"The Evil That Men Do" -- New York Times review

Finding Out What Is Standard About Deviants

By CHRISTOPHER LEHMANN-HAUPT
The New York Times,
Thursday, February 4, 1999


Stephen Michaud In the opening pages of "The Evil That Men Do," Stephen G. Michaud drops several intriguing comments like these:

-- when rape victims struggle, rapists tend to remain with them twice as long as when there is no resistance.
-- deviant sexual crimes were "both curbed and concealed in America at mid-century by a moral climate hostile to sexual extremes or erotic experimentation of almost any sort."
-- "Aberrant offenders use pornography to validate their deviance. ... The more they see of it, and masturbate to it, the more their behavior is reinforced."

Since these are all controversial observations, the reader is drawn to learn what more Mr. Michaud has to say on these subjects. But this turns out to be not so easy to do in a book that is partly a biography, partly an examination of methodology and partly a collection of case studies.

Mr. Michaud first met Roy Hazelwood, his subject and collaborator, in 1984, when Mr. Hazelwood was a member of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Behavioral Science Unit, based at the F.B.I. Academy at Quantico, Va. This is the team that was made famous in the 1980's by the Atlanta child murders case, which Mr. Hazelwood and other members of the unit helped solve, and by Thomas Harris's novel "The Silence of the Lambs," which was based on the unit's specialized work.

Mr. Michaud writes of Mr. Hazelwood, "Roy's domain is the sexual criminal's mental and emotional planes, the deviant mind's hot zones where lust and rage are fused and deadly fantasies flower." After their first meeting, Mr. Michaud decided to do a book about Mr. Hazelwood's work, but several factors impeded him. His subject had much of his career still ahead of him. He found it difficult to adapt the formula of previous books on which he had collaborated, like "The Only Living Witness," a portrait of Ted Bundy, and "Ted Bundy: Conversations with a Killer." Mr. Hazelwood's story had too many focal points.

Describing his eventual solution, he writes, "The search for a narrative thread through such diverse material led me at last to settle on a thematic organization for the book, a chapter by chapter exploration of sexual criminals and their victims, divided according to offender types, their motives and their modus operandi."

Not that the resulting tangle doesn't have threads worth following. Mr. Hazelwood is a fascinating figure who started out as a career Army officer working with criminals, switched to the F.B.I. in 1971, joined the behavioral unit in 1978, when sex crimes were largely ignored because the bureau had little jurisdiction over such matters, and helped transform the investigation of sexual deviance into a scientific discipline.

Among his major contributions were the realization that sex crimes could usefully be classified as organized, disorganized and mixed, and that rapists could be divided into six groups, according to their motives and behavior. By such systematic analysis, he developed the ability to read crime scenes analytically and to profile deviant criminals with uncanny accuracy.

As for the cases Mr. Hazelwood has helped solve with the behavioral unit or as a member of the consulting group he joined in his retirement, some, like the deadly explosion aboard the battleship Iowa in 1989 or the hoax that a grand jury found was perpetrated by Tawana Brawley in claiming falsely to have been raped in 1987, are too familiar to be of much interest in their retelling. Others seem to have attracted Mr. Michaud by their sheer weirdness, particularly autoerotic fatalities from accidental strangulation, which Mr. Hazelwood happens to be an expert on, and the case of a man who ate parts of two victims in a macaroni casserole.

The most instructive ones to read are those illustrating four of Mr. Hazelwood's six basic types of rapist. These are what he terms the common "power reassurance rapist," who wants only to prove his masculinity to himself; the "power assertive rapist," less common but more violent; the "anger retaliatory rapist," who works out his rage against women by using excessive force, and the "anger excitation rapist," a sadist who is sexually stimulated by his victim's suffering. (The other two categories, which interest Mr. Hazelwood somewhat less, are the so-called "opportunistic rapist," who is often drunk or high on drugs, and the "gang rapist," who succumbs to pathological group behavior.)

In fact, you learn so much from cases like these that by the end, in a chapter called "You Be the Analyst," you find you are able to put together many of the clues in the 1986 rape-murder of a young typist in the F.B.l.'s San Antonio office. (Although one clue that the author himself seems to have disregarded is the peculiar sense of humor of the victim's parents, a German-American couple named Vetter who called their daughter Donna, Donnerwett being German both for thunderstorm and an interjection translated in dictionary as "damn it all!" and "blast!")

The bad news is that in a survey of some 41 convicted serial rapists undertaken by Mr. Hazelwood, he could find no comprehensive reason, as he puts it, "Why some people act out and others don't," although he still believes the answer has to do with self-perception.

"One of the reasons that we don't act out is that we have inhibitors, or brakes, to control desires," he.says. "They can be social status, religion, personal values or fear of jail. Those who do act out are losers. They are convinced they are losers so they don't see how they have anything more to lose by yielding to their desires."

He quotes one serial rapist as saying: " Regardless of how successful I may appear to be, I know I'm going to screw up. So why not go ahead and do it and enjoy it? I'm going to give in to it."

Mr. Hazelwood concludes: "I frequently run into this theme with offenders. Sexual sadists. Serial rapists. It is a common theme."

Depressing.