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Risk Assessment for Violence, Playing the Odds

By Joyce Alexander, RNP (Retired)

I recently bought a book, Violence Risk and Threat Assessment: A Practical Guide for Mental Health and Criminal Justice Professionals, by J. Reid Meloy, Ph.D. I actually bought it to give some “credence” to the statistics I put into my letter to the parole board protesting the release on parole of the Trojan Horse-Psychopath that attacked our family,

Of course this book is directed, as the title says, to professionals, and to assess risk of violence. But since we are dealing with psychopaths, it is, I think, a good idea for us to be able also to look at the assessment for possible violence in our own psychopaths when we thwart their desires, or kick them to the curb. We need to answer the questions, “Is my psychopath likely to respond with violence? If so, how?”

Most violent individuals are not violent all the time. In the introduction, the author illustrates that “just because an abnormality (in behavior) … only shows on occasion, does not mean it has gone away.” (My emphasis.)

A “false negative” is when you decide that your individual will not be violent, and you are wrong. You may pay for this decision with your life. A “false positive” is when you think your individual will be prone to violence, and they are not. Being prepared for violence, even if your individual psychopath does not turn out to be physically violent is, of course, the safest way to play it. If you are going to err, erring on the side of caution is the best course. False positives are less damaging to us than false negatives.

There are also different kinds of “violence.” Not all violence that does damage to us is physical. Psychopaths can become financially violent and deprive us of our income, our estate, and a hundred other violations that we can all imagine.

Contributors to violence

Dr. Meloy uses what he calls a bio-psycho-social model for Violence Risk Assessment to assess an individual’s risk for violence. This consists of the biological aspects, the psychological aspects and the social aspects of the individual in question.

The first, the psychological domain, contains such things as gender, age, past history of violence, frequency of violence, how recent have they been violent, and severity of past violence, paranoia, intelligence, anger, fear problems, and the frequency and intensity of them, as well as control of impulses. Of course, the psychopathy and other attachment problems will weigh in heavily on this.

The second, the social or environmental domain, looks at the family of origin violence, economic instability and poverty, WEAPONS HISTORY, weapon skill, interest and approach behavior, as well as alcohol and or psycho-stimulant use.

The third domain is the biological one. Is there a history of head trauma, or major mental disorder (like untreated bi-polar disorder).

Dr. Meloy also emphasizes that the MOST IMPORTANT factor in his judgment is the history of past violence. The best predictor of future violence is a history of past violence.

Questions to ask yourself in doing your own “risk assessment for violence” in your psychopath are: How “provoked” is your psychopath by losing you? Do they have the paranoid personality disorder, in which they feel “that everyone is out to get them,” with a long memory for imagined slights or wounds from those people “out to get them”? Are they chronically angry, fearful and jealous? Some forms of illegal drugs will also contribute to paranoia, and as the use of drugs and the interest and reliance on weapons goes up, so does the risk of violence. Dr. Maloy mentions the killing of Nichole Brown Simpson, where she was not only killed, but after death her body almost beheaded. He says that drugs, along with the rage, could have easily lowered the threshold for the abandonment rage which probably motivated the killer.

Fear and stalking

Dr. Meloy also goes into the lack of difference between biochemical reactions to both fear and anger. Both cause the same reaction within the body. How intense is the anger response in the person you are evaluating? How does the person handle anger?

Dr. Meloy differentiates between two different kinds of violence by illustrating his text with a story about a cat.

We have all seen a cat, cornered by a dog, with its hackles raised, its tail up, hissing and spitting. That cat is emotionally reacting in a violent way to the fear inside it that it is going to be attacked by the dog. (This is called “affective” or emotional violence in reaction to a perceived threat.) Once the perceived threat is gone, the cat will quickly return to a state of calm. The purpose of this kind of violence is “threat reduction.”

The second type of violence illustrated with another story of a cat is the predatory violence, which is planned and purposeful and goal directed.

The planned and purposeful (or predatory) violence has a minimal or absent autonomic arousal, (which is the hair standing on end, the hissing and spitting etc.). As you observe the cat in predatory violence—such as stalking a mouse or bird—the cat is calm, cool and collected. It is focused on a goal as it stalks the prey. It tries to keep its purpose (violence) hidden and it tries to keep the prey from realizing that it is prey.

The brain chemicals released in each of these states of violence are completely different. The emotionally generated fear induced violence is a defense mechanism. It can still be a threat to anyone who is the perceived enemy, but it quickly subsides once the threat is gone.

With predatory violence, the predator is goal directed to do violence to the prey. They may plot and plan and take quite some time to stalk and corner the prey. The predator may strike without warning. Unlike emotionally (fear) induced violence, predatory violence is not time limited and the stalking may go on for days, weeks, months or years.

Knowing which type of violence your psychopathic adversary is involved with at any given moment can help you assess what your course of action should be. If the Psychopath is showing the “cornered cat” response, for example for being confronted in a lie, your best response is to just “back off” and let them calm down when the perceived threat is removed. If the psychopath is stalking you; emotionally, financially, or physically, they will not be so obvious to spot as the enraged cat. Once you have determined that the person you are dealing with is a psychopath, or likely one, you must assume that the person will engage in predatory violence on some level. The fact that this stalking and predatory violence may be very subtle does not make it any less dangerous.

In the short term, cornering one in a threatening manner (confrontation of any kind) can produce an emotionally violent response or even physical attack, but in the long term, the predatory violence can do more damage to us, body and soul. We need, I think, to assess the state our psychopath is operating in, and learn when to back off with confrontations, and when to prepare ourselves for “out of the blue” attacks when they are in a predatory state.



