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Bigamists, sociopaths, and the call for a marriage database

In the United States of America, it is impossible to find out if someone is married.

Donna Layne Roberts, whose ex-husband, William Barber, was married at least 12 times, has drafted an online petition to Congress asking for a national database of marriages and divorces. Sandra Phipps, the seventh wife of bigamist Ed Hicks, supports the marriage database petition, and was interviewed in the Virginian-Pilot newspaper last week about her views.

There are people, however, who think a marriage database is a dumb idea. One of them is Kerry Dougherty, a columnist for the Virginian-Pilot. In an article called A good match can come from real talking, she wrote, “There’s a simple way to avoid marrying a bigamist. Get to know your betrothed before sprinting to the altar.”

Some people who posted comments about the database were even more vicious. “Come on, people! Caveat emptor! Take responsibility for the bad decision, and move on,” wrote Brett C. of Portsmouth. “These people who are conned by the bigamists have no one to blame but themselves,” wrote Debbie O. of Virginia Beach.

Bigamists are sociopaths

None of those commentators appear to understand the problem.

In my opinion, most bigamists are sociopaths. I believe that except for mistakes— a few people who think their divorce is finalized when it’s not—in this culture, only a sociopath marries more than one person at once.

Sociopaths have no conscience and feel no emotional connections to other people. This is what enables them to profess their love and devotion to multiple people at the same time. In reality, they have no love or devotion at all. They just mouth the words in order to convince their targets to give them what they want—usually money, sex and a free place to live.

Professional manipulators

So how do they do it? First of all, sociopaths are experts at sizing up a person’s vulnerabilities. Secondly, they are professional manipulators.

Sociopaths are fluent liars. They sidestep questions and always have a plausible answer when discrepancies are noticed. They create authentic-looking documentation. They imply that other people vouch for them, and actually convince other people to cover for them. They keep people apart so it’s impossible to compare notes.

As a result, it is extremely difficult to spot the deception of a sociopath.

Both Donna Layne Roberts and Sandra Phipps knew their betrotheds for more than two years before marrying them. Donna did a background check. That’s hardly “sprinting to the altar.”

More than bigamy

Bigamy is usually just one aspect of a sociopath’s wrongdoing. These people are predators who engage in a wide range of destructive behavior. If you find a bigamist, you’ll probably also find someone who commits fraud, embezzles money, reneges on child support, doesn’t pay taxes, steals from employers, deals drugs or abuses women—any number of nasty things.

Yet as long as the sociopaths don’t commit murder (although there are plenty who do), this country’s legal and financial systems are woefully inadequate in dealing with them. Most fraud offenses are not prosecuted. And for other offenses, sociopaths frequently talk their way out of trouble.

What is the problem? Our legal and financial systems are based on people following the rules. Sociopaths don’t follow the rules.

A marriage database would at least give people who have been targeted by sociopaths a chance to discover the bigamy. Knowing the true character of the predator, they could avoid the trauma that always follows.

Free and clear

So what’s the problem with a marriage database? It’s difficult to think of this as a privacy issue. In many states a marriage license is already public record. So is a divorce. And since a marriage is a legal contract and a divorce is a legal settlement, in the states where these are not public record, they should be.

The point of a marriage database is to make the public records searchable.

You can’t buy a piece of property without getting a title search to make sure you own the property free and clear. It seems to me that getting married is at least as important as buying property. Why can’t we be sure that our spouse is coming to us free and clear?



23 Comments on "Bigamists, sociopaths, and the call for a marriage database"

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  1. jillsmith says:

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot. The attorney who prosecuted many of the Catholic abuse cases, also prosecuted many mormon abusers. He says he wants to do a lot more mormon cases and I have been referred to him for my brother who was 10 years my senior raping me for years (starting at age 7) and my mormon bishop trying to cover it up. He believes that it is more prevalent in the mormon faith, but that since it is such a small church, it is not to the same magnitude, but the rate and acceptance of sexual abuse is much worse.

