Sandra L. Brown, M.A., is the CEO of The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction & Public Pathology Education and holds a Masters Degree in Counseling with a former specialization in personality disorders/pathology.
She is a program development specialist, lecturer, trainer and community educator, and is recognized for her pioneering work on women’s issues related to relational harm with Cluster B/Axis II/Sociopathy/Psychopathy disordered partners. She has taught Pathology Profiling to law enforcement, the judicial system, criminal justice professionals and the mental health/domestic violence fields.
Sandra is an award-winning author of the books Women Who Love Psychopaths: Inside the Relationships of Inevitable Harm with Psychopaths, Sociopaths & Narcissists , How to Spot a Dangerous Man Before You Get Involved and Counseling Victims of Violence: A Handbook for Helping Professionals.
You can find out more about Sandra’s work at Safe Relationships Magazine and the upcoming www.adultcyberstalking.com.
“Who Does That?” Understanding the Mental Disorders Related to Cyberstalking
The challenge to understanding cyberstalking, as well as online defamation and hacking, is getting one’s head around the concept of who does this and why. The lack of understanding of the issues related to cyberstalking, as well as deficiencies in emotional support, legal interventions, and public recognition of the problem, is largely related to the lack of recognizing the disorders of the stalkers. This has been the same problem in acknowledging many other behavioral maladies of our society.
Who abducts children? Who commits repeated acts of domestic violence? Who rapes? Who steals stock options and millions from investors? Who abuses the elderly? Who hurts animals? While these appear to be different behaviors, they are all behaviors often associated with the same types of disorders that are related to stalking, cyber stalking, defamation, and hacking. When we are successful in linking the behaviors with the disorders, it’s easier to understand the motivation behind the behavior. It’s easier to answer the question “Who Does That?” and “Why?”
If we stand outside of the disorders associated with cyberstalking, defamation and hacking, we get lost in only viewing the destructive behavior of the extremely disturbed. We miss the ability to link and label the disorder and its normal sequences of behavior. It’s the ability to “link and label” that give us the best chance of understanding what cyberstalking is, what it is generated from, and who is doing it.
Our goal at The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction & Public Pathology Education is to help survivors heal from the aftermath of exposure to pathology that is associated with the disorders that generate the behaviors listed above. The Institute’s primary earlier focus was related to helping people be able to spot the destructive behaviors in their relationships that are associated with permanent and unrelenting pathology.
However, since our own agency’s issues with victimization from cyberstalking, hacking, and defamation, our outreach has grown to include public pathology education about stalkers and their connections to the same type of pathology as seen in other criminal behaviors such as domestic violence, physical stalking, and abuse. (Our stories and the stories of others will be included on our site soon.)
Overt and Covert Forms of Pathological Behavior
Overt forms of pathological behavior are rarely questioned for the obvious mental health disorders that they are. For instance, few would argue that mothers like Susan Smith or Andrea Yates who drown their children aren’t terribly disordered. But the covert crimes of “drowning a reputation or business” on the internet may go totally unrecognized as pathology.
Those that shoot people they don’t know, or commit a drive-by shooting like the “Beltway Snipers” Muhammad and Malvo in the Washington D.C. and Virginia areas, clearly have pathological motives. While snipers shoot people they don’t know, cyberstalkers and defamers can destroy people they never met. Criminal profilers would rush to develop a psychological profile of gun snipers, but rarely are psychological profiles developed of “Internet snipers”.
The mafia which controls how other people run their businesses, who retaliate against witnesses testifying against them or extort money in exchange for non-harm, are monitored by the FBI and State Attorneys as criminals. But members of the “Internet mafia” which controls how other people run their businesses, who create defamatory websites when witnesses testify against them, and who extort money in exchange for non-harm are not prosecuted or recognized as criminals. There is no witness protection program for cyberstalking and defamation victims.
The deranged that break into homes to beat the elderly for money, like Phillip Garrett who terrorized those in assisted living facilities, have a notable bent of sheer brutality. But that brutality would not be noted in the deranged who cyberstalk or cyberharm the elderly. The elderly victim would be dismissed as “not understanding the internet” or having early dementia for feeling threatened online, and the pathology of the attacker would not be nearly as recognizable in cyberstalking as it would be in a physical assault.
Terrorists who commit the taking of hostages and psychological torture like the infamous Stockholm Bank Robbery (which resulted in the coining of the term Stockholm Syndrome) are identifiable as probable psychopaths, but cyberstalking victims who develop Stockholm Syndrome due to their stalking victimizations are not identified as victims of probable psychopaths.
Who would argue the pathology of gang members or thugs like James Manley who murdered my father are highly disordered? But gangs of cyberstalkers who stalk together are rarely pegged as the pit of pathology that they are, or recognized for having an online gang mentality.
Serial killers like Ted Bundy who raped and killed at least 36 women leave no doubt that he was the worst-of-the-worst psychopaths. But cyberstalkers and defamers who have ruined the lives of equal numbers of others are often unidentified – or when identified, are not labeled with the diagnosis that helps us identify the swatch of devastation they have left behind.
