Sanctuary for the Abused

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Vulnerability and Other Prey of Pathologicals

Help protect yourself from victimization by psychopaths. (and narcissists)

by Marisa Mauro, Psy.D.

Certain personality traits may create better perpetrators and, unfortunately certain cues may create better victims. In a study by Wheeler, Book and Costello of Brock University, individuals who self reported more traits associated with psychopathy were more apt to correctly identify individuals with a history of victimization. In the study, male student participants examined video tapes of twelve individuals walking from behind and rated the ease at which each could be mugged. The men also completed the Self-Report Psychopathy Scale: Version III (Paulhus, Hemphill, & Hare, in press) which measures interpersonal and affective traits associated with psychopathy as well as intra-personal instability and antisocial traits. 

Finally, they were asked to provide verbal rational for their ratings. Overall results confirmed a strong positive correlation between psychopathy scores and accuracy of victim identification. This means that individuals that score higher for psycopathy are better at selecting victims. Statistically significant results for psychopathy traits including interpersonal manipulation, callous affect and antisocial bevavior were found.

Acknowledging that fault always lies with the perpetrator, this research may empower individuals with a history of or concerns about victimization. As for myself, a prison psychologist often dealing with career criminals and individuals with psychopathic traits, I am convinced, in the course of observation alone, that certain personal characteristics are associated with tendency to be on the receiving end of bullying such as harassment and manipulation. I have found that the demonstration of confidence through body language, speech and affective expression, for example, provides some protection. This sense was confirmed by Wheeler, Book and Costello, who found that increased fluidity projected through one's walking gait was associated with less reporting of victimization. With respect to gait, the author's provide five cues of vulnerability originally reported by Grayson and Stein (1981). They state, "potential victims had longer or shorter strides, had nonlateral weight shifts, had gestured versus postural movements and tended to lift their feet higher while walking."

Besides one's walk, individuals can purposefully project dominance thereby potentially decreasing perceived vulnerability by increasing eye contact, decreasing the use of small body movements of the hands and feet, and increasing large body movements or changes in postural positioning. Personally, I have also found that conscious control of changes in affective expression, particularly through control of fear, surprise and embarrassment, as well as the rate, tone and fluency of speech decreases one's likelihood of victimization or bullying. It is recommended that individuals maintain the general projection of confidence via dominant body language even in situations where they feel safe. Potential perpetrators may perceive changes in body language signaling vulnerability and act on this perception.

Wheeler, S., Book, A., & Costello, K. (2009). Psychopathic traits and perceptions of victim vulnerability. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 36(6), 635-648.


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shared by Barbara at 12:16 AM



Am currently reading a book titled "Take Back Your Life, Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships" by Janja Lalich and Madileine Tobias. It is very eye-opening to say the least, and although I am barely into it (pg. 29 out of 344) it is chock full of great info regarding abusive relationships and the dynamics involved. Pg 20-21: "Is there a certain type of person who is more likely to join a cult? No." This really surprised me but then she goes on to explain that individual vulnerability factors matter much more when it comes to joining or staying in a cult or abusive relationship.

After years living with and being raised by those who have the brain functioning of a psychopath, I would have to say that each psychopath is a cult leadear in a sense. For one thing, they really believe that they are "god" or the smartest etc, and that you are lucky to be able to be in their presence and to worship and serve them. Many of the other cult features are inherent to psychopaths and even if you are the only one in their realm, they think they own you.

Knowing your vulnerablities can help you steer clear but as the author points out this will likely be a thing you will need to monitor for the rest of your life. Pg. 5 points out that balance and moderation, both of which were quite likely absent in the cult (or abusive relationship)will be your keys to recovery. Finding youself again or in many cases, finding the real you for the first time. Lots of good info.

12:49 AM  

I think it comes down to how dysfunctional is your family & how much & for how long they need a scapegoat. Not all families protect their members from abuse but perpetuate within the community instead. You become fair game. They can make it however they want for as long as they like. In a small enough town with enough prominent family members, even the law won't protect you and yours if your family says your crazy. After your mind & reputation are lost, your possessions & descendants are fair game & community property. People can say & put in print whatever they like & they do.

3:25 PM  

I agree with you Anonymous.

Especially within the family dynamic. If parents choose one to constantly badger and bully, the siblings join in - many times to feel more connected and "one" with parents.

I felt that in my family. I barely only speak to one or two of the six of us "kids."

I tolerated - no, accepted abuse emotional and economic abuse from my spouse for over 20 years - it was just the way life was for me.

Until something just changed. I took my power back from the abusive sibs and even my son! Then, divorced the narcissistic husband.

It wasn't easy - but it IS worth it.

6:59 PM  

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