Where do psychopaths hunt,
and how do they do it? How you can avoid becoming their prey? When psychopaths see an opportunity, they go for it. Since they’re opportunists, you can be targeted by one of them anywhere. But some places do present a higher risk than others.
The high-risk environments listed further down have these elements in common that make them especially good hunting grounds:
- The proximity principle accounts for the tendency for individuals to form interpersonal relationships with those who are close by and who they come into contact with on a regular basis. Close proximity allows for interaction and allows attraction to grow. This is why most people date and marry someone who lives close to them, works at the same company, or went to school with them.
- Vulnerable people tend to gravitate to specific high-risk places. People who are lonely, new in town, or looking for friends or relationship partners are especially good prey for psychopaths.
- Risk is elevated when people are in a different environment than they usually are in day-to-day life, especially if they have a different mindset at the same time. They may have a casual and relaxed attitude and an expectation of fun and adventure, or they may feel insecure and lack their usual confidence.
- Environments that lend themselves to imbalances of power increase the risk. A person who is in authority in some way is able to exert more influence over others. These power imbalances are normal for the specific activity that presents a higher risk of victimization.
“Psychopaths prefer to hunt in very specific contexts. It must be a place or event with a fresh supply of strangers whom nonetheless have some reason to be there, to exploit. There must be potential benefits for the hunter. There needs to be cover so victims won’t talk. Ideally, the context tolerates significant imbalances of power, so that the psychopath can influence and control, over the long term.”
First, let’s look at the places you’re at higher risk of being targeted by a psychopath. Next, we’ll learn what to do about it.
11 13 Danger Zones
Online dating ~ We’ve all heard this one, ad nauseum. You can certainly meet a psychopath on any online dating site. But sometimes online dating is presented as the most dangerous place or the only dangerous place, and if you would just meet someone in person instead you’ll be safe. Not true. But there are things about online dating that separate it from the rest. When you create a profile, you give away an awful lot of information about yourself. You post a photo, describe your personality, and list your interests, your likes and dislikes, what kind of person and relationship you’re looking for, your religion, your profession, and maybe even your dreams and goals for the future. If there is a psychopath reading, you’ve handed him or her the keys to your kingdom. Also, just by virtue of having a profile on a dating site, it’s immediately obvious that you’re longing for a relationship. This is one of the biggest vulnerabilities you could have. Yes, it’s a perfectly normal and healthy desire, but to a psychopath it’s akin to inviting a vampire into your house and offering it your jugular. And it doesn’t matter if the psychopath lives far away or even on another continent; you can be hooked via email, text message and phone, and end up having an entirely virtual relationship. You can even be sucked into some real-life jet-setting psychopathic drama you could definitely live without.
Let FBI profiler Mary Ellen O’Toole teach you how to ‘profile’ your online matches. O’Toole is now an instructor at the FBI National Academy, where she teaches a course to police called “Interviewing Psychopaths.”
“Psychopaths’ favourite hunting grounds are online dating sites, bars and even cruise ships… They go to places where they think they’ll find vulnerable people. They cast a wide net.”
Meetup Groups ~ I once read an article that warned people away from online dating and advised them to go to a meetup group instead, because they’d be sure to meet genuine people there. I beg to differ. I met the psychopath who victimized me at a meetup group. Groups like this, where you’re likely to attend on a regular basis, allow predators to take their time getting to know you and gaining your trust. Many people who go to meetup groups are lonely or bored and are looking for friends, partners or a little excitement. Meetup groups provide predators with a steady supply of new targets to choose from.
Special interest Clubs ~ Yes, psychopaths do join birdwatching clubs, newcomer’s clubs, astronomy clubs, book clubs, and every other kind of club. The same principles apply here as to Meetup groups.
Dance Lessons or Dances (Salsa, tango, ballroom, etc.) ~ It’s pretty well known that predators of all kinds favor partner dancing as a great way to keep up a steady supply of targets. When a skilled dancer asks you to dance frequently despite your two left feet, or singles you out and offers you free private lessons because of your incredible potential, your alarm bells should be ringing. There are likely to be many people there who’ve seen them at work before. When someone’s hitting on you, ask some regulars what they think of him or her, and watch their reactions. This isn’t always reliable because they may have become the psychopath’s minions, or ‘flying monkeys,’ willing to sacrifice a few newcomers in order to maintain whatever benefit they get by providing cover. *This applies to any activity or group where there are core, long-term attendees or members and a steady stream of new people.
“Some situations are tailor-made for psychopaths: singles bars, ship cruises, foreign airports, etc. In each case, the potential victim is lonely, looking for a good time, excitement, or companionship, and there will usually be someone willing to oblige, for a hidden price.”
Cruise Ships, Airports, Vacations and Travel ~ I had a friend who worked a sales job with a guy who formerly worked on a cruise ship. He said the guy bragged about the easy pickings on board, saying his favorite targets were women on their honeymoons. I have no idea if that’s true, but travel is well known as a high-risk time for crossing paths with predators, and it’s even riskier if you do it alone. When traveling you may have a different mindset than usual, as mentioned above, and your guard may be down because of it. You will probably want to meet new people, find someone to have fun with or to help you navigate a strange place. That makes it easy to approach you and strike up an alliance, one that could end up costing you much more than your trip did.
AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and similar programs ~ Long-time AA members are well aware of the multitude of predators within their ranks, and will often (but not always) warn new attendees. New people who attend are often in a very vulnerable state of mind. This doesn’t mean you should keep up a habit that’s killing you; it simply means to be aware that you are vulnerable and there is a high probability that predators are in the room with you.
