Thursday, August 14, 2014

Trial by Fire: Battling a Sociopath in Family Court

"You are a warrior. Warriors don't give up and they don't back down. Pick up your sword and shield, and fight!"

- Scandal

The conclusion of my child custody trial was Friday, July 25th. It was bloody, shocking and traumatizing... but with God's grace, I got through it. It's amazing how low down and dirty some attorneys will get. Especially when a little ole woman has the nerve to challenge their ego in front of the judge. Nimrod was angry with me. Very angry.

Before it was over, facebook became involved. Nimrod showed up at my house throwing subpoenas and yelling he was sending my sister to jail in front of my son and 2 other cub scout kids, and both lawyers were trying to impeach each other (mine succeeded in showing Nimrod was outright lying).

As I write this, there is no ruling yet. I was forced to try the case in front of the same judge I brought up on appeal. If one good thing has come out of the appeals process, maybe it is that the best interest standards will actually be considered this go round. He asked the lawyers to brief him post trial. And, I do believe (hope) he will take the time to review the evidence.

The judge did say one thing that made me very proud of him. This case should have been heard over a year ago. My son should not have been left to languish in the family court machine for so long.

I spent nearly 3 to 3 1/2 hours on the stand being yelled at by a red-faced, irate Nimrod. I was accused of everything from shaving my son's legs and painting his toenails to having my ex falsely charged by the district attorney for assault. To sum it up, Nimrod 's testimony to the judge was that I'm one sick, sick puppy. Of course, there is no explanation for why, despite having me investigated and despite them hiring a discovery expert, they had no evidence at all that any of his allegations were true.

I almost wish the trial had been filmed. The drama would give Law and Order a run for their money during prime time viewing. The louder Nimrod got, the more accusatory his statements became. I resorted to asking, "Was that a question or a statement?" I'm sure I sounded argumentative as all get out!

I  got in the evidence of the sociopath's demeaning and abusive behaviors at exchanges, his refusal to communicate in matters regarding the child and my son's emotional problems. The therapist and teachers testified. Basically, my sons trouble separating from me, his anger issues over the lack of control in his living situation and his ongoing needs were addressed. The teachers testified to school problems and the father's inability to comprehend even kindergarten level homework.

Mostly, I tried to stick to the highroad and not complain too much about the sociopaths antics. I left it with the statement "Ultimately, I have to pick and choose my battles. Much of his behavior is just juvenile, and while it does impact my son (because they say these things to him and it confuses him) I have learned to let it go because in the big picture, there is nothing anyone can do about it."

Now we wait to see how much of the mud they slung sticks in the judges mind. I have no idea which way it will fly. The judge clearly feels pity towards my ex and favors him, but despite having 50/50 custody he has done nothing to actually parent our child (other than get him through the doors of the school when he has him.)

I will try to post more over the next week and get the briefs up for you to read.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Is Your Ex REALLY A Sociopath?


Most of us are familiar with the current diagnostic criteria of the DSM's label “Antisocial Personality Disorder.” While my ex certainly hits almost ALL of the requirements for sociopathy, the evaluators primary concern was his “lack of conformity to society evidenced by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest.” In court, opposing council took full advantage of the fact my ex was born in France, construing “failure to conform to societal norms” as people tend to misunderstand other cultures.

The judge bought it. I'm going to intentionally bypass the sheer ignorance of that argument. Let's just say that I feel very strongly there needs to be a better way to underscore how harmful these personalities are.

I came across a recent article in Psychology Today that indicates there could be a significant change in the way sociopaths are diagnosed using the“Dark Triad.”

The term was first coined in 2002 by researchers attempting to explain why women were so attracted to bad boys. The Dark Triad has three main traits- Narcissistic, manipulative, and guilt free.

Sounds exactly like a sociopath, right?

Anyone who scores high on all 3 traits is most definitely a sociopath.

The three traits were previously measured by administering separate testing on personality inventories. In 2010, researches from the University of Florida and University of South Florida introduced a streamlined test procedure for detecting the Dark Triad. It's known as the Dirty Dozen, and appears to be gaining momentum. You can read about it here

There is a free online version, although I'm not sure it's the real deal. It does appear to be somewhat legitimate, as it is published by researchers. The test is here

Of course, you know that I had to take the test myself!


I have some real concerns about the validity.

First, any reasonably intelligent person could pick which answer to give to keep the scores low. Given how honest sociopaths are (ya, right!), it's hard to imagine them admitting that they feel the need to make people pay for wronging them (revenge seeking).

Secondly, some of my answers caused my Machiavellian score to increase to a 1. Although I don't consider myself manipulative, I do have a skewed view of people's vulnerability to being manipulated. I have watched it happen a LOT during my custody case.

The question: Do you believe that people are easily manipulated?