Cult leaders who lead hundreds to death like Jim Jones remind us of the power and persuasion of pathology. But the power and persuasion of the Internet in the hands of the highly disordered is not recognized for its own version of cult recruiting.
Re-offending domestic violence abusers like O.J. Simpson convince us that not all domestic violence is fixable and that some some abusers’ brutality increases with each crime and are obviously disordered. But re-offending stalkers and defamers’ behaviors are rarely labeled as individuals exhibiting escalating criminal behavior.
The overt forms of pathology through criminality are recognizable by most of society, and many would agree that these people are horribly disordered and possible life-long dangers. Their overt criminality is the guiding definable behavior that points to their probable pathology, but in cyberstalking, hacking, and defaming where criminality is rarely pointed to, pathology flies under the radar along with prosecution and restitution.
Even professionals in the criminal justice and mental health system have difficulty naming the mental health disorders most associated with cyberstalking and online defaming. With little inroads being made into linking and labeling the behaviors with the diagnosis, is it any wonder so little is being done in the legal arena to stop these predators? Without the understanding of how this type of pathology manifests itself, it is unlikely the criminal justice system will have any interest in the long range and repeating behaviors of most cyber stalkers.
Low empathy is at the core of a cluster of pathological disorders that correlates to “inevitable harm” when it crosses the paths of others. Low empathy has its roots in reduced conscience, remorse and guilt. Without empathy, pathologicals find pleasure in harming others and enjoy seeing the physical or emotional destruction of others.
Sadistic, absolutely. But often sadistic behind fictitious names, a slew of proxy servers, or a spread sheet of online identities.
Getting On The Same Page About Who They Are
Why aren’t these pathological disorders that cyberstalkers have being better identified? That is the million dollar question since the main judicial, social, and mental health systems of our society deal with this particular cluster of pathological disorders day-in and day-out. Even if they are never identified as crimes, the fact is that the disorders associated with cyberstalkers and other societal abusers represent the majority of white- and blue-collar crimes that cataclysmically smash in our lives.
Unfortunately the reason society has not cohesively named this cluster of pathological disorders as the center of their focus is that each system has its own view of the specific behavior associated with a pathological’s disorders. Perhaps surprising to some, the pathological disorders are often the same disorders, whether emanating from a cyberstalker or rapist. While it might be assumed that there is a wide margin of behaviors separating cyberstalking from a vicious rape, the disorders that are commonly seen are often the same cluster of disorders in both groups, as well as child abusers, batterers, bank robbers and Wall Street swindlers – disorders that are earmarked by low empathy, pleasure in harming, and often the deviancy of hidden identity.
Consider the different labels that are used to describe attackers and their victims:
– Law enforcement calls them bad guys (if they are even caught)
– Mental health systems call them patients
– Domestic violence organizations call them abusers
– Batterer intervention programs call them perpetrators
– Criminal defense attorneys call them clients
– Sexual Assault centers call them rapists or sexual offenders
– Financial structures call them swindlers
– The online world calls them trolls
– Victims call them predators
– Children and adolescents call them cyberbullies
– The swindled call them con artists
– The judicial system calls them criminals (or not, if they are never identified)
– The church calls them evil or unredeemed
– The website owners call them hackers
– The defamed call them cyberstalkers
– Parents call them pedophiles
– Jails calls them inmates
– Prisons call them high security risks
– The FBI calls them targets and terrorists
As each system deals with its own view of the specific acts a person has committed, its easy to miss the broad category that these people fall under. We miss the bigger implication of what goes within that category. We miss the fact that those who fall under these pathological disorders normally have far more destructive behaviors than cyberstalking, and that cyberstalkers often straddle the worlds of online and offline deviancy.
But when we ask “WHO does that?”, we immediately become partners. We begin to see the “who” within the act, the disorder that perpetrates these same acts, behaviors, or crimes. It’s the same sub-set of disorders that have different focuses but the same outcome: inevitable harm.
Flying Under the Radar
How convenient for pathologicals that each system is only focused on its identified behavior. Instead of seeing the big picture of pathological disorders in action, the systems are focused on the sub-directory of behaviors associated with their system and one small aspect of the pathologicals destructive nature. For most large systems, cyberstalking and defamation are small potatoes compared to the other behaviors and crimes they are used to seeing, crimes such as domestic violence, pedophilia and child abuse. Cyberstalking victims are often told that what is done to them is small in comparison to other crimes. The systems fail to see that cyberstalkers are just as disordered as child abusers and that if we are concerned about the future behaviors of child abusers, we should be concerned about the future behaviors of their like-disordered sibling, the cyberstalker, because in fact they have the same or similar disorders. But in the end, we’re seeing the same disorder, just with slightly different faces, over and over again.
Who Are They?
The commonalities that these disorders of “inevitable harm” share is that they often fall within what is called “Personality Disorders.” These disorders consist of three clusters that share overlapping permanent and persistent symptoms related to impulse control, reduced empathy and conscience, emotional regulation disorders, a lack of fear of consequences, pleasure in harming others, and a reduced learning from negative experiences.
