By day Luis Zambrano is a construction worker, but by night police say he's a sexual predator stalking intoxicated women in nightclubs. At the trendy Manhattan club Marquee, Zambrano was caught on surveillance tape accosting a 23-year-old woman who had passed out on a couch. Surveillance video shows that she woke up and tried to fight him off. But he didn't give up. As he dragged her limp body out of the bar, she fell to the floor, all the time no one coming to her aide. Then he dragged her down a flight of stairs. The video shows him lifting her into his arms, and carrying her out of the night club. Once again, nobody stopped him. According to police, he took her to his home and raped her.
The IE story sometimes missed the mark but sometimes it was spot on. If Zambrano's name sounds familiar it is because I blogged about his crime and his guilty plea only a week ago. However, the reality of his crime hit home in a different way when I watched the portion of his crime committed inside the nightclub. What I saw was premeditation, smoothness and coldbloodedness. After seeing that video I'd be shocked if this was in actuality his first or even his fifth offense. He looked like a seasoned predator who had done this many times before.
When the IE story focused on sexual predators and the repeated failure of bystanders, it was powerful. This included undercover footage which showed how young women leaving the nightclub were treated by men prowling out around the exits.
When two women, Kim and Allison, working undercover for INSIDE EDITION left a nightclub together, they heard the typical come-ons. But when Kim left a night club alone, something more alarming happens. She is immediately approached by two men who want to give her cocaine, get her in their car and take her home."You won't even try a little bit?" asks one man. "We can go back to my apartment."
Showing this reality is great, but responding to this reality by focusing on the behavior of women who are being targeted is not great. The troubling behavior came from those men. From first contact their behavior was coercive and they needed to be challenged for their behavior. If they are wanting to hook up, why aren't they doing so in a non-predatory way?
I also wanted IE to do some research to find out if any of those men trying to get a woman to leave with them had previously been accused or convicted of sex crimes. They wouldn't be the first convicted sex offender looking for women at that club.
IE had an expert give women patrons drinks which could have been spiked to test those women, but they did not have actors repeating the behavior which resulted in Zambrano's guilty plea to test nightclub employees or patrons about whether they would intercede.
Telling women not to leave nightclubs alone won't fix this underlying danger at the bars and nightclubs where the sexual predators and some sexual predator/murderers are circling like sharks. Same goes for telling women not to binge drink.
The desire and willingness to perpetrate violence against women which this story focused on is inside the men who are predators before any woman becomes vulnerable. Their behavior is not about their sexual desire it is about their desire to dominate and/or explicitly hurt women sexually.
Zambrano and the men who became more aggressive toward Kim alone than they were toward her and another woman show that they have great restraint. The stereotype of men losing their sexual control at the sight of sexy drunk women is contradicted by the evidence.
Right now I would recommend that women boycott nightclubs like the Marquee (the same club where Laura Garza went on what was likely the last night of her life, until the level of danger is reduced. The surveillance recordings may help catch criminals after the crime, but until somebody at the nightclub is paying attention to patrons who are unable to defend themselves or to the patrons who display predatory behavior then they are not doing enough to justify women's basic trust.
If all women who go to nightclubs do so in groups and are all determined to follow all of the safety advice and to leave as a group and if nothing is done to eliminate the circling of predators then those predators will adjust their strategies to create vulnerability.
The undercover work done for TV is a task the police should pick up on. If predators had to worry about whether the woman passed out inside or outside of a club was really passed out or was an undercover police woman waiting for a predator to strike and had to worry about whether any of his fellow predators was an undercover cop, some of those predators might reconsider committing crimes they likely look at as high return, low risk crimes.
One action which should happen for sex offenders with MOs such as Zambrano displayed is that they should be barred from entering nightclubs and bars, or loitering nearby, while they are on probation. This type of sex offender also needs to be on a curfew which requires them to be home or at work when women who drink are most vulnerable.
Without this pool of predators who are looking for opportunities to assault women, the women who go to nightclubs could be completely careless about their safety and they would remain absolutely safe from crime. Being predator-free doesn't mean being free of men. There are many men who will not rape even if they find themselves in situations where they could rape and be confident that they would face no legal consequences for their crime.
What I saw on the undercover video had no relationship to men trying to have honest sexual interactions with women. When those men highlighted in this IE story cross the line they do so intentionally. Unfortunately, if it hadn't been for the nightclub video Zambrano would have spun a too familiar counter allegation that the alleged victim willingly left that club with him and was not only capable of consenting but actively consent. Too many people who consider themselves opposed to rapists would accept this counter allegation as easily as the women in that nightclub accepted open drinks which could have been spiked.
Vulnerable women are not the core problem. The easy-to-find predatory men are the core problem and the strongest messages about needed behavioral changes to be directed at them and those messages need to be repeated at least as often as messages telling women to watch their liquor.
The biggest failure of the piece is that the nightclub owners weren't challenged about how an intoxicated woman could be dragged and carried outside without the man who did that being challenged by a single employee. This was the same club Laura Garza went to in December before she disappeared so they clearly understand that dangerous people can be patronizing their business.