I was twelve when I first read Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, and from that point on, I was hooked. Not on Truman Capote, on true crime, or rather, stories about true crime. And one day a friend of mine with similarly warped interests asked me if I had ever read Perfect Victim, a book about the imprisonment, torture and enslavement of then 20-year-old Colleen Stan.
I was familiar with the story, and unaware of what he was unleashing, my friend said, "Tell me all your thoughts on Colleen Stan."
On May 19, 1977, Colleen Stan was hitchhiking in California and accepted a ride from a young couple with a baby; Janice and Cameron Hooker had come to an agreement that if Janice could have a child, Cameron could find a woman to whip and torture, as long as he promised never to have intercourse with her.
Back at the Hooker’s home, Cameron put Colleen in a wooden box and for the next seven years the Hookers and Colleen lived in a single-wide house trailer in Red Bluff, California. Eventually, Cameron moved the box under the bed he shared with Janice.
Cameron told Colleen that he belonged to an organization he cryptically referred to as "The Company"; if she tried to escape, he said, pain and torture beyond what she had already endured would come to her, and to her family. After signing a slave contract, Colleen was allowed to roam about, go into town and shop, and visit her family, unescorted, in another state.
Convinced that she had to be with the Hookers, Colleen would return to their home and even babysit their children, regardless of the freedom she was given. After seven years of Ms. Stan's presence in her home as sex slave, babysitter and companion, and months after Colleen had returned to her family, Janice Hooker got religion—or depending on which version you believe, got fed up with it all after she discovered her husband having intimate phone conversations with Ms. Stan—at any rate, Janice blew the whistle.
Janice and Cameron Hooker were arrested on November 18, 1984; Janice became the key witness in the case against her husband, and although clearly an accomplice, she was never prosecuted for her role in Colleen Stan’s seven-year enslavement. At Cameron Hooker’s trial, two psychological theories were offered to explain Colleen Stan’s seeming reluctance to leave her captor, and Janice Hooker’s apparent resolve not to challenge her husband’s wishes.
is a response sometimes seen in cases of abduction
in which the hostage
shows signs of loyalty to the hostage-taker, in spite of the apparent danger
in which they have been placed. The Compliant Victim
theory was introduced into law enforcement lingo
through a FBI
study of the female partners of practicing sexual sadists
. The authors of this study, FBI profiler Roy Hazelwood
and forensic psychiatrist Dr. Park Dietz
, concluded that these women acted criminally in concert with violent
men because they were psychologically predisposed to submission
Cameron Hooker was sentenced to a total of 100 years in prison for sexual assault, kidnapping and various weapons charges; Janice Hooker lessened her culpability by testifying against Cameron. Gender is far more likely to determine the penalty one pays for breaking the law than age or race, and the following narrative is my humble attempt to explain precisely why this disparity is at best, illogical.
By the time I was 18, I had been living on my own for almost two years; I was also raped when I was 18, but that’s another story. The night that happened though, I called the police, and when they didn’t show up, I went downtown to the police station, where Memphis’ Finest told me to come back in the morning to make a report. (Just stick in here whatever you think I told them, as it’s probably a good fucking guess.)
Well, I was pissed at the rapist and I was pissed at the police, and back then I was pissed enough I started thinking I’d be better off with women. So after I graduated I met this girl named Lee, a month or so went by and I moved in with her. And one night me and Lee were walking home from the bars, stumbling eastward up Madison Avenue, and we saw one of those Yellow taxi-cabs going the wrong fucking way on the wrong side of the street.
Now we were drunk so that was funny, and we didn't think too much about it when the taxicab turned and headed back in our direction. Then this big, black guy (it's relevant, just wait a minute fer cryin' out loud), this big, black guy stops the cab next to where we're standing and laughing our asses off. And he got out of the cab, and he says, Get in.
I should mention here that Memphis streets, even large busy ones, are generally not that busy after about 11 or 12 at night, even on weekends, and this was Tuesday. People really should get out more.
So the guy says, Get in, and me and Lee, we doubled up laughing at that, and collected ourselves only long enough to say, No; then we stopped laughing when the guy pulled out a pistol and said, I think you will. We could see his point of course, so we got in, and by the way, our new friend there was not a real taxicab driver. Turns out he'd stolen this cab, and as if that weren't enough, he was funny-fucking-farm nuts, to boot. I know, you’re wondering what the hell this has to do with Colleen Stan, just hold your damn horses.
