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Maybe you watched CBS News 48 Hours and the story of Sterling Barber? Sterling, at age seventeen, killed Douglas Wyatt, who was attempting to rape him. According to 48 Hours, Douglas Wyatt was a church deacon and convicted child abuser. According to the program, In 1995, Wyatt had lured Barber into his car at a truck stop near Sterling’s home by tricking Sterling into thinking Wyatt needed help. On a secluded road, Wyatt allegedly pulled over, said he needed to urinate, and when he returned to the car it was clear that he was about to rape Sterling. Sterling says that Wyatt had his pants down and was trying to choke Sterling out, but Sterling says he fought back and he stabbed Wyatt several times, including in his groin. Sterling, out of confusion and fear, fled the scene and was apprehended three days later. Sterling confessed to the crime.
Sadly, prosecutors, some of the police, and the judge did not believe Sterling was a victim. He was originally sentenced to life, plus forty years in prison but with the help of many people who realized and understood the true story, Sterling eventually got a new trial, made a plea deal, and was released after a few months, plus time served.
The thing about this case that made me sick was what 48 Hours said about Wyatt’s wife. The program alleges that she knew her husband was a child sexual abuser and that he had used the same method of operation many times before. In the 48 Hours program, Wyatt’s wife said that her husband merely, “had some problems” and she defended her husband as if he were a saint. People in the documentary considered her as in denial. But if the allegations are true, she knowingly ignored all the evidence of her husband having many previous victims (according to 48 Hours, at least six of them over a few decades), and ignored his child abuse conviction and pending charges in another sexual assault case. In my opinion, she uplifted her husband as a man who ‘had a few issues’ but whose memory should only be recalled as a “good” loving man. She didn’t want ‘those nasty child rapist allegations staining her husband’s memory.’ Women with this kind of mentality are dangerous to children because their willful need to defend the perpetrator puts children in danger of being a victim or for victims to not be believed.
At Barber’s first trial, a judge barely allowed any evidence of Douglas Wyatt’s previous victims. Amazingly, the judge said that the other victims only ‘proved that a man can fight off his attacker and doesn’t have to kill him.’
Sterling expressed in the documentary that he did not want people to feel sorry for him –only to understand him. I want Sterling to know that I do understand him, and his actions, very well.
According to 48 Hours, Sterling was sodomized by another man while in foster care when Sterling was only six years-old. So when Wyatt allegedly came at Sterling with his pants down, Sterling was no longer a seventeen year-old boy, he was a six years-old child all over again, and his previous inability to fight back his attacker was no longer an issue. This time, the little boy who was once raped, was not going to allow a monster to penetrate him. The rage that the six year-old had repressed all those years finally came out. People who didn’t understand why Barber had to stab Wyatt so many times, and in the groin, have no idea of the human mind, or what it is like to be a powerless child victim.
There is no time and space in the unconscious mind -so to Sterling- he was six years old and allegedly, Wyatt triggered Sterling’s repressed anger, shame, fear, and feelings of helplessness. That little six year-old boy was the one who stabbed Wyatt and did so in his groin because that’s where the pain came from. The man’s penis who raped little Sterling at age six is what caused Sterling’s suffering and rage. Of course his mind is going to aim right at Wyatt’s groin area. But it was not a conscious action. He was driven by pain in that moment and he needed to do whatever possible to stop from being sodomized again.
Richard Schlesinger, the interviewer for 48 Hours -and I still don’t know why- asked Sterling if he tried to fight off the man who raped him at age six. What??? Are you kidding? I wanted to scream at Schlesinger when he asked that. Yea, right, a little six year-old is going to fight off a huge grown man. Sterling answered gracefully to the stupid question.
Sterling told Schlesinger that he did not think that the rape at age six had anything to do with the manner in which he killed Wyatt. This shows that victims themselves don’t even truly understand their own mind or their actions. Or maybe it was denial? Or maybe Sterling just did not want to go there (back to age six, being raped) in the interview and wanted to get off that topic as fast as possible?
I cried for Sterling when I first saw his story because -even though he was finally set free after spending over three years in prison for stabbing his perpetrator- Sterling probably still carries his wounds with him.
To read a similar story, please see my article on Jack Walls, the Boy Scout Rapist
Sources: A Time To Kill: A Young Man Stuck in Limbo, CBS 48 Hours, and the TV documentary which aired Sunday Sept. 13 2009.