They Went On Dating Him After He Raped Them

Jody was new to town and after being introduced to Jeff, agreed to hang out. Over her glass of beer, she wondered, “Now, how am I going to tell him I’m a lesbian?” He said he was cool with it. She made it clear this wasn’t a date. At one point in the drinking marathon, she spotted white granules at the bottom of her shot before everything went dark. The taxi driver reported seeing Jeff half-drag Jody up to his condo. She woke up with her clothes rearranged, knowing she’d had sex. She did a few things the scores of other women had not. Jody went straight to the hospital, procured a rape kit, and spoke with the police. And she didn’t stay Jeff’s friend.

He said he was a surgeon, astronaut, and CIA agent. His profile showed him in scrubs as well as an astronaut’s suit, and he flashed a badge on dates. In reality Jeff Marsalis was a nursing school drop-out, now known as the “worst date rapist in the nation’s history.” He went on to earn an impressive string of rape accusations, twenty-one in the Philadelphia area over incidents that occurred between 2001 and 2005. Two weeks before the second trial that would acquit him in that city, Jody pursued her case in Idaho.

Like her, the other women found him a gentleman in the morning when they came to. A few vaguely recalled the terror and panic, feeling him on them. But he seemed very caring, sent flowers to some in the coming week. Jeff convinced them through the confusion that everything was fine. Many of them told ABC News that “they wanted to convince themselves of that” and continued seeing him. I didn’t “want to be traumatized by this,” said one, “…thinking oh, he’s a doctor…trying to rationalize this.”

Help me out here.

I don’t quite think we can cast a blanket judgment that these women were stupid. Not only was Marsalis a skillful con artist but the women were intelligent working professionals. Curiously, the fact that they didn’t come across as bimbos made the jury question their testimonies in the first two trials. They were calm, didn’t cry. They had to be lying. And as sensitive as we women are, we know when something’s not right – especially with our body. The sheer number of victims also raises the interesting question on the psychology of guilt. An obligation is often a weight of guilt and in answering it, we allow someone else’s desire to overrule ours. Keep it up and your load ends up even heavier with resentment as your own prerogatives lose ground. Why are men less susceptible to the surrender of their boundaries and self-reproach in the face of their own inclinations? I’m not speaking in iron categories, saying all men are immune to people-pleasing. My guess is how we women tend to define ourselves by and draw our sense of worth from relationships more than men do. Because I don’t feel I quite fit the mold in this regard, I am confounded by the behavior of these women who swallowed the fear, suspicion, indignation, and shame, choosing instead to believe a fairy tale that the sweet-talking, smart, handsome doctor really liked or loved them and they would somehow ride into the happily ever after with him. Yes, the human condition tempts us to believe what we want to believe. We fear the truth. But why are women, over against our sixth sense, more likely to doubt our own perception and mistrust our ability to assess situations? Why more likely to blame ourself, as several of the victims later shared they did?

The defense attorney suggested that Jody was so drunk she didn’t remember wanting to have sex. But she wasn’t even conscious. “The defendant is accused of having sexual intercourse with a female who was unconscious due to an intoxicating substance,” the Idaho prosecutor said in court. “That is not consensual sex, it’s rape.” Not to mention that Jody would not have consented because she was gay.

After three-and-a-half long years, Jody and all the other victims could recover a measure of peace. Marsalis was sentenced to life, finally found guilty of rape.

95 thoughts on “They Went On Dating Him After He Raped Them

  1. “I don’t quite think we can cast a blanket judgment that these women were stupid.”

    Women aren’t stupid, but we also aren’t very aware of the nature of our own selves. This guy was able to con those women because he knew how to toy with their psychology and mess with their heads. That’s what the sending of flowers, the gentlemanly behavior was all about, yanking their psychological chain and confusing them sexually. Many women tend to have a vulnerability there, biologically we seek protection from men, so when they act protective, caring, while also doing bad things, it can short our systems out. Women’s minds, our brains, will spin the most elaborate excuses for even the worst behavior from men, in an attempt to reconcile it with our sexual motivations. We can even deceive ourselves.

