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That Time I Talked To A Rapist And He Was Such A Nice Guy

That Time I Talked To A Rapist And He Was Such A Nice Guy

People who know me well will tell you that I need a keeper. It’s partly my own refusal to stop adding things to my plate (guess who has 2 thumbs & 20 projects), & partly the invisible sign over my head that invites people to tell me things. Complete strangers have told me stories about abortions they regret, relationships they need to end, and on one memorable occasion a very nice old lady told me a story about the time she tried to poison her husband. So I’m used to the things that happen around me. Mostly. Today I met a guy who was clean cut, with a nice smile, super friendly & very much a gentleman in terms of door opening and stepping aside to let me board first.

The first few minutes of our conversation while we were waiting for the bus were the kind of pleasant chit chat you get when people establish that they have military service in common. Some ribbing about our respective branches, a little chatter about the weather, you know just the basics. Then we got on the bus, he sat next to me (I really have to stop using window seats), and kept on talking. He mentioned that his discharge was other than honorable, and when I guessed that it was for fighting he started to nod along, then he shook his head. I think I asked him what it was for, or at least alluded to being curious and he got really quiet.

Now let me say that at no point in this conversation did I feel threatened. He led with smiles and handshakes, he was polite, never once invaded my space, and in fact didn’t even give me a bad feeling. So when he started talking about the party he went to and how embarrassed he was about why he got out I was expecting something like infidelity. Or participating in a really stupid prank while he was in uniform, and winding up on Facebook or in the paper. It turns out he went to a party at a college kid’s apartment. There was a drunk underage girl, and he “let himself” be talked into spending time in a room with her. And two other dudes.

He didn’t go into great detail, but someone caught them during the act. There was screaming, some non military dudes who were happy to restrain them, and the cops were called in fairly short order. He plead guilty in order to avoid a full fledged court martial, and did a brief stint in jail before being released back into the world. He told me all about his remorse, his guilt, and his sisters who don’t know what he did. He’s let everyone who knows him believe he was just drunk and passed out in the room before the assault. But for whatever reason he really wanted to tell someone the truth.

There was a minimal glimmer of understanding that he was making me uncomfortable, but mostly his focus seemed to be on purging his pain. So, 20 minutes of not quite blubbering (his eyes were damp, he wasn’t smiling, didn’t seem to be enjoying the recounting, & his face was flushed but there were no actual tears), and then once we got to the right stop (we got off at the same place, but were headed to two different places) he jumped up to help a couple of elderly people off the bus & generally acted like a gentleman. Again.It was actually really jarring.

Once we were outside he thanked me for listening, invited me to friend him on Facebook (that would be a no), shook my hand again and went on his way. I went to the grocery store, sent a couple of tweets about it & then decided I need to lay it out all for some kind of analysis. Because I have so many questions. Not just about his urge to tell a complete stranger, but also about the way he did it. When I tell y’all we were having the most mundane pass the time on public transit conversation? I mean it. It wasn’t like we even really exchanged names before he told me. Hell the Facebook thing seemed to be an afterthought because I didn’t start screaming, & there was no indication that he thought about whether or not I’d ever want to see or speak to him again.

I know no one can explain what happens to bring these things to my life, but can anyone explain this dude’s mindset to me? The possibility that he was actually traumatizing me didn’t seem to register. And to be honest I’m not sold that the girl they assaulted was real to him either. He said some things about how he couldn’t tell his sisters because they’d never look at him the same way so I assume they are real people to him. But even that was flat, he showed the most emotion when he talked about what it did to him. And yeah, I can guess some answers but if we’re not really people then why the grand confession?

16 comments to That Time I Talked To A Rapist And He Was Such A Nice Guy

  • I think it’s a sign of how pervasive rape culture is, that he somehow didn’t quite notice what he was doing until he was caught in the act. That ‘just a bit of fun’ can be part of his mindset until he sees the response in other people. This in no way excuses rape, clearly, but there’s obviously more to rape than just people being bad people.

