I was reading an article about sex trafficking, and I couldn’t help noticing how the abusers got into the victim’s head in Brianna’s story. Psychopaths, sociopaths, predators, whatever you want to call them, they all follow basic patterns for victimizing others. It starts by asking seemingly innocuous, friendly questions. What they are really doing is gleaning personal information from you with the intent of using it against you later. In Brianna’s case, the predator used personal knowledge of her likes and dislikes so that he could cast a younger predator in the role of her Prince Charming. The one portraying her “dream guy”, then made her feel special and forged a superficial bond with her, thus making it easier to manipulate her into doing what he wanted.
It’s important to notice these patterns, because anyone is a potential victim for a sociopath. If you have something they want – sex, money, power, access to information, anything really – they will try to charm you into giving it to them. And it’s not only naive teenagers who are fooled by these toxic manipulators. Even seasoned mental health professionals have been known to fall for the lies of psychopaths.
People should be aware that not all inquisitive strangers are simply friendly and curious. Some of them are predators, and the questions they ask are to help them assess how potentially useful you could be to them, how gullible you are, how compliant you will be and, ultimately, how to get into your head. There’s no need to be suspicious of everyone you meet, but, if you are an especially open, talkative person, it’s prudent to guard the personal details of your life a little more closely. In other words, make strangers gradually earn your trust as you get to know them, as opposed to just giving it to them freely and without question.
Educate yourselves about psychopaths and other abusive personalities, so that you’ll know what red flags to watch for. Make sure your teenagers are aware that such malicious characters exist. There’s no reason to teach them to distrust others, but rather how to protect themselves and their peers from predators.