    • “biologically we seek protection from men, so when they act protective, caring, while also doing bad things, it can short our systems out”

      and the rest of your feedback, excellent. Enlightening! Gee, it’s all so twisted because they forgave him and condemned themselves in the face of this need for protection.

  2. Could it be these women consciously or subconsciously submitted to something they know wasn’t true or too good to be true? I wonder inspite of how intelligent and professional these ladies are that there could have been an unfulfilled need and this illusion of a good man hit the spot? Then again, unknowingly he found them at a weak moment and capitalized on it as there are some men (and women) who are so creatively gifted at being deceitful that they could charm a viper into submission.
    I agree with you and can say from personal experience that I met up with someone and against my better judgement ended up giving him money when had it been someone else I would have advised against it. Needless to say he ran off into the sunset never to be seen or heard from again. He was handsome like model handsome, charming, knew all the right things to say and came into my life when I was running on empty in every aspect of my life. And I ignored that nagging feeling something wasn’t right.
    It was a humiliating experience and I beat myself alot knowing that I knew better. Unfortunately this happened to me when I thought it never would and it served to help me reevaluate myself, faith, and personal worth. The experience didn’t make me stronger as only God can do that but the information was helpful in remaining humble and to be ever mindful that I can always be deceived and to ever be on guard.

    • Wow. THANKs so much for the strength of your honesty, my friend. Those are good speculations about the women. It’s just so many of them – remember, not everyone testified. What’s scary is how he’d perfected his craft of deceiving from the meeting through the sustaining of all those relationships.

      I just love the conclusions you drew from your painful experience. Prov 28:26, I think: He who trusts in himself is a fool. And so much of fundamentalist and broad evangelical preaching ra-ras us in our strength and greatness.

      Love and respect,

  3. Absolutely shocking. It’s a whole, big topic, why women deny their intuition and put pleasing the other person in the relationship before themselves. This date rape scenario is an extreme example of something that women do all of the time. For me, I have recently realised how I avoid conflict in female friendships, valuing the relationship above my own needs. I don’t do that with men – I don’t mind letting them know exactly what I think, but not with women. It’s the same issue, I think.

      • Definitely 🙂 As soon as I realised what was going on, and the effect that it was having on me and my partner (who was copping all of my unexpressed anger) I had to stop. Of course, the Universe sent me a massive button pushing scenario almost immediately, and to be true to myself, I had to front up to this friend and tell her exactly what I felt. It was hard, but necessary.

      • Yay me 🙂 The whole process was difficult and painful, although most of the suffering was in my head and the stories I was telling myself about it…and no, she didn’t take it well 🙂 However, I don’t regret it, and I feel as though I was true to myself and what was important to me, and I communicated that clearly.

      • “although most of the suffering was in my head” This is usually the case, yes, with our self-talk. I know it wasn’t easy that she didn’t take it well but you know what? You have one life to live – and five years from now, she’ll feel it way less. And so should you.

        I love hearing the matter-of-factness and peace you’ve made with yourself.


  4. This man seemed to know how to manipulate these woman so why did he need drugs and rape? I know it’s a power issue not a sex issue, I just think that the fact he was seen as a gentleman made his crimes even more hideous, it proves him to be some type of psychopath, not too different from Ted Bundy. And that the jurors believed him over several victims just blows me away.

    • “And that the jurors believed him over several victims just blows me away.”

      Keen, T. He flat-out denied it at the start. “Let me make some things very, very clear to you. I have never drugged anybody, never raped anybody…” He finally showed some “remorse” come sentencing in the third trial. And yes, how TWO juries chose to go with defense over against the string of women is mind-blowing. Thx for piping in.

  5. Women need to remember three things: Don’t ever let your drink out of your sight, don’t take anything anyone gives you or smoke anything with anyone when out on the town…Lots of women and men found that out in the 1960s and 1970s.