    For talking to a stranger on public transport, I think maybe some people (including myself much of the time) just don’t think of strangers as actual people. If you’re never going to see a person again, then you don’t have to face the judgement, don’t have to deal with her reaction afterwards, and don’t have to read the blog post she writes about it. There are consequences to telling someone, but when you tell a stranger you don’t have to see the consequences and can pretend they don’t exist.

    It sounds like he was using you as a can to put all his pent-up guilt into, because he couldn’t handle bottling it up anymore. Maybe he was looking for some sort of reassurance that what he did wasn’t as bad as all that (wrong place to look) or maybe the stress was just building up.

    I don’t know, I’m hypothesizing. Does any of this make sense? It’s not about the person he’s talking to so much as the fact that he needs to say these things out loud.

    • karnythia

      That would explain a lot since he didn’t actually give me time to react. He poured it all out, told me to add him on Facebook & then he was gone.

  • I don’t think you need a keeper because you’re an empathetic person who people talk to. Do you feel at fault for this or something? I don’t think you should.

    The guy you spoke with seems like he is not empathetic at all and in fact doesn’t see some people as actual people. I agree with @Debi — you weren’t a person to him (and his victim obviously wasn’t either). He goes through all the motions well—seeming polite and helpful and all that, but the motivation is not being considerate of others (supposition: it’s doing things that one is expected to do or gets rewarded for doing).

    He was not considerate of you or your feelings and was absolutely dumping his baggage on you because you were there and remained there while he kept going. People with empathy don’t do that, and it had nothing to do with who you are or how you act and more to do with the fact you were there and he used you.

    The weird situations aside, I am also friendly to strangers and get involved in conversations that often go in weird directions. I’ve never gotten tales of poisoning attempts or rapes, but I have learned interesting things and gotten neat opportunities because of being this type of person. I hope that these negative situations don’t completely dissuade you from keeping on being the person you are because I hope that you’ve had the interesting and neat things happen far more than the weird and traumatizing.

  • Au Contraire

    Yeah, I think Debi is spot on about this man using you as a kind of a release without recrimination.

    Two things bother me about this story. The first is that he sat next to you on the bus and effectively trapped you in the window seat. Perhaps I’m overstating this, because you did say that you never felt threatened at any point. So maybe if you’d indicated that you didn’t want to hear the story or that you wanted to change seats, he would have respected that. Still, I just can’t shake the feeling that this story was deliberately inflicted on you without any consideration for how you might have reacted. Like you weren’t a real person, just a receptacle. That story could have been triggering for a lot of people. (But maybe I’m just projecting my own feelings and experiences here.)

    The second thing that bugs me is that he hasn’t told his sisters. This strikes me as not only a way to avoid the emotional damage from the consequences of his actions (assuming he cares about his sisters in a way that he did not care about the woman he raped and does not want to be rejected by them)…but also an indication that he sees his sisters as “less than”, not deserving to know the truth and/or not capable of dealing with the truth (in a way that does not negatively impact him, of course). If he really does feel remorse over his actions, maybe he should start acknowledging them to people who aren’t strangers.

    Really weird situation, but I suppose in a way it’s a compliment to your appearance or energy or persona (or whatever you’d like to call it)that you inspire automatic trust and confidence :-).

    • Au Contraire

      Also, it goes without saying (except when it doesn’t) that I am also really, really bothered by the rape of an underage girl. And I’m wondering if he at any point centred the victim in his confession, or if it was just all about him.

    • karnythia

      The fact that we were in public & it was broad daylight helped a lot. And I didn’t test whether or not he’d let me up (partially because there was no place to go since the bus was crowded), so I can’t speak to how things might have been different. I was triggered by the story later when I really sat down & thought about it. But I didn’t let myself process it until I was safe at home if that makes sense. I don’t think he’ll ever tell his sisters though, there’s just something about the way he told me the story that makes me think no one else will ever hear the truth.

