A disturbing detail reported Sunday night by Syracuse.com: The woman accused of being involved in the kidnapping studied rape psychology and published research on porn and rape in college.
Stephen Howells II, 39, and Nicole Vaisey, 25, met online roughly a year and a half ago and began dating, Syracuse.com reported, and neither had been arrested before they allegedly kidnapped two Amish girls, ages 7 and 12, from a roadside fruit stand on Wednesday.
The pair allegedly sexually abused the girls, who were sisters, before freeing them on Thursday.
While the motivations behind the alleged abuse remain unclear, Syracuse.com reported that while she was a college student, Vaisey had conducted and published research on the psychology of rape:
Nicole Vaisey was a senior psychology major at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa. in 2011 when she published research about the effects of watching pornography on attitudes toward rape.
Vaisey's hypothesis was that participants who saw sexually suggestive images would blame the victims more than those who had not.
Syracuse.com noted that Vaisey had received a $1,500 psychology research grant as a Mercyhurst senior.
“I enjoy studying social psychology the most because I am fascinated by the way that people interact with each other and society as a whole and how they function as an individual in a group,” she told her college newspaper at the time.
A lawyer for Vaisey portrayed her as a mere follower of Howells, rather than the instigator of the kidnapping and abuse, telling the New York Times, “She appears to have been the slave and [Howells] was the master.”
The St. Lawrence County district attorney, on the other hand, said the couple appears to have acted willingly together.
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