  6. This is the elephant in the room of male/female relationships. It appears at first glance to be a “female” problem ( by which I mean the disinclination to report or prosecute) but when you dig deeper, it quickly becomes evident that the males who do it are being enabled by other males and society as well as females. The absolute certainty that they are “right” and entitled when they rape, makes these men sick – a sickness being perpetuated by our society. I watched a CBC documentary (aired August 2014) on “The Pasionate Eye” called “The Invisible War” and it dealt with exactly this problem within the ranks of the US Military ( ) . The US Military (this is used as a controlled sample of the general population) estimates that over 22,800 women get raped each year in the Military alone. Of those, only 8% are prosecuted and even less are found guilty. It was estimated that the average rapist rapes over 300 women in his life time. Why? Because the chance of getting prosecuted is so low (that alone is an enabler in and of itself). This film won numerous awards and when shown to the top brass in the military, prompted a serious rearrangement of lines of reporting and how complaints are handled (believe it or not, even though many women were raped by their superior officers, the policy was that they could only take the complaint to their superior officers – if that’s not a systemic enabler of rape I don’t know what is – who wrote that f**king rule? Any ideas? Well, perhaps men?).

    I really can’t speak to the emotional pathways that women follow in such situations, but I can tell you that the problem is absolutely humongous HW. And only the tip of it is about women. You have grabbed the tiger by the tail with this post. I’m rather hoping that it is the first of a series.

    Excellent post Diana. Thank you very much for making this public and opening it to discussion.

    • Hey, ditto to your sentiments on the brilliant set-up for crime and its resolution in the military. Thanks so much for the informative tid-bit. Bravo on how you traced it back to the entitlement problem in men. I was just so baffled by the women. I knew I couldn’t outright blame them but they really acted beneath their intelligence and better instinct.

      Eh – I am way too tired to be grabbing anyone’s tail but I saw this was a post when I caught the news segment on the gym screen a few months back . Ended up fitting nicely into this series. I will be moving on to explore other topics. After the next post, I’ll be moving on to explore other topics the remainder of the year. =) Some will be open floor. Eh hem. ‘S all I’ll say for now.

    • I think you would find this interesting, Paul.

      There’s a cultural (nearly universal, btw) belief that, while it’s almost never okay for a man to be weak or a victim, it’s perfectly fine for a woman to be weak or victimized. This is awful in two ways:

      1. It justifies men dominating power and excluding women.
      2. It justifies female uselessness.
      3. It demonizes men for needing help.
      4. It demonizes women for NOT needing help.

      • I read that ABG. Quite informative and true. Remember the old Star Trek? Everyone knew who was going to die within the first 3 minutes of the program – it was the new guy in the red shirt. Always. It was amusing to guess how and when he was going to go – it kept the excitement up. Ha!

      • Very interesting, Ben. I’ll have to think more about this when my brain works.

        “Women, on the other hand, do not lose audience sympathy-or at least not as much-for being helpless, ”

        So this was about TV tropes, but I imagine the dynamics at play would apply to books as well. Would that mean that a book/novel will be less successful or have a harder time securing publishers if it broke these tenets?

        I like your application/break-down of the tropes, your four points.

      • Thanks. I’m probably going to play with this trope a little bit with the next book. I’m going to have a general that, upon taking a city, he killed not just the men who were capable of fighting but the women too. He’s going to justify this by saying the men could fight him later and, well, he’s no misogynist.

      • To be more specific, I’m not really interested in who is at fault or who is morally responsible for what. What I am interested in, what really baffles me, is the instrumental, practical reasons so many women are socially/biologically rewarded for being an easy victim.

      • There has to be a reason this behavior persists across different contexts and times. Who or what profits from women behaving this way? What do women get out of this behavior?

        The rapists’ side is, in my opinion, much easier to explain. A rapist gets a chance to reproduce without having to invest in a partner. It makes perfect sense that rapists would continue to exist in this context.

        What doesn’t make sense is that women, who under rape conditions get unwanted children but don’t get support from the partner, would go along with it.

        Unless I just figured it out. Maybe connecting to the rapist is an ancient strategy for getting that rapist to invest in the prodigy.

        God I hope that’s not true. 😦

  7. Good Lord. . . and having a teenage daughter about to enter the world of dating. . .even one who’s very cautious and aware . . . sometimes the feeling that conjures is hard to describe.