    I am thinking about doing the case or at least speaking to the attorney, but I just don’t know for sure. I’m trying to make some kind of sense of it all in my own mind. The timing isn’t necessarily good as I am finally doing well and standing tall from what I went through with the P. I’m thinking I might just want to enjoy life now and have some peace. However, I’m not quite whole yet and have a lot to work through because of my childhood. I want to be whole and empowered, so maybe my therapist is right and this would help me really get closure and REALLY move on, while protecting future innocent children. I just don’t know . . . I am just now really starting to address this in my life, as I’m realizing what happened to me as a child might have a lot to do with my decision to choose to marry an abusive Sociopath, at perhaps a subconscious level. At least, that is my therapist’s opinion and it is starting to make some sense to me. Does it make sense to you? It’s so hard to see the forest through the trees, you know what I mean? So, I’m dealing with the childhood abuse now to get at the heart of the matter.

    While attending BYU, there was an incest survivor’s group and it was SHOCKING the level of sexual abuse that goes on within the mormon church. I was crushed to learn how rampant it is, as I truly believed in this religion with all of my heart at the time. I was disgusted to learn of the level of cover-ups and the fact that all of the victims in the group (it was large group of around 30 girls because they refused to pay for a second group or another therapist) had been disowned by their families for telling about the abuse. The abusers all had very comfortable and respectful positions in the families and mormon church.

    How many of you had positive experiences when you prosecuted abusers or abusive organizations? Was it worth it? Did you feel empowered or defeated? Was it too triggering if you had PTSD and followed through with lawsuits.

    My only experience I have to go from is that it was worth it to go to court with my ex, but mostly for my son’s sake. It was an absolutely horrible, but necessary experience. I believe I am safe and have moved on more successfully because of it. I just don’t know if I have it in me to do it all again this soon after my last ordeal, but I also want people to be accountable and the more the public learns about these things, more new laws will go into place protecting victims and more victims will come forward and get the help they need. I also believe that the accountablity will cause religious leaders to think twice before covering up abuse cases and maybe future abused children will get some kind of help or intervention. I can’t help but think that my life would have turned out very differently if I had been referred to Social Services and taken from my abusive home when I told my mormon bishop of the abuse as a child. I certainly would not have been raped for 5 years in my own home.

    I’m also now realizing for the first time that I recognize many P traits in my abusive brother. I find it sick and scary and don’t know what it says about myself that I’m also now recognizing how much my ex-husband looks and even sounds like my abusive brother. Why would I marry someone who reminded me of my child rapist (that is what he is because I was so little and he was 10 years my senior)? That’s sick. I had no idea at the time though. I did not recognize it.



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  2. jillsmith says:

    Thanks, one_step_at_a_time.



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  3. one_step_at_a_time says:

    jillsmith – you’re welcome. but i think i may have spoken out of turn. 🙁

    she is the loveliest person and i hope i haven’t crossed a boundary.



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  4. OxDrover says:

    Dear JillSmith,

    YOu ask a lot of questions that I have heard others ask. I wish I had an answer for you, but only you with the help and nurturing and guidance of your therapist can decide, and the ultimate answer is for you to decide.

    Sometimes fighting back is empowering and sometimes just walking away upright is the wisest decision.

    I know that recently when I had to get the legal documents and letters together to give to the attorney to fight my P-son’s parole, it was devestating to me. Frankly if it hadn’t been a self preservation situation I think I would have just dropped it.

    Many psychopaths have several sources of “supply” at the same time, interacting with two or more wo/men at the same time. The “revelations” of “prophets” of any religion that espouse multiple wives like the Rev. Tony Alamo, a polygomist come lately, who was also a pedophile, and is now in prison, give me great pause.

    Any group that covers up incest or abuse (ANY GROUP of ANY KIND) is WRONG and abusive itself. Whether it is the catholic church or the mormon church or the “first church of Whatever” or the Democrats or Republicans, or some company, it is something that MUST BE STOPPED. I am actually suprised that the Vatican has actually admitted as much as they have, even under the microscope of the media.

    People turning a blind eye to abuse is part of the problem. I’m sorry that your bishop and even your parents turned their eyes away from your pain. There is a wonderful book called “Stalking the Soul: Emotional Abuse and the Erosion of Idenity” by Marie-France Hirigoyen that might be of value to you. I read it recently and it was very helpful and insightful to me about the abuse of those that simply WATCH WITHOUT HELPING. (((hugs)))) and my prayers for you JillSmith



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  5. afghanexwife says:

    I know this is an old post but my ex husband knew we were not divorced when he remarried. The lies and the head games my ex plays are insane. God it is so hard to get over and move on.
    I can’t wait to his new wife/wives go through what I did. My divorce lawyer would do nothing.



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