There’s an idea in this culture that a perfectly nice person can suddenly snap (if sufficiently traumatized) and then go on a random killing spree. There’s another idea that a perfectly nice man/boy who would never go around looking for someone to rape can be driven into a sort of temporary insanity by some woman (or girl) being all sexy at him, and rape her, but it’s not really his fault.
Let’s just debunk these immediately before they cause anymore people to get away with ruining lives for kicks.
Mimicking nice. The sort of people who lack empathy to the extent that they can murder or rape are often very good at appearing to be Nice Folks. They go to your church, work at your office, always remember to ask about your ailing relative and your troubled teens, and so on. They do this act because it fools people who think in stereotypes. This is why people are often stunned to find out their next door neighbor (whom they really didn’t know) was a rapist or serial killer. People imagine that simply not seeing a neighbor do anything spectacularly unusual is an indication that neighbor is a decent human being. It so doesn’t work that way.
So when someone who seemed so nice suddenly goes on a killing spree, that was someone who already had serious issues and was hiding them. He was never really Nice Folks. You just didn’t look closely enough.
It’s the same with rapists. Rapists are great at appearing nice. Child molesters in particular are some of the best actors you will ever meet. These people are deeply motivated to function within society, hiding in plain sight, so they’ll have access to victims. They are not driven temporarily insane by lust. They get the urge to rape somebody (they often think of it as an urge for sex, but for them sex is 100% about dominance and hate), and then they target someone society stereotypes as a liar/slut. It’s a forensic counter-measure, folks. They’re targeting someone they know you won’t believe.
On a related note, rapists are great at picking jobs that give them both access to victims and an air of respectability. Catholic priests who molest kids are not formerly nice, devout Christians who just couldn’t take the celibacy anymore (we do have prostitutes for that, after all). They are child molesters who chose the priesthood because the church happily hands them victims and protects them when they violate those victims. That’s why this problem will only get worse until (if?) the church someday decides to punish these guys instead of protecting them.
Readjust your world view
It’s understandable how these myths come about and get perpetuated. We’re taught to assume things about people based on superficial details. This is stereotyping, and it may have been very useful for our ancestors 10,000 years ago. Stereotypes are thinking shortcuts that help us assess situations, like “eyes on front of the head = predator”, which is good to know when you’re wondering if another critter represents death or lunch for you. But when they get applied in modern society, you get lies like “guy in nicely pressed button down shirt = won’t hurt me” and “black man = dangerous!!!” when the very opposite is actually just as likely to be true, especially for a woman or child (while blacks are incarcerated about 5 times more often for drug-related crimes than whites are for the exact same crimes, there is actually no proof at all that any race is more likely to commit a crime than any other).
By dropping your stereotypes and at least being aware that you never know what people do when they’re not around you, you can help make it a more difficult world for criminals. If they can’t rely on stereotypes to hide them, it’s harder for them to commit their crimes without getting caught. The existence of so many non-criminal NPDs and APDs suggests that many of these people will refrain from committing crimes unless they can find a situation where they’re unlikely to get caught. It’s possible that just changing your thinking could actually help to reduce some of the most violent and malevolent crimes in human history.
If you have any other psychology myths you’d like to hear me talk about, email me!