    • Mmmm. Sorry. :/ You know, J, one reason Koreans (esp my parents’ generation and up) favor (having) boys is they are less worry in this regard. Feels “safer”. Though I am extremely cautious about molesters and don’t separate from my son easily even at his age (7).

  8. No need for you to apologize. : ) Someone once said that once you have children all of your own fears are fears for them. (They actually said it better than that.) But you have to let them go at some point and trust in their judgement.

  9. Excellent post and discussion ~ what this guy did is atrocious, manipulative. While I cannot understand why the women would react the way they did, I think it is like any great con: people want to believe in something and often when warning sirens scream, they give the benefit of the doubt. I do not mean to simplify it so with this analogy, but I think in such a con as this ~ no one wants to believe a man could be so revolting & horrible. Good post to have out for discussion and for people to think about.

  10. Glad to hear the man was finally convicted, Diana. I think the reasons for why victims of sexual assault will sometimes try to deny or diminish what has happened are complex and personal and as you’ve mentioned above, difficult to generalize. Definitely feel that there is a lot about our society and cultural conditioning that needs to be fixed to help shift those reasons.

  11. There are so many angles to this, aren’t there, Diana. This guy knew how to manipulate on so many fronts. But the killer was to be ‘a gentleman’ afterwards, creating what seems like ‘a safe place’, and playing on women’s propensity to assume some of the blame, because they did indeed allow themselves to be taken in at the start. The whole situation after the event creates a sense of uncertainty – did it really happen if there was no actual violence…and of course we like to blame ourselves if we can’t remember things…gosh this is so creepy. Thanks for posting it though.

    • “playing on women’s propensity to assume some of the blame, because they did indeed allow themselves to be taken in at the start.”

      You all are helping me make better sense of this, one small piece at a time. Keen synopsis, Tish. Thx.

  12. I honestly don’t believe wanting to please, wanting to believe a reassuring lie, is specific to women. In fact it rather ticks me off that women tend to buy into that idea. I think it’s a people thing. Some people lack sufficient confidence or trust in who they are to be able to take a potentially confrontational stance. These women knew they had gone out drinking, and woken up the next morning with someone who seemed as much a gentleman as he had seemed the evening before. Their awareness that something wasn’t right was hazy, confused … and he was an accomplished liar … and they really, really wanted to believe him. The only thing, in my opinion, that makes women more likely to be the victims in this particular scenario is that it’s pretty hard to force sex on a guy who has passed out. Necessary bits don’t work. But men can still be the willing victims of sweet-talking con artists.

    • “You kidding, Diana? Women can be as devilish as the men and leave ’em w/ smoke comin’ out of their heads.” =) Yes, in fact, soon after I caught this segment on TV I saw another on Native Indian sugar-daddy magnet killers. They’d swindle a well-to-do older man to marry them and then kill their husbands for the money. In that case, there isn’t room for guilt on the part of the victim. But the women used their sexuality in their own way to con.

      Point well taken, BT. You’re saying our biology and physical vulnerability leave us easier prey to crimes like these. It was the almost-categorical response of the victims in this situation that intrigued me.

  13. Diana, I’m really horrified about this for several reasons. Of course, because it happened at all, but also because we still seem to be blaming the victims. When an intelligent perpetrator concocts an obviously premeditated plan to take down human prey, it involves physical and psychological strategy and implementation perfected over many years. My best guess is that these women were not chosen at random. Marsalis, as a sociopath, was able to gaslight them, regardless of the level of their intelligence.

    The truly sad part is that he was also able to gaslight the juries that sat on the trials. Sorry, but they’re the ones who should feel like idiots – not the women victimized by Marsalis.

    • No need for an apology, Susan.
      You know I want to keep it real. And I wasn’t blaming the women, of course. Just trying to wrap my brain around it all, with your (plural) help. Yes, good point on the premeditation, and our judicial system is a hot mess sometimes. A couple of years ago, I heard a clip on NPR about how defense attorneys will have their client wear glasses to make them look more intelligent and less criminal. A study showed it worked – they were often acquitted.