I originally answered no. After thinking about it, I decided the answer was yes and changed it. The result? My score jumped .7 points! In general, I see myself as being easily manipulated and I see how the sociopath uses pity to manipulate others.

Third- my ex has a very strong fourth component to his personality... sadism. He enjoys hurting people and animals, although it seems to mostly be towards those he perceives as too weak to fight back. I feel sadism is very relevant to diagnosing a sociopath, especially for evaluating the potential of violence.

While I think the rise of the Dark Triad's popularity probably a good thing, I wonder if a test like this would really be beneficial. I’m curious- what are your thoughts on this? Did you take the test? How did you score? Did you try answering for your ex? What do you think about the Dark Triad as a basis for diagnosing sociopaths?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

For the guys: Confessions of a Female Sociopath

For all you dads out there... the ones who take the time to read the blog and comment. Information on female sociopaths is very hard to come by. When I stumbled across this press release, I thought of you guys instantly!

This is a memoir of a female sociopath. Guess what? She's a lawyer (gasp!). Here is the link:

3 ways To Build Character In Your Child and Get Revenge On A Sociopath

Revenge may belong to God, but we can “get even” with a sociopath by doing the right thing- building character in our kids. Integrity, strength, responsibility, fairness, and honesty- all the things a sociopath hates.

When I began my battle, I was lost on what to do. How do I protect my son? How do I teach him how to be a good person, when everything I say or do is negated by a sociopath? I see this question a lot popping up in comments and forums.

While I have discussed this before, I want to outline some clear tips that I have learned. These are a combination of working with child therapists and my own research on how to be the more effective parent.

1. Teach your child not to be a victim.

    1. No one has the right to degrade them or hurt them.
    2. Silence will ensure maltreatment continues. Teach them to speak out about wrongs.
    3. Teach them that their thoughts and feelings matter. Ask for their opinion and really listen.
    4. Encourage them to develop their “inner voice” and to speak out even when they are afraid. Be a courage coach.
    5. If abuse is active, run through scenarios with them on how they can cope until the situation passes.

2. Don't be an unintentional hypocrite (this is a tough one.)

    1. If you tell your child something is wrong, make sure you don't inadvertently model that behavior (ie degrading people, denying your child's perceptions and reality, etc.)
    2. Don't use corporal punishment. Learn positive parenting techniques and alternative modes of punishment. If you want to know why, ask me in the comments section and I will be happy to explain.)
    3. Do be somewhat of an authoritative parent. The rules, once established, are ALWAYS non-negotiable. Let them provide input, but there are clear consequences for non-compliance.
    4. Follow through. This was hard for me. It breaks my heart to punish my child, especially given how miserable and depressed he is, but failure to follow through sends a message that there will be no consequences if they learn to manipulate you.

3. Give BIG rewards.
    1. Compliance with the rules of personal conduct carries big rewards. Even if you are like me, flat broke from the legal fight, you can still give them something. Things I use include having a party, letting my son choose one activity we can do together (and I do it, even if it means jumping on the trampoline for 30 minutes when I am tired, sweating and make up running in my eyes), a special dinner, a trip to the park, etc.
    2. Don't make it about material things, even if you CAN afford it. While toys are great, you want to teach them that the reward is about enjoying life -NOT things! 
I'm not going to tell you that any of this easy. A lot of the time, it really sucks. I have my days where I want to shout at the world, “It isn't fair! I have to parent twice as hard as everyone else!” But I do it. I keep my eye on the final goal: to raise a smart, strong, moral, and empathetic child. Nothing says “revenge” better than shattering a sociopaths dream of creating a carbon copy of themselves.
What tips do you have for building character in your child?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Do Sociopaths Have a Personality Problem or Are They Bat Shit Crazy?

I have often wondered why, since Antisocial Personality Disorder isn't treatable and is so harmful, they don't classify it as a true mental illness.

The link below is a good article on why sociopaths are labeled with a personality disorder. By all means, let's enable them a little more by protecting their best interests instead of  the victims.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Liar, Liar Pants on Fire

It may be wrong to say it, but sometimes I wish the Liar's pants would catch on fire, for real.

I have been thinking a lot lately about lies and the motivational forces behind them. Sociopaths are experts at lying, and I'm pretty sure lawyers are too (do they get special training in law school, or what). While I don’t think lies are inherently good or bad, I do think that the intention behind them is a powerful indicator of a disordered personality.

The best I can figure, lies serve two main purposes: to protect or to manipulate. Protective lies are the ones that most of us are guilty of telling. Complementing someone falsely to spare their feeling or to protect ourselves (or loved ones) from danger. We feel bad for doing it, but decide that is the best action to take in a situation.

Sometimes we accidentally lie by not following through on the things we say we will do. When confronted, we readily own up to it and apologize. Geez, I’m so sorry I did that. I don’t know where my mind has been lately.

