Convicted, Diagnosed and Institutionalized? Not Enough To Stop a Psychopath


Imagine for a moment

that you are working in a maximum security psychiatric hospital that houses mentally disordered male convicts who are placed in your facility by the courts.

In particular, you work with patients (inmates, really) who are involuntarily committed because they fit the criteria for the Sexually Violent Predator Program. The men in this program have completed their prison sentences, but are deemed too dangerous to allow back into society because they’re ‘the worst of the worst.’ They are sexually-motivated predatory stalkers — serial rapists, child rapists, and sexually sadistic stalkers.  Most are diagnosed psychopaths.

As an employee, you are well aware of this. You received training about psychopathy along with warnings that they would attempt to manipulate and victimize you. You were trained to recognize it.

That would be enough to keep you or your coworkers from any chance of being manipulated, seduced and victimized … right?

Wrong. Many still end up being duped and losing their jobs, their professional licenses, their money and even their freedom (because sex with an inmate or patient is a crime). It’s a persistent problem in forensic psychiatric facilities.

In this post, I interview a woman I’ll call “Gabriella” who worked in such a place for eight years. Her story is at once fascinating and disturbing.

Gabriella worked at Atascadero State Hospital in California, an all-male, maximum-security psychiatric facility, as a licensed psychiatric technician, part of the mental health treatment team that included registered nurses, psychologists, social workers and psychiatrists.

According to the law, a “sexually violent predator” means a person who has been convicted of a sexually violent offense that included a predatory relationship with one or more victims, and who has a diagnosed mental disorder that makes them a danger to others in that it is likely that he or she will continue to engage in sexually violent criminal behavior. Twenty states allow civil commitment of violent sexual offenders deemed likely to strike again.


Here is my conversation with Gabriella.

Adelyn: What kind of training did the facility give the staff regarding psychopathic patients? Were you warned of the dangers?

Gabriella: We were given a lot of training. We were taught about psychopathy, and we were warned that they were very manipulative and would try to victimize us. They taught us to spot manipulative behavior.

A: But they were able to manipulate staff members anyway?

G: Yes! During my eight years there, hundreds of my coworkers were ‘walked out’ (meaning they were fired and removed from the premises) after it became apparent they developed relationships with patients. Many of them lost their licenses.

A: Hundreds? Wow. What positions did they hold?

G: They were psych techs, kitchen workers, psychologists, social workers, nurses — lots of nurses!

A: How did the psychopathic patients manipulate them and/or seduce them?

G: The patients had nothing else to do but watch us. They were always watching, always listening. Their minds were like blank slates. Nothing but predators. They would start by testing boundaries — they’d be friendly and give compliments. If someone was receptive to these small things, that was a green light for them to go further. They would ask for a favor, or sometimes get someone to break a rule for them, such as giving them a cigarette. If they got them to break a rule, they would often blackmail them by threatening to report them, so the staff person would have to keep doing them favors to avoid getting in trouble. The patient owned them at that point.

If they wanted sex or someone to pay for a legal defense, they would get the staff person to fall in love with them. They would end up having sex with them in their rooms.

A: How would a patient — whom the staff knew was a psychopath and a sexually violent predator — get someone to fall in love with them?

G: These guys were charismatic, good talkers, good looking, they worked out…they would tell their target stories of how they were just misunderstood, of how they had terrible childhoods filled with abuse…then they would tell the staff person they were the only one who truly understood them…they would make the victim feel special. They put them on a pedestal! They were made to believe the patient could be saved, that they only needed unconditional love and someone to believe in them. Psychopaths morph themselves into the perfect person for their victim. There is no reasoning with a person who has fallen under the spell of a psychopath — they just need to be physically restrained until the chemicals wear off. What it really came down to was hypnosis.

A: Tell me more about the hypnosis.


G: They took over the victim’s minds somehow. You could see it — the person wasn’t there anymore. They were out of their minds. It was obvious. And they would start dressing nicely, wearing makeup, losing weight. You could not reason with them at all. They really believed that everyone had the patient all wrong, that they were really a nice, wonderful person. One of the patients seduced more than 12 women, who were all fired. I was friends with a psychologist who worked there. She fell hard for one of the patients, and left her job before she could be fired. She paid for his legal defense and actually got him released. They moved in together, and in less than a year she lost everything. Her money, everything. She was so embarrassed once she realized what had happened. I never heard from her again.

A: What do you think made these staff members vulnerable to these manipulators?

G: They were insecure. Lonely. Some were overweight or single parents or newly divorced. They didn’t have good boundaries. Some were even married with children! Many of them had that caregiver mentality.

A: Did you ever fall victim to their manipulation?

G: No, I didn’t. I could see it, it was obvious to me.

A: What do you think it was that prevented you from being victimized?

G: I’m a confident alpha! And I was in a good relationship. I was in love.

