We currently live in environments that warrant instant gratification whether this is consumer, career or relationship related – we want it and we want it now!! Sometimes severe levels of determination in getting what we want can affect the thoughts and feelings of those close to us; particularly if they have been manipulated into delivering our needs. Psychopathic tendencies are something which some of us may be guilty of, but most of us have degrees of emotional intelligence to know when we have gone too far and will back off or apologise if we have hurt anybody in the process.
For those male domestic violence perpetrators who present with psychopathic personality traits; there is an increased desire for gratification and there is no such awareness of hurting others. The need for instant gratification, power and dominance is always at the expense of innocent victims that are manipulated and rejected once these needs have been met or once the perpetrator realises his needs will not be met or has identified another victim to move onto. The male psychopath in this instance has no consideration for how others feel or what consequences may arise from their reckless actions. There is simply no interest in anything other than their instant gratification and serving their desires. If the psychopathic perpetrator is challenged in any way by their victim (s) they can become argumentative and violent, blaming the victim thus shifting the focus from him onto them. This is because when challenged by others, there is a risk that they will be exposed as being something other than charming, intelligent and convincing.
In male sexual psychopaths within this capacity, there is a preoccupation with sexual deviance, sex crimes and promiscuity. Within a heterosexual domestic violence relationship their female victim may slowly lose who she is, feeling pushed and made to engage in situations she may find risky, illegal or dangerous. These situations may include strangulation, fetish, and group sex, humiliating rituals where the victim may be defecated or spat on, torture, starvation, and being socially isolated from those who are close to the victim by being encouraged to only socialise with his friends. The sexual psychopath is ultimately looking for better and better highs or levels of gratification which serves his sense of grandiosity and supports his lack of respect for the law or for those who may be vulnerable in the community such as children, disabled people or older adults. This behaviour also highlights his inability for intimacy in a healthy relationship.
He may fantasise about killing during sex, and may voice desires to abduct, kidnap and rape. He may also express fetishes or desires for sexual contact with children, strangulation, defecation, blood-letting, suffocation, restraint, gagging, humiliation and violence. These are deemed illegal or high risk practices and have legal consequences that result in imprisonment and/or death. The sexual psychopath appears oblivious to such risks and is confident that he is able to get away with it, because he chooses his victims very carefully – vulnerable people who are afraid or unable to voice their opinions – perhaps already survivors of previous abuse. He may also choose intelligent victims; professionals with a lot to lose and a lot for the psychopath to potentially gain in terms of property, money, fame, social status that he can manipulate, control and ultimately destroy as it would seem that these victims have further to fall than their less intelligent counter-parts.
The sexual psychopath in sum is turned on by watching his victim struggle as she fights for air whilst being strangled, begs him to stop as she’s being electrocuted, as he watches her cry from physical pain or be destroyed and de-humanised by rituals of sexual humiliation; in the same way the psychopathic child becomes amused by watching animals suffer or fires spreading and ruining the lives and livelihoods of good honest working people.
In the event that the victim is brave enough to protect and seek help, she may seldom be believed by the authorities due to the perpetrators superficial charm that leads those on the outside looking in to disbelieve the victim. She may attempt to speak to mutual friends, but will always hit a brick wall as it would appear that everyone takes the side of the psychopath because he is so charming, so convincing and appears to be so kind and organised to those on the outside.
The re-emergence of psychopathy within heterosexual domestic violence relationships and the identity of the sexual psychopath is something which fascinates clinicians like me working in personality disorder, yet reviles the psychopath’s victims who are often left distressed, abandoned and in the case of domestic violence disbelieved by the courts; often being left homeless, penniless and their children taken into care. This is because the psychopath is not only charming, but more convincing than any Oscar winning Hollywood actor could ever be – he convinces others that he is correct, that he is the victim and that the real victim is mad/mentally unwell/unstable or somehow wrong. He convinces judges, the police, social services, doctors that his victim is the perpetrator who is perhaps 1) an addict, 2) incompetent, 3) mentally unwell, 4) unable to cope or 5) a bad mother, when he is ultimately the one who is the perpetrator. He is also dangerously determined and will stop at nothing to get what he wants, and knows exactly how to manipulate the system. He is always believed and is never held accountable for any of his wrong doing because he uses long words, legal or medical jargon that ordinary people cannot understand and will keep talking and persisting until their victims or the authorities are worn down and finally give into their demands.
He is successful because he knows how to play the system through determination and charm, he is well-spoken, articulate, has a wide range of vocabulary making him appear highly educated, appears to be worldly in an all-knowing all-seeing kind of way which can make others feel inferior, he has a grandiose self belief that he is better than others and in some cases above the law, he is convincing because he appears charming, appropriate and correct, he is smartly dressed, appears organised and has all the correct documents as evidence in court, he never flaps nor is ever hysterical and always appears professional even in the most desperate of circumstances where it would be deemed normal to cry or shout, composed and well-prepared declaring himself as the victim.
There are many psychopaths among us – friends, family members, partners, neighbours and colleagues and it is significant to remind ourselves of the traits which psychopaths have in order to develop an awareness that will protect us from becoming victims as once the psychopath has made you his victim your life will very quickly start to fall apart as he convinces your friends and family that you are the one who is in the wrong, and he is merely trying his best to support and help you. This is an incredibly dangerous situation to be in, but if you survive you will never trust again but you are damn lucky to be in one piece! Moreover, if you survive, you may end up writing about your experience like me and attempting to help other victims come to terms with this!
By Dr Harriet Garrod