Manipulative lies are designed with a more sinister purpose in mind. These lies seem to serve no purpose on the surface, but really they are intended to accomplish a goal. The goal may be to win us over to the liar's side, make us love them or inflate their own ego.

When we confront a sociopath with their lies, they attack. The attack can be directly against us, or indirectly against us by targeting a third party. I have noticed the following patterns when confronting personality disordered liars :

Attack: Shift the Blame

The “Shift the Blame” strategy can be an indirect attack on a third party or circumstance. I don't know about you, but for me these are easier to spot. It usually involves the sociopath inventing a story. The stories are somewhat fantastical and fall apart under careful analysis.

 It might involve an active smear campaign about us or something more ridiculous, like saying they couldn't fulfill an obligation because they were hit by a car and hospitalized.  This is BS you can smell a mile away. Any person in regular contact with you- who really cares about you- doesn’t forget to tell you vital information until you call them out.

A more direct “Shift the Blame” attack involves insulting us directly. I think a lot of us have gone through this. It involves projection and put downs. It usually has the the words, “... because your a...” (fill in the blank.) Or they may say, “why didn't you...” do whatever it is that you could have done to prevent them from lying in the first plae.

Attack #2: Guilt Trip

What do sociopaths feed off of? Our compassion and empathy. The attack in this case usually making US feel bad about their lie.

Example #1: “I guess I am just a worthless person. After all, I'm only working my butt off for you. “

Example #2: “Join the list of everyone who's mad at me. I'm miserable but I have to stay here, in this horrible place, just for you.”

Attack #3: Isolation and Alienation

Similar to Shift the Blame, but the attack is designed to not only defend the lie, but also isolate us from anyone who can confirm our suspicions. It usually involves insulting people we are close to, and pointing out how those individuals have failed us, which the sociopath has not.

Attack #4: Confuse and Distract

Most of us are familiar with the gas-lighting technique used in the Confuse and Distract strategy. It consists of them making up additional lies, convincing us we didn't hear what we thought we did, or that we’re just so plain dumb that we failed to comprehend what they were telling us (see the post on the sociopaths deposition for an example.).

I'm sure there are many other techniques I've overlooked here. What patterns have you seen when confronting a sociopath with their manipulative lies?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What God and Rap Sensation M&M Teach Us About Fear

Joshua 1:9 says, “ Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Don't be afraid, or dismayed. For the Lord, your God, is with you whereever you may go.”

Why is it so hard for us to listen?
In talking with many of you over email and comments, I have noticed that- while our cases differ in some aspects- we all share the same paralyzing fear for our children. I'm talikng about gut wrenching, heart ripping, vomit inducing, imobilizing terror. It's not just we are afraid we will lose custody (although we are) but rather the flabbergasting possibility we will lose our kids to a sociopath.

When I was first served with papers telling me that the sociopath had filed with the court asking for custody, I thought: ya right. He doesn't know anything about my son. He's endangered him, abused him, neglected him, and a mental health profesional has stated he shouldn't be alone with the child. I had pictures, audio recordings, and witnesses. He will never win.

Then I began doing online research and discovered that these monsters do win- and frequently- in family court. The terror set in- far beyond any fear I felt previosly for the safety of my son or myself. I lived in a state of mental numbness, willing to accept any amount of abuse for the sake of proving that I wasn't interfering in a relationship between the sociopath and my son.

When the sociopath didnt show up for a scheduled visitation, I called him and voluntarily rescheduled. When he didnt call my son the talk to him, I would have my son call. I made my son give him gifts every father's day, birthday, christmas. I voluntarily shared every holiday, splitting the day evenly between us. I exhausted myself bending over backwards, trying to facilitate a relationship the sociopath didn't want to begin with. And neither did my son. Every contact resulted in added trauma, resistence, and distress.

I was so afraid, I over compensated. By the time trial rolled around, I was tired and fed up. I didn't eat, I didn't sleep. I broke out in a nervous rash. I started smoking- a lot- to deal with the stress. I thought no one has ever felt this level of fear before- I'm alone. Even my therapist questioned why I was trying so hard to promote a relationship between this sick, sick man and my son. Why? Because the court is going to expect to see that. I have to show the judge- it's not me, it's him.
I handeled fear poorly.

 I don't listen to a lot of music, but I can see a similar fear in the lyrics to one of M&M's songs. (Including getting into court and pretty much forgetting everything I had prepared for- thank goodness I remembered where I lived). How many of you can relate to this?

“His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
There's vomit on his sweater already, mom's spaghetti
He's nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready to drop bombs,
But he keeps on forgetting what he wrote down,
The whole crowd goes so loud
He opens his mouth, but the words won't come out
He's choking how, everybody's joking now
The clock's run out, time's up, over, bloah!”

Im curious about the level of fear you felt in dealing with the sociopath in your life. Is there anyone out there that was capable of obeying God's command to not be fearful? How afraid were you? What coping methods did you use during periods of intense fear?