I have written before about how some people attract abuse more than others. This is 100% true. There are repeated studies showing that a sociopath can very easily pick out a crime victim from a crowd. There are also studies showing that a person who has been victimized once is far more likely to be victimized again. It can feel like some of us are destined to be doormats for sick people all through our lives! We may be in positions that leave us vulnerable. We may be financially struggling, depressed, without family, new to an area, physically weak, or have some kind of problem that makes us a little less confident than other people might be. Sometimes, we simply have the horrible luck of having to deal with a personality disordered person who had some form of control over are lives.
This may be a teacher, religious leader, boss, relative, law enforcement agent, judge, or anyone else that we might not be able to escape. It might be someone who can make decisions affecting our lives–decisions that are dangerous and wrong, but decisions that we are helpless to avoid.
One very helpful book that all people need to read is The Sociopath Next Doorby Martha Stout. I say ALL people because most people have no clue that they are dealing with a sociopath. The media trains us to think a sociopath is obvious, is a killer, is clearly bad…and we never learn that a sociopath is probably right next to us destroying lives. The book is especially helpful if you are already dealing with a sociopath, of course! One story that repeatedly comes to my mind, is Stout’s example of a psychologist who lies about her patient and causes him to be locked up in solitary confinement. It’s not a true story, but it is an example based on what could be a true story, (as are all of her examples in this book.) In this chapter, the sociopath is posing as a psychologist, and has obtained a job with false credentials. She is polite to her secretary and professional with her bosses, so hardly anyone realizes how dangerous she is. However, a few people do note specific cruelty. They don’t speak up though, because what is one voice of reason against a group of people who aren’t seeing the truth? In the example, the phony psychologist’s patient is better and ready to leave the mental institution; however, the psychologist makes a serious false allegation against him. He’s “crazy” and she’s the professional, so he has absolutely no way to be taken seriously. He is fully under the control of a malicious sociopath. By the time the psychologist’s fake credentials are exposed, the damage has been done. The mental institution sends her away, but doesn’t pursue a lawsuit for fear of harming their reputation. The sociopath is free to hurt the next person.
This is a terrifying example of someone in a very vulnerable position. Someone who is easy prey for a sociopath. Even if it’s not a true story, the dynamics are entirely possible. If a sociopath sees something in you that makes you an easy target, they will dig in and not let go. And all too often, this victimization comes from “safe” people who are supposed to be good and helpful. It may be a police officer who lies and accuses you of something you never did. It may be a judge who enjoys the thrill of hurting you. It may be a teacher who knows you want a good grade. It may be a manager who knows you need to earn a living. It may be your parent who serves on the PTO at school. You can tell the truth and defend yourself all you want, but you are helpless to their games.
Long ago, I noticed that people would speak rudely and inappropriately to me in ways that they would never use on a more confident or socially successful person. I thought it was because I was short and looked young for my age. But now I realize it’s also because I very clearly have no self-esteem. When people are nasty I panic and defend myself. I’m an easy target. An easy doormat. I deal with depression, so obviously I must be crazy, right? (No, that is NOT true, but I will say it makes it easier to victimize a person.)
Unfortunately, I cannot sugar coat this reality. These types of predators exist, and we cannot stop them. We can only change ourselves to deal with them. They are a fact of life, and it often feels like they win. Honestly, we cannot fight back their way because we are not evil like they are. We can only stay calm, hold strong, and build our boundaries until they get bored and move on. But be aware. Life can be a hard battle.