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 Match.com 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.
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