From the Mouths of Survivors

“Monsters are real, evil exists”. Despite a growing research literature investigating psychopathy, those victimized by psychopathic individuals have largely been neglected. To date, only one published research study has qualitatively examined the experiences of those victimized by a psychopathic individual (Kirkman, 2005). In this study, Kirkman (2005) focused on female victims previously involved in intimate, heterosexual relationships. These women reported similar experiences over the course of their relationships (e.g., quick progression, numerous infidelities, emotional abuse), many of which Kirkman (2005) considered to be warning signs. Given the impact that psychopathic individuals have on the lives of others, we felt it was important to continue to explore the experiences of those involved in intimate relationships with psychopathic individuals. Expanding on Kirkman’s (2005) work, we conducted 28 interviews with females who had been involved with a psychopathic male to discuss their experiences during the relationship (e.g., warning signs, familial concerns, abuse), the subsequent impact of the relationship (e.g., mental, physical, financial), and the availability and effectiveness of support. All survivors were recruited through a posting on the Aftermath: Surviving Psychopathy Foundation website.

Over the course of their relationships, lasting an average of 12 years, 50% of the survivors we spoke with reported experiencing sexual or physical abuse. Emotional abuse was reported by 100% of those we spoke with, of whom 80% indicated that the emotional abuse was extreme. As one survivor said – “you can hit me all day long, and its nothing compared to the emotional abuse. You can heal if somebody hits you.” In addition to experiencing abuse, the survivors also reported issues with their career and finances, a fear of forming new friendships, a loss of identity, and severe mental and physical health issues including depression, anxiety, problems sleeping, suicidal ideation, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

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