One rape case against Darren Sharper was dismissed in Florida this week but more are still active in four other states, leaving sports fans struggling to understand how the former footballer hid the monster so many victims accuse him of being.
First, it must be restated, as my colleague mentioned in February, rape is not about some unattractive dude using the violent act to have sex with unwilling women because that's his only option. The notion that Sharper is too handsome to be a rapist is ridiculous. Rape is about power and control, sex becomes a tool to subjugate another person. As for Sharper, his victims across the country have mostly the same story.
The women met Sharper at a bar or club, he says he has to pick something up from his hotel room and while they are there, he offers them a drink. Soon after they black out — Arizona police identify Ambien as his drug of choice — sometimes waking up in various states of undress or catching Sharper sexually assaulting their friend, or worse, themselves. Each account describes a charming man, until the sleep comes and even a gentleman who accompanied two women to Sharper’s hotel room one night for drinks reports a similar blackout experience.
So who is Sharper?
On paper, he was an athletic kid who came from a stable family in Richmond, Virginia where the New York Times reports that he was a good student who participated in student council while playing football, basketball and running track. He attended the college of William & Mary for their academic record rather than their sports program, which was not Division I.
Sharper began his career with the Green Bay Packers where he transformed from a casual rookie to a well-dressed star. According to Bleacher Report, he often told reporters that after ruining a special teams play, Coach Mike Holmgren told him that he wouldn’t “be in this league long if you keep playing like that.” Sharper was benched for two games but when given the chance to prove himself again, he aimed for perfection and succeeded. As he improved on the field he also upgraded his look off the field, dressing in suits about town as he moved on to the Minnesota Vikings and then the New Orleans Saints.
Sharper made sure to give back to the team’s hometown communities with charity drives, non-profit organizations and participating in books like the now infamous NFL Dads Dedicated to Daughters, where his words about his own now teenaged daughter, now seem chilling.
“My daughter makes me mindful of how women are treated, undervalued and exploited,” he wrote.
And while this might all make one question why a guy who seemed so nice in public would be so cruel in private, Alice Vachss, a former chief of the Special Victims Unit of the Queens District Attorney’s office says that duality is par for the course. Rapists and child predators often present themselves as protectors of women and children while hurting the vulnerable. Sometimes the very organizations they start to help those in need are where they find their victims, like Penn. State’s Jerry Sandusky. Linda Fairstein, a veteran chief of the New York County District Attorney’s sex crimes prosecution unit, adds that the victims’ similar stories are also a telltale sign.
“When they develop an M.O., they usually stay with it and use it often,” she said. “These predators become very brazen about repeating their acts.”
Fairstein said that someone in a position like Sharper’s could have an edge on the women he is accused of raping from the very beginning. Those women might be afraid to report the rape, for fear of being judged for being drunk with a celebrity athlete.
“There is a tremendous underreporting because who would believe you?” she said, referring broadly to such cases. “He’s a big name. He’s a TV personality.” People might say, “You had too much to drink,” Fairstein said, and that fear of humiliation is powerful enough to keep a rape victim silent.
Elsewhere Sharper’s former colleagues at the NFL Network where he was fired in March, say mentioning his name is like yelling “Hitler” in a crowd. Star-studded friends like New Orleans Saints Drew Brees and others are stepping away from him.
Former Saints linebacker Scott Shanle told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that his initial reaction was that Sharper was “innocent until proven guilty.” Shanle added: “The more things that kept popping up, the worse it looks.”
Another colleague Scott Fujita said he’s “disgusted by what he’s accused of” and Sharper’s William and Mary college coach Jimmye Laycock, who spoke highly of his former player, declined to make any further comments.
It will be up to the courts to reveal exactly who Sharper is and what he is guilty of. At this moment, Sharper's various lawyers in the four remaining cities where there are open cases against him — that's New Orleans, Tempe, Las Vegas and Los Angeles for those keeping tabs — they seem to be using the tried-and-true slut shaming route. While Sharper might be a Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde character, his defense team don't seem to be serving many surprises.
Image via Getty.