
"Here's the scary thing and what a lot my research is based on: sometimes the answer is nothing." Patrick said. "There's no indications, no red flags. That's why there's so much else you need to look at when you're getting to know somebody -- somebody that works for you, somebody you're in a relationship with -- that will help you see the person behind the persona."
Patrick wanted to make sure attendees understood one extremely important point following her presentation: "You can't judge a book by its cover."
"I have a great example of myself getting into an elevator with a very well-dressed man in the courthouse and chit chatting throughout the elevator ride assuming he was another attorney only to find out he was the defendant in my case," Patrick said. "He looked nothing like his booking photo and I did not recognize him. I like that example because as much as I've researched and written about this topic, there was nothing about his demeanor or his appearance that would have let me know he was a rapist. That's how he was able to get as many of his date rape victims as he did, because he was a professional, good looking, charismatic."
According to Patrick, this forum was designed to give the audience some tools to enhance their own perception skills, because a lot of the audience members work with victims.
"It's always a good thing to understand how this woman or man -- whoever the victim is -- how did they get mixed up with someone like this," Patrick said. "To understand more of the human dynamics behind the answer to that question will allow victim advocates to relate better and work better with the victim. Because a lot of times victims in sex crime cases, they don't want anything to do with those of us in law enforcement. They don't even want to report the crime. It's a victory if they even report the crime. So, victim advocates are in the very significant position of being the go--between that can make my life easier by truly identifying with -- and establishing a relationship of trust with -- that victim, who then is more inclined to cooperate and bring that offender to justice."
Another reason for the event is to raise community awareness to sexual assault, because it's not always the victim of a crime such as these that brings them to light.
"Neighborhood Watch doesn't work if no one is watching," Patrick said. "It also doesn't work if only the bad guys are watching. Community awareness events and professionals forums like this are really a great way for everyone getting involved by learning what to look and listen for, because the victims don't always report."
This was Patrick's third time teaching at the SHARP Academy and most certainly not her last.
"It's an absolute honor and privilege to be involved with this academy," Patrick said. "They are really changing the culture. The speakers they bring to the academy are truly top-of-the-line and the cream-of-the-crop. At the SHARP Summit I went to earlier this year, I heard some of the most impactful, impressive and encouraging survivor testimonies that I've ever heard. It's amazing how they were willing to step out and say, 'This is what happened to me and here's how we can hopefully make sure this doesn't happen to someone else.' The advocates I'll be speaking to today are involved in that process from victim to survivor."
For more information on the SHARP Academy, visit http://usacac.army.mil/schools-and-centers/sharp-academy.