  • lkeke35

    I thought I was the only person this sort of thing happened to. When I used to ride public transportation I was often accosted by people who felt the need to share the most intimate details of their life. Usually women. I never met any violent criminals tho ‘. Please don’t let this incident stop you from being the warm empathetic person you need to be to stay emotionally whole. No, he may not have thought of you as a person -person but his reasons for using you as a sounding board, I feel., are moot.Sometimes confession is good for the soul. He certainly seemed to need it.

  • Jennie

    Men do this because they want “you” to validate them as being okay guys and not monsters by your tolerance or forgiving sympathy. At the very least, because you didn’t run away screaming makes his crimes seem less of a crime against all womanhood and more of an individual indiscretion. It wasn’t him and just *any* woman, you see. It was *that* female. Incidental. Isolated. Not him but her. Your lack of horrified reaction is the vindication he is looking for.

    Because it never occurs to them that we were raised to be polite and too shocked to register what is really being said to us until long after the moment has passed.

    As far as why he picked YOU? You probably reminded him of someone he wanted approval from. Maybe you look like that girl. Maybe you look like a female relative he is fond of. Maybe you look like an old girlfriend he wasn’t good to and lost a long time ago.

    When men come up and dump crap like that on you in conversation, you are being used as a surrogate to try and assuage their guilty conscience. Your lack of overt horror or disgust was all he needed to believe it wasn’t really him that was the problem.

    • FX

      Because it never occurs to them that we were raised to be polite and too shocked to register what is really being said to us until long after the moment has passed.

      I agree with this wholeheartedly.

  • Cara

    Your lack of horrified reaction is the vindication he is looking for.

    Because it never occurs to them that we were raised to be polite and too shocked to register what is really being said to us until long after the moment has passed.

    Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if the guy knew full well that the reaction would be “too shocked” to get actively upset or leave.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the guy does this periodically to women alone on the bus. The story is too perfect–he committed a rape, but he’s already been punished for it so the woman doesn’t call the police, the woman is too shocked or afraid to make a scene. Exhibitionists flash, this guy gives a rape confession. His “niceness” beforehand could just be another part of his game.

  • lkeke35

    Cara: I see your point. Due to my trusting nature (hah!) I didn’t see it that way but you may be right. That could simply be his version of “flashing”.(All the more insidious because it’s a lot quieter and sneakier than actual flashing.)

  • Katie

    I just wanted to extend my deepest sympathies, Karnythia. This sounds quietly harrowing to have experienced and I appreciate your taking the time to write about it despite that fact.

  • There are a lot of criminals who have 2 faces, and also a lot of non criminals, you think they are really sweet and never angry but you haven’t met them at home or in there private living situation… ofcourse a rapist can be nice , but he can’t get away with what he has done and he has to take the consequences… even if it was a mistake and he actually didn’t know what he was doing… he destroyed someones life and you gotta think about that!

  • purpleartifice

    This is just fucking gross. I agree with all of the commenters here. though I’d go farther to say that he’s the type that doesn’t see anyone but himself as an actual person. Everyone else is to be used. His family and friends are only there to make him feel good. He said nothing to them because he knew that they would want nothing to do with him and he needs them to prove that he’s a “good person”. He saw the girl as a fuck toy and only feels bad because he got caught and punished.

    I actually wish there was an automatic system for creeps like this. As soon as he sat next to you, a spike would have shot up from his seat and impaled him in the crotch! It would be amazing

  • Another point of view

    Maybe we shouldn’t be too shocked that he seemed nice. Rapists can be anyone who has sex with another person who wasn’t willing, but that doesn’t mean they’re violent or aggressive. It could be a person who misjudged the other person’s silence, shock or wasn’t paying attention to the victim’s reactions. It sounds like this man’s story is “date rape”, they don’t necessarily have to be on a date.

    karnythia, I feel like I probably would’ve acted in the same way, so I don’t know why you seemed to be the target of his confession. I guess I would sit on the outside more often now. I think it’s quite safe to say that it was probably best you just seemingly calmly listened to him, reacting might not have done much because it seemed like that “nice guy” wasn’t really listening to you and drawing attention to him might make him act out and harm you.