      Horrified by Jeff M, yes.

      • Yes, agree about the “less criminal looking” aspect.
        I’ve never served on a jury, so I can’t put myself in their shoes, but it’s that perspective I can’t wrap my own brain around. After hearing so many women testify about this guy, I simply don’t understand how, just because he doesn’t “look” like a criminal, they could not convict him.

        Although I’m also of the opinion we need professional jurors, because frankly, a jury of peers rarely if ever occurs anymore. Just MHO.

    • Susan,
      At about this point, I was tempted to head down to the “comment” box and express similar thoughts.

      The criminal rapist of this case is a near classic case of a sociopathic/psychopathic narcissist. They are exquisitely skilled at observing irtheir victims, taking note of vulnerabilities, laying out “bait” in an artfullly chraming manner to suit the situation, then doing what it takes to supply their need.

      Marsalis used all of the above and added drugs. His victims are lucky he didn’t stick around, that his cycle of abuse stopped at the rape and some flowers to “cover” later.

      Perhaps at first he learned that he could catch more flies with honey than vinegar?

      Women (and some men) who become snared in a longer term “relationship” with a narcissist experience much more horror, as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde adds other damaging manipulatives such as the gaslighting you mention, to theircontrol methods.

      And it is all about control.

      (In between the charm and the good times, of course, for those who stick around, which is just part of the abuse cycle…)

      Why are we tempted to analyze and blame the victims, too, if just a little bit? Fear. Especially in this case as the victims’ profiles indicate the women all had some level of intelligence and accomplishment.

      Surely, we are tempted to think, there was something else they did or were: how they dressed, some psychological disease of their own, some momentary lack of critical thinking…alcohol, yes, that’s it! And cultural conditioning! And, hmmm, co-dependency” or perhaps an “enabler” type personality!”

      We MUST have an answer, or we are all at risk of such monsters. And while we are all looking her way, this buys him time…and more cover…as he preys for his next “supply” or his defense attorney searches for more ammunition…

      The thing about criminals is just this: they are one hundred percent accountable for their behavior. We need look no further. We just need to preserve the evidence and pray for conviction.

      I heartily recommend reading the literature on abuse, domestic violence, and narcissism, should a reader want more information. Some credible authors include Lundy Bancroft, Patricia Evans, Dr. judith Herman, and Cindy Burrell, though there are many more.

  14. You are absolutely correct with the people pleasing quality in women. Speaking for myself, I do also find it hard to say “no” to people I love and care about. And when I do, I feel guilt. This stems from a sense of obligation. But, I also believe in self-preservation and won’t prioritize anything above that. In the case of these women, I think it is not just about people pleasing, but also about being made important. If a women were made to feel the most precious central being then she would forgive or excuse the wrongs committed against her.

    I am glad to see Josh finally being jailed. Hopefully, he does not get pardoned.

    • “If a women were made to feel the most precious central being then she would forgive or excuse the wrongs committed against her. ”

      I think you’ve succeeded in your capture of women – to the extent we can in broad strokes. Very thoughtful. Thanks.

  15. What a horrible story, Diana, but I’m glad justice prevailed in the end. There are lessons here, #1, keep your eye on your drink; if you walk away from it, get a new one. And it astounds me why women would ignore any intuition and stay with a man like this. It goes also with physical abuse in relationships. I know there are some women who have very low self esteem and at times, we choose to believe what we want to believe. It’s just very sad that all women can’t think more of themselves to not succumb to a situation not worthy of them. My husband and I were a little nervous when our daughter started dating. The joys of having a daughter. Worrying never ends, but she’s doing great, so far! Thanks so much for this story to bring awareness and education…xx

    • Many here shed some sympathetic light. I was baffled bc the women could not ALL have had a low sense of self. It’s a call not to trust strangers and in this case, to be on extra guard when meeting new men (even offline, as some of the women were introduced to him by a friend or sister). He was the Serpent in disguise.