A: Do you think you could tell if a new friend or acquaintance was psychopathic?

G: Well, not right away, probably not. But I think I’d figure it out before long.

A: How?

G: I’d be wary of someone who was super-charismatic. Or too un-selfish. Anyone who was too good to be true.

A: What lesson or message is there in what you experienced?

G: People need to be educated! There needs to be more discussion. It needs to come out of the closet. No one really knows what a psychopath is. Psychopathy is a disorder. A neurobiological disorder. They’re born with it, and there is no cure. People need to know the danger.

“In jail settings, the rule of thumb for therapists is that if you genuinely like a patient and want to advocate for them to have a lesser sentence, then you need to ask yourself if the person has psychopathic traits.”

~ HT Goh, Psychiatry Registrar, How does a psychopath or sociopath see the world differently than a normal person?

It is my belief that those of us who were victimized by a psychopath (and became fully aware of what happened) would not fall for a sexually violent psychopathic criminal confined to a psychiatric hospital. But it amazes me that people who are educated about psychopathy, and who know the people they are dealing with are psychopaths and sexually violent predators, can still be victimized.

I’m not blaming them — I’m simply trying to make a point about the level of manipulation psychopaths are capable of.


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18 thoughts on “Convicted, Diagnosed and Institutionalized? Not Enough To Stop a Psychopath”

  1. Carolyn

    I come from a marriage of many years to a psychopath who was a sexual predidator as well.
    It is my opinion people such as this possess SUPERNATURAL AND DEMONIC POWERS !! Even their physical strength appears at times to be SUPERHUMAN!
    I know this from my own experience!! When you leave you need your support in place! Your”ducks in a row”!!! a network of people in place who “carry weight with the court” !!when you make a psychopath look bad by leaving you are in real DANGER!! Plan for it!!
    IT is my personal belief psychopaths have willingly turned themselves over to SATAN! Even their physical strength when confronted is supernatural! It is not only their cunning manipulation and ability to compartmentalize which sends chills down my spine but the fact that just as you have touched upon ,,,,,, they can and will deceive the VERY BEST OF PROFESSIONALS!!!

    I was in therapy for some time with a well respected psychologist in our community as she gently led me down a path to FREEDOM! I thank GOD SHE WAS NOT DECEIVED!

    1. Admin

      It certainly seems that they have supernatural and demonic powers, but I don’t believe it — I think it just appears that way. It’s simply a function of how their brains work, combined with years of practice.

      I don’t think any of us would go to work at one of these places and be duped, and it’s our personal experience that would make the difference. That might be the only thing that can make a difference.

      Carolyn, it’s great you found a good therapist who helped you and wasn’t deceived. We need many more like her in the world!

  2. Depressedempath

    Thanks for the post Admin

    1. Depressedempath

      Before I met the psychopath, I would not have believed this interview. But now, post psycho relationship, I know it is true. They have incredible powers. We think it is an incredible love, but alas they hypnotise us. We become zombified, losing all our common sense and allowing them to take over our souls.

      1. Admin

        Few people could understand it or believe it, but this is an ongoing problem in every prison and psych facility. I’d read about a case here and there, but I had no idea of the extent of it. If professionals can be duped even though they had prior warning, the odds were much worse for us! Now, the odds are much better. We’ve joined the ranks of Gabriella and others who aren’t falling for it.

    2. Admin

      You’re welcome :-)

  3. Carolyn

    Many professionals have “breathed life” back into me due to my marriage to a Psychopath!
    MY THERAPIST is at the top of my list!! However, it was someone in LAW ENFORCEMENT who recommended that I enroll in a personal safety class. This man knew my ex husbands profile and recommended it saying that the physical strength at times of psychopaths is “beyond belief”!! He gave me several examples …… Enough to motivate me into enrolling in a personal safety class ,”one on one”! and I did!
    Thankfully, my very patient instructor stuck with me (did not quit) and I graduated at the TOP OF MY CLASS!!
    Being “aware of YOUR surroundings” at all times makes sense when you have been married to a PSYCHOPATH!!


    1. Admin

      Carolyn, a personal safety class is a great idea! Even if the psychos some of us knew didn’t seem ‘dangerous,’ we tend to have a lot of fear and feel very vulnerable afterward. it’s a great way to gain confidence, along with real skills (and it’s something every woman should do anyway). I’ve taken one, and I’m signed up for another. I also beefed up my home and personal security. CONGRATS on your successful class! I think you’ve given me an idea for a blog post…
      Thank you, Carolyn, for your comment!