At Work ~ Work may not be a high-risk environment per se, but the stakes are high if you’re victimized by a psychopath who happens to be employed at your workplace. Many readers here have told me they met their abuser at work, and it made for a very bad situation when things turned ugly and they still had to see the person every day.
Anyplace There is a Teacher, Instructor or Leader ~ This brings the element of power imbalance into the picture. Authority of any kind makes it easier to exert influence over someone. It can feel very flattering if an instructor takes special notice of you and seems to appreciate your talent above others. When you become Teacher’s Pet, watch out. Even if the predator isn’t actually the instructor or leader, the attention and compliments of a more advanced attendee will carry extra weight. If they offer their private tutelage, it may be irresistible if you have the desire to excel. This is a tried-and-true predatory practice.
Anyplace You Can Find a Mentor ~ Mentors can be powerful allies in our success. They show us the real-world ropes, give us insider secrets, teach us the finer tricks of the trade, and can make introductions that open doors. That’s a powerful draw! Self-appointed, unofficial mentors have the opportunity to form a special relationship with a mentee that puts them in authority, yet at the same time implies they will elevate you to peer status because they believe you have what it takes. Offering to be a mentor is an especially effective ploy in the hands of a predator. Who might these mentors be? Art gallery owners, skilled dancers, business owners, or anyone else who has reached a goal you aspire to and who says they can help you reach it.
School Reunions or Anywhere You Can be Contacted by a Past Classmate, such as Facebook ~ I’ve heard from too many people who’ve been victimized by former classmates to ignore it and to not warn others. Psychopathic former classmates have the element of familiarity going for them, and they may evoke memories of a less complicated time in life you wish you could return to. It may seem like fate is giving you another chance at someone you missed the first time around. It’s nearly a shoe-in for Billy, that slightly strange kid who sat next to you in homeroom for four years or Janie, the pretty girl you were too shy to approach before you both went off to different colleges.
Bars and Dance Clubs ~ Widely known as hunting grounds for psychopaths and predators of all kinds. You may be there hoping to meet someone new and will probably be under the influence of alcohol, which increases vulnerability. It’s perfectly acceptable in these places for a stranger to approach without any reason other than to want to meet you.
Protests and Campaigns for a Cause ~ In these situations, the people involved form a strong alliance over deeply held beliefs and strong emotions. Sharing intense emotions and experiences makes it easy to bond, and there may be a scientific reason for it: Studies have found that intense, exciting or dangerous situations can boost levels of key hormones — dopamine, adrenalin and phenylethylamine — that are also responsible for making people fall in love at first sight. The adrenalin high people experience in these situations feels similar to falling in love, and this tricks our brains into a false sense of attraction to someone within our proximity. “Although you may think you know when you’re attracted to someone and you feel arousal, it’s likely you’re mis-attributing those signals to something coming from another cue in your environment,” says clinical psychologist Jenna Tregarthen. “The psychological advice is to make decisions about romance when you have a level head, and not while there are other cues in your environment that might confuse you.” *You can apply this principle to any other situation that involves a common cause or an intense and shared experience along with danger or excitement and strong emotion.
Couchsurfing and Similar Travel Arrangements ~ This goes along with “travel,” but warrants a mention of its own. The rise of websites such as Couchsurfing and AirBnB afford people budget lodging, but they pose a special risk as well. Some predators have taken advantage of the opportunity to bring a victim to them instead of going out in search of one. On the Map: Is CouchSurfing.org Safe for Women?
Psychopaths can get their freaks on anywhere. After all, anywhere they go, there they are.
You can be targeted by a psychopath even in places and situations that aren’t considered high risk. As long as any of the four elements are present, the possibility of victimization exists.
The proximity principle is always at work in your neighborhood, church and any other place you go on a regular basis. Don’t forget to include places you visit in cyberspace. People have been victimized on internet forums, with topics that range from gaming to support for the traumatized to consumer complaints.
We all deal at times with someone who has authority in some way, and we often have inherent trust for these individuals (such as mental health professionals and clergy), and the predatory individuals among them are well aware of how our inherent trust makes us vulnerable.
And we will all at some point move to a new place, start a new job, or experience some other change in our lives that we can’t avoid and that puts us at risk
So what are we to do?
Stay home? Hide from life and order everything from Amazon? Become paranoid? Of course not. We need to have continual awareness that we could potentially be victimized no matter where we go or who we are; realize when we may inadvertently let our guard down; and practice the same principles no matter who the new person is who has taken a special interest in us.
What are these principles? Knowing your personal weak spots and being aware of when you’re especially vulnerable. Having strong and clear boundaries. Knowing what psychopaths are, how they operate and how to spot them. Knowing if you’re involved in a genuinely intimate relationship or just an intense relationship masquerading as one. Knowing how to trust intelligently. Never letting someone’s words take precedence over their actions. Realizing that falling in love disarms you in a way that nothing else can, and keeping your eyes open despite your feelings.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War
♥ Is there anyplace you consider high risk that isn’t on the list? Where did you meet the psychopath who victimized you? Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment.
Such a great gem…
…If you’re wondering if you are encountering a psychopath, read this book and you will know without a doubt.”
“Quite relevant and helpful, written in a useful down-to-earth-style which emphasizes the practical. Obviously written from direct experience.”
“The truth shall make you free… the description of typical behavior and common reaction to that behavior was more helpful to me in freeing myself than all the books on what a psychopath, sociopath or narcissist is”