Now I talk big but I’ll tell you the truth
, with that wackjob holding a pistol on us with one hand and driving with the other, there was a moment in that cab, I froze. I fucking froze, and that’s part of what this story has to do with Colleen Stan—see I understand how she got in that damn box, and even why she stayed, for a little while, anyway. So, this guy had turned the cab around and now he was heading west
, and I was sure he was gonna rape
us and kill
us and throw our pretty little asses into the Mississippi River
. And if I’d had to guess right then I would have figured it was all just fucking over.
Obviously, it was not all fucking over, and there was Lee, talking to this guy (while he was driving with one hand and holding the pistol on us with the other, remember), there was Lee saying things like, I like black men. I have lots of black friends…and I'm thinking Lee, you are seriously blowing any chance we’ve got here, you know that don't ya…(see, I told you it was relevant.) I looked up ahead at the street, and Lee was still talking, is it true what they say, that black men have big...and I'm thinking, oh christ, well that's it, thanks Lee, and finally we saw some flashy-blue lights up ahead. And I'm not sure if our friend there noticed them or not—he stopped at a traffic light, but I mean fer crissakes, guy steals a taxicab but obeys traffic laws? I know, you think I sort of sailed over the Colleen Stan part.
Anyhoo, when he stopped, those flashy-blue lights unfroze me, and the point is, Lee and I saw that was our opportunity; we jumped out of that cab and hit the street, and we ran every fucking mile back to our apartment. I don’t mean to sound all boo-hooey, but I think I understand what being a hostage, and what being confined, is like—I was confined when that guy raped me. I was confined inside that crazy taxicab that night. And I may have sat there frozen, and sure that was the end, but the point is—
When I saw the opportunity I thawed out quick and took it; when we see an opportunity we always take it, and if we don’t, it’s because we made a choice not to see the opportunity—you following me? This is that Colleen Stan crap you’ve been bugging me about. When those flashy-blue lights unfroze me I saw my opportunity and I made a choice to hit the street and run for my fucking life. They can talk about Stockholm Syndrome and trot out all that victimology crap and tell me that guy only had me in that cab for 30 minutes, tops, so it’s not at all the same thing as Colleen-fucking-Stan, and it doesn’t change the fact—
That if you’re gonna run, you run. You run when you see the opportunity, and we choose what we see and what we don’t. Even if your choice is to freeze for a moment in a crazy taxicab or you’re a girl-in-a-box who stays frozen for seven friggin’ years, if that’s the choice Colleen Stan made, then say what you will, but everything can’t be Cameron Hooker’s fault.
Now I know there are women who have been truly victimized. And I understand that Colleen Stan was one of them. But I also know there are women like Janice Hooker, who have no problem telling anyone who’ll listen how powerless they are. And right now FBI profiler Roy Hazelwood is touring the country on the college lecture circuit, explaining to a whole new generation of law enforcement how these women were both Compliant Victims and essentially unable to make choices for themselves. It's interesting to note that of the thousands of offender classifications the FBI has for men, the lone offender classification the FBI has for us ladies is, compliant victim.
But whether you think they did it out of love or fear or because as children they were dropped on their head one too many times, no matter what Janice Hooker and Colleen Stan endured, they both made a choice not to run away because they saw some opportunity in being where they were. The Compliant Victim theory is, after all, only a theory, and Stockholm Syndrome can only explain so much.
But you can’t make a choice and then say you didn't choose.
So thanks just the same, Agent Hazelwood and Dr. Dietz, but coming up with a theory that makes women less accountable for their actions than men is about as helpful as placing us on a pedestal by putting your hand up our skirt. Colleen Stan had many chances to free herself from the Hooker's clutches, and toward the end had apparently become quite smitten with Cameron Hooker. Janice Hooker swore in court she was beaten into submission, yet found the strength to abandon her partner-in-crime when it was suspiciously, and legally, convenient.
And for anyone who says shame on me for not standing in solidarity with Janice Hooker and Colleen Stan as my sisters? Gee, I'd like to be compliant, but there's one teeny little problem.
Ya see, just like me and Lee that night—both them bitches had the opportunity to run if they fucking chose to run…
and those are all my thoughts on Colleen Stan.