  4. Hope

    Fascinating story Admin. It’s unbelievable how easy it is to fall victim to this type of personality. It is a ‘spell’, a form of hypnosis. It’s happened to me, and I’ve seen it happen to others. I’m constantly educating myself to understand the dynamics and ‘patterns’ of the predator, and the victim. I’m finally recognizing ‘signs’, ‘red flags’, that make me be ‘cautious’ with certain individuals. I love your book Boundaries where you state,’we don’t set boundaries to change other’s behavior, we set boundaries to change OUR OWN behavior. That is really resonating with me right now. I’m monitoring my self and my behavior, as well as carefully watching for red flags. Hopefully this will protect me for another psychopathic assault on my very fragile psyche.

    1. Admin

      Don’t forget how far you’ve already come — you probably know ten thousand times more about protecting yourself from a psychopathic assault than you did before. If you’re like me, you didn’t know anything about it at all, but you’ve learned an incredible amount since then. I know how hard it is to have confidence in that. The stakes are high, and our opponent is crafty, so we’re right to be cautious. But as good as they are at hiding, the truth comes out in so many ways. Now we can see it, whereas before we didn’t even know there was anything to see! Boundaries and knowledge are your best defense. Your first-hand experience is what makes that possible. Keep learning about psychopaths, and about yourself, and keep working on your boundaries. And don’t forget to have fun!

  5. Hope

    Yes, thanks for the encouragement. I’ll continue to educate myself and set appropriate boundaries that will hopefully protect me from being assaulted body, soul, spirit , mind.

    1. Admin

      It will protect you. Make sure to take a look at today’s post, “moving from fear to confidence.”

  6. Penelope67

    I first started learning about Ps after my personal experience(s). I have an acquaintance who is a therapist. I mentioned to her about how in my reading I learned that even many professionals cannot recognize psychopaths all the time. She (very arrogantly I thought) said “oh, I can spot them easily.” I don’t believe it, not one bit. In fact I think it is very possible her husband is at the very least a narcissist based n stories she has told me herself, yet she doesn’t seem to recognize it.

    1. Admin

      Penelope, I’ve given up any notion that anyone who hasn’t had personal experience could recognize a psychopath. I don’t care what they learn. I used to think it was possible, but I’ve changed my mind. But I DO firmly believe those of us who have had personal experience are the only ones who can recognize them. It might not be an instantaneous thing, but they leak signs left and right, and we know those signs, along with our reactions to their behavior.
      There’s nothing you can do for your therapist friend, I’m afraid. She has to come to her own conclusion about her husband. We know how deep the denial is and everything else that goes into it. I had a friend (HAD is the important word here) who was dating (being used by) a married psychopath who was also pulling cons on customers at the bank where he worked. I gave her a copy of my book, Psychopaths and Love. She texted me a photo of it torn up in her wastebasket, covered with spaghetti sauce, LOL, and she never spoke to me again :-)

      1. Depressedempath

        Your friends violent reaction to your book, proves that she did have a notion that it carried the truth and that she was a victim. Otherwise she would have simply and non aggressively cast it aside. My opinion only…….
        Also shows that our trusted friends are the best judge of what’s going on from an external point of view. It was my friend that saved me. I trusted her opinion, put it to the test and discovered she was absolutely right.

        1. Admin

          You’re right, I definitely hit a nerve. And it was a big one, as evidenced by the addition of spaghetti sauce ;-)

          When we see a friend being victimized by a psychopath (or in any way) we have to speak up, whether or not we think it will do any good or if we think they’ll get mad at us. It’s our duty as a friend. And even if they don’t listen to us at the time, we may just plant a seed for the future. I’m glad your friend did that for you. She sounds like a good and trusted friend. What was it that your friend noticed about your ex and said to you? I’d love to know, if you are willing to share it.

          1. Depressedempath

            My friend told me that he was controlling me and manipulating me. She saw right through his charming exterior, but she said that she would support me if I chose to continue with him. She asked me to think about whether I would be happy over the long term with him. I wasn’t thinking of the future, she forced me. Then one night she messaged me to turn my TV over to a channel where an interview with a psychopath was taking place. My friend said “that’s what he is”. My friend is a great long term friend, she has an incredible ability to judge character. She saved me, I’m never forgetting how she opened my eyes. She is modest and says “that’s what friends do”

            1. Admin

              Thank you for sharing that. She is being modest! That’s what true friends do, friends who have your best interest at heart. Plus, she acknowledged your feelings for him when she said she would support you even if you decided to stay. That’s the amazing part. Very empathetic. She’s perceptive and smart and also kind and understanding. I’m glad you have a friend like her.

              A friend of mine tried to help but went about it in the wrong way. One of my earliest posts — How to help a friend victimized by a psychopath — was a reaction to that. She told me she thought he was the devil, and told me to stop seeing him immediately and ‘just forget about him.’ The understanding and the empathy and the acknowledgement of my feelings was not there.

              “The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing, and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
              ~Henri Nouwen

              “We shall be friends to those
              heartbroken and in sorrow.
              We shall share their sorrow.”


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