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Throw away the key

I read an article today about the man suspected of being the East Coast rapist, Aaron Thomas. According to police, he's assaulted seventeen women, beginning in 1997, in Connecticut, Virginia, Rhode Island, and Maryland. His bail is set at $1.5 million

Thomas has reportedly made incriminating statements to police, and a prosecutor has said that Thomas displayed a Jekyll and Hyde personality with women. "Why haven't you picked me up sooner?" he taunted police when he was arrested.

The case they're going after Thomas for is one in which he's accused of breaking into a woman's bedroom and assaulting her while her 4-month-old baby slept in the room. Thomas allegedly threatened to kill the baby if his victim made any noise. DNA on a discarded cigarette butt led to the arrest.

This case made me think back to so many of the abusers/rapists/murderers I've interviewed over the years, especially that of James Bergstrom, the serial rapist in Evil Beside Her (originally published as The Rapist's Wife).

Like Thomas is alleged to have done, Bergstrom targeted his victims, stalking them before hand, staking out their houses and studying them. He watched to see when a woman was alone, when she left her doors or windows unlocked. With one woman, Bergstrom waited until his target, a young woman who lived in an apartment, opened her door to let her small dog out to pee. Thomas has been accused of carrying weapons, and Bergstrom threatened his victims with guns and knives.

If the charges against Thomas are true, he's a lot like James Bergstrom. What we all need to understand is how dedicated men like this are to their obsession, controlling and assaulting women.

While I worked on the book, I had long interviews with Bergstrom. He referred to his actions as "my problem," kind of like he had an abscessed tooth or a penchant for shoplifting. What he told me was that rape was the first thing he thought of when he got up in the morning and the last thing he fantasized about before he nodded off to sleep at night. He meticulously structured his days around hunting for victims.

Guys like Bergstrom can't be cured. It's my belief that it's important for all of us to understand that. There's no magic pill, no fix out there that will transform them into "normal" men. And they're incredibly dangerous.

Aaron Thomas hasn't been tried yet, but if he's convicted, he's facing the possibility of multiple life sentences. My suggestion to the jury: If you find him guilty, throw away the key.
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