      • I agree…maybe it’s not low self esteem, but simply believing what they want to believe, like hearing only what we want to hear…that’s even scarier, being introduced by a friend or sister because we trust their judgements. It only goes to show you that he and many others out there are really good at conning others.

      • The friend/sister who introduced them felt as terrible as you can imagine. Kathryn (one of the last comments) and Susan Irene Fox’s feedback in defense of the women were enlightening, L.

  16. The fact that this creepshow gets played out over and over again all around the world is simply horrifying. Yes, men are raped, too, and I would guess that the response of a male rape victim is at *least* equally likely with females’ to be to deny and cover up, or at a minimum to not pursue legal justice against their attackers, not because most of those attacked believe they deserved it but because they know how unlikely it is that any legal system in the world will *give* them justice. Who wants to be publicly outed as a weakling, a victim, a target, and then get further bashed by the system that we appealed to for help?

    Time and again we see examples of the criminal defenders putting the *victims* on trial, dragging out not only their sexual histories but every possible aspect of their ‘failings’ as humans to demonstrate that they were willing participants or certainly must have failed to mention that they didn’t want to have sex with their attacker. Rapists get away with it, whether by carefully planned playacting as in this instance or by merely playing the weaknesses of the legal system to their advantage. In the rare cases of conviction, rapists frequently find ways to game the system internally as well, whether it’s by meekly acting the part of a penitent Model Prisoner or pretending to “find Jesus” or just by good old-fashioned insider criminality. Then, we see them get the great payoff of parole, which given my completely unscientific belief that recidivism is a virtual guarantee among sexual offenders (wired that way or trained, who cares? The results are the same) is pretty much like an engraved invitation to go out and conquer new worlds of sexual crime.

    Do I sound horrendously snarky and pessimistic about this? Well, yeah. I am. The people I’ve known who have been raped have virtually never seen justice, whether they pursued it vigorously through all known legal channels or by personal campaign, or counted on those around them to stand up and save them. I find it hard to assume that, in the same situation myself, I would have the strength of will to go after my attacker, for the very bluntly sad reason that I would expect the price for that would be to find *myself* on trial over a lengthy, expensive and tremendously painful stretch of my life for what appear to be very low odds of success. I can truly understand an unwillingness to sacrifice myself further when faced with that likelihood. I’d just want to get on with my life.

    The only motivation that would be strong enough would be if I thought I could at least bring enough public shame and suspicion on the rapist’s head that he would find it difficult to go hunting new victims without being easily spotted as the unbelievable dirtbag he was. I wish I thought better of our laws and the people meant to uphold them than that, but I tend to feel like it’s more skewed toward assuming innocence among the accused than otherwise, at least in major crimes.

    Sorry for ranting. Obviously, this touches a nerve!
    Better days for all, I hope.

    • Actually, Kathryn, you spelled it out so well; I can see more clearly the understandable, even natural, reasons the women might’ve down-played the rape and “tried to move on.” Those who testified in the first two trials were successfully painted as jaded liars by prosecution. Crazy, but exactly what you describe. The particular dynamic that disturbed and intrigued me was not the reaction of women who’d been victimized when they were conscious. These victims all felt something terrible had happened – many remembered or knew deep inside. But chose to swallow the truth and actually sustain the romantic relationship. This is slightly off center from the point you make, the victims you talk about, no? Not sure. But yes, this guy stayed one step of conviction for years until the ax fell. And it was only in the sentencing that finally showed any sign of “remorse”. *Barf*

      • Yes, that (continued contact/denial) is very much a separate issue. I am so unable, myself, to tolerate—let alone embrace—not-so-hot relationships of any kind that I can’t begin to fathom how anyone would want so deeply to be in one or to believe that what connection they have with an abuser is a relationship. That they will prefer to prolong the so-called relationship, even to the point of deluding themselves that any imperfections in it are their fault only heightens the incomprehensibility for me. That aspect I can’t imagine at all, let alone explain. Mystifying. Maybe fear is the only possible explanation: fear of being alone; fear of exposing one’s vulnerability; fear of retribution; fear of not being believed. So terrible, so sad. So maddening.

My Two Gold Cents in the Holistic Treasury

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