These disorders fall under “Cluster B Personality Disorders” which consist of:
Histrionic Personality Disordered * Borderline Personality Disorder * Narcissistic Personality Disorder * Anti-Social Personality Disorder (and associated disorders of Sociopathic and Psychopathic Personalities).
When I teach about Cluster B disorders, I see the moment of “aha” that comes across the faces of law enforcement, mental health, and judicial professionals when they recognize their own clients. Learning the emotional, physical, psychological, behavioral, financial, sexual and spiritual behaviors of these disorders quickly helps them to affirm what kind of person does that. Looking across the room and seeing law enforcement, judges, therapists, and mediators all nodding in agreement rushes them into the center of reality that we are all dealing with the same disorder in our offices, court rooms, therapy offices and pews. That whether they are a defamer, cyberstalker, repeat domestic violence offender, a financial con artist, or a killer, we are still talking about the Cluster B of disorders.
When asking my audience of sexual offender therapists if any of the pedophiles AREN’T within Cluster B, no one disagrees. When asking batterer intervention programs if the chronic repeaters aren’t Cluster B, no one balks. When asking forensic computer professionals if trolls, cyberstalkers, defamers or bullies are Cluster B, they readily affirm it. Sexual assault counselors agree that rapists are largely Cluster B. Judges don’t rush to disagree that high conflict cases (those people who file case after case, as many as 60 times to court) aren’t Cluster B. Mediators don’t disagree that those most likely to fail mediation are found within a Cluster B. Custody evaluators affirm that those most likely to tamper with evidence, perpetrate parental alienation and require supervised visitation are Cluster Bs. Stalking programs can easily see that stalking is primarily committed by Cluster Bs. Repeat criminals clogging up jail, probation, parole, and prison programs are often diagnosed within jail as a Cluster B disorder. Terrorists, school shooters, and bombers are easily identified as Cluster B.
Those who stay for years and years in counseling using up mental health resources without ever being able to sustain positive change are Cluster Bs (excluding here the chronic mental illness of schizophrenia or developmental disabilities). Those prematurely discharged from military service are often Cluster B. The overuse and misuse of most major societal services and systems are related to Cluster B. Some of the most brilliantly contrived insider-trading crimes of the century has been planned and executed by Cluster Bs. Are there many murderers that don’t have Cluster B?
WHO does that? If we take all the behaviors listed above (and often crimes from those behaviors), put them in an analyzer funnel and watch the behaviors clink and clunk down the spiral Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders identifier, it would spit them out in a file with Cluster B printed on the front.
Cluster B’s behaviors are generated out of a complex interweaving of emotional, developmental, neuro, biochemical, and even genetic abnormalities. Obviously, this is not a simple disorder or there would be less “inevitable harm” associated with everyone and everything they touch. This complicated group of disorders single-handedly sets society on edge. It keeps us in court, in therapy, in prayer, in the lawyer’s office, in depression, in anxiety, on edge, on the offense and sometimes even willing to end our lives simply to be away from such menacing, yet often normal appearing, deviancy.
Who wreaks more emotional havoc than Cluster B’s? 60 million persons in the United States alone are negatively impacted by someone else’s pathology. In cyberstalking it drives people to therapy, to commit their own petty acts of revenge to avenge their own powerlessness, drives people to drink, to run away, to get offline and never look back, and sadly leads to uncountable amounts of suicides every year especially for teens being cyberbullied.
These groups of disorders single-handedly cause financial disruptions to the working class who are demoted or go on disability because of attacks they’ve suffered due to too much Cluster B exposure.
Cluster B impacts the legal market. It keeps attorneys in business through never-ending court cases, it employs judges and prison systems, and it keeps forensic computer and forensic accountants frantically busy. This level of pathology also funds domestic violence shelters, rape centers, and children’s therapy programs.
In other words, pathology is big business. It is what our large service systems in almost every field are driven by the need to protect, defend, prosecute, or treat the effects of Cluster Bs.
It employs threat assessment professionals to ward off stalkers and online reputation defenders programs to repair cyberattack damage.
It drives TV, radio and talk shows. Cluster Bs are often the persons on daytime TV and reality shows. Who do the media often want to talk about in the celebrity world? The Cluster Bs. What kinds of crimes does the media flock to? The crimes often perpetrated by Cluster Bs.
It drives the medical field due to stress-related disorders and diseases normal people develop as a reaction to the abnormal pathology of Cluster B behavior.
Surely pharmacology is partially driven by medications for depression and anxiety perpetrated by the no-conscience disorders of Cluster B.
It generates new products every year to track, expose and identify Cluster Bs who are hacking computers, sending viruses, or putting chips on phones and cars to invade others lives.
While clearly pathology generates jobs for many, it is still the single most destructive group of disorders that exist. And until all the major systems – judicial, legal, and mental health – get on the same page, we will continue to be stuck in this maze of pathologicals flying under the radar, undiagnosed, unrealized and wreaking havoc in millions of people’s lives.