177 Comments on "Risk Assessment for Violence, Playing the Odds"

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  1. ErinBrock says:

    Thank you ALL for your words of encouragement, love and support!!!!
    Today is a NEW day……
    …….and I’m going to take a break from my thoughts today!
    My GF came by this am and we chatted about the awkwardness…..of last night….had some more tears, and then ATE some pecan pie! 🙂

    My Aunt invited us down…..I decided to go…..for another ‘re-run’ of a new THanksgiving with family…..BUT….I left a message for JR…..if he ain’t here….the bus is leaving….
    If he’s here,he’s here……if not……Holly and the kids and I will go visit the last of the suppportive family we have left. AND enjoy ourselves…..
    We may stay the night…..we may come home tonight….it’s a 2 hour drive….and we are due more snow….so we’ll see.

    You guys are so awesome….THANK YOU AGAIN!
    I guess life is a constant renegotiation of decisions and setting of boundaries…….
    I dealt with spath…..got good at it……just didn’t want to do it with my kids…..wanted a break…..but there is NO rest for the wicked!!!!
    So……off and running…..and i’m going to smile today and enjoy myself…….that’s my plan anyways….maybe that is what got me in trouble yesterday……a plan….
    OKAY…>EB….GO WITH THE FLOW !

    XXOO to you all
    EB

    BTW….Oxy….HE WAS diagnosed with ADD….and not big on the meds……at 18, can’t forecefeed them…..it’s his choice, we know that!

    Life doesn’t have to be this hard…..UNLESS WE CHOOSE IT!?!?!



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  2. Ox Drover says:

    Dear EB,

    Golly, darling I am so sorry for what is going on with you, but danged if I don’t know pretty much what you are going through, and feel just as helpless. It is NOT ONLY psychopaths that make bad decisions or make poor ones, I’ve made my own share of BAD DECISIONS and bad choices….that’s why I’m here at LF– DUH!?!!!

    I remember when Witty’s kid was refusing medications for his bi-polar and/or ADHD as well and the doctors said to her that she should MAKE HIM TAKE THEM….DUH?? What universe are they in that they can MAKE a 16 year old take anything they don’t want to. MAYBE in an alternate universe or a locked psych ward but not in real life! GO FIGURE.

    I guess I ought to just be glad that my son C isn’t robbing liquor stores or having sex with children, so there are degrees of dysfunction that is for sure! At least son C has a job, pays his taxes and contributes to society rather than uses up jail space and oxygen that could be better used for other things. Mostly, the one he harms is himself. And when you think about it, EB, how many people do THAT?! How many times have WE done that!?

    So, I’m going on with my life, with our without anyone else, and I’m not going to be embarrassed by other people’s expectations of my parenting, or how my kids behave or continue to grieve forever over the fact I DON’T HAVE a close and personal relationship with my kids like I WOULD HAVE WISHED, like I DID wish.

    Wishing for things I don’t have, or thought I had and thought I lost, but never had has given me more grief than the Loses of REAL things in life. I’m done crying over things that are NOT, THAT NEVER HAVE BEEN except in my imagination!

    Go have a good time with the folks who want to be there with you, and let Junior live his own life—for better or worse, it isn’t something you can control. No expectations=no disappointments. He’ll bake pies when he wants to, he won’t when he doesn’t. He’ll show up before the train leaves if he wants to ride, if he doesn’t show up, he didn’t want to ride. I’ve finally come to realize that son C really doesn’t like my company as much as he has said in the past he did, because he doesn’t need much of an excuse to stay away—and since he doesn’t have a wife that hates me to “blame” his distance on, then he had to find something to make me angry enough to tell him to go away—he couldn’t just man up and “go away” without an excuse. LOL Well, he doesn’t need an excuse any more to stay gone, and if I run into him at Wal Mart, I’ll speak and say “howdy do” but I’d speak to “Crazy Bob” in Wal Mart if I ran into him there, too, so that doesn’t mean a lot…but if either of them wanted to borrow $5 for gas they’d be shiat up the creek without a paddle as far as this old girl is concerned….well, I might actually give “Crazy Bob” the $5 bucks…but son C is SOL financially as far as I am concerned and he doesn’t have anyone else to fall back on that COULD help him if they were so inclined. But I figure at some point in the future, he will “get religion” again and be “oh, Mom, I am soooooo sorry, you are such a prophet! I should have listened to you and not spent my money foolishly, I sure could use a hand….”

    Or as Gem says, “The bank is closed, even for loans!”



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  3. Aeylah says:

    Dear EB,

    Just chiming in….so sorry to read about your sad TG day , your tears and your frustrating pie “event” with Jr.

    Holidays are so painfully filled with expectations
    of “family”, “sugar plums and everything nice”…the Harold Dickens stories….BAHHHUMBUG if you ask me! that’s the first mistake we make is to believe all that and expect our experience to be the same.

    How old is your son? If he’s a teenager/young adult he is probably going through his own emotional confusion and pain at what he’s experienced and seen as an example of “man hood”! He is an angry young man right now and he is like a 2 year old with the inmature narcisstic way they are….you are his batting cage. I’ve experienced the same pain with symilar cituations from both my sons in the past….my younger one 20 yrs old, seems to be in the mids of this right now, as I walk on eggshells with him…but my older one at 23 seems to have past this stage. There is hope….they do hopefully outgrow this stage and grow up. WE just have to LET GO AND LET BE….however difficult this is….I’ve learned from my own experience and many a times crying myself to pieces over it….
    ….my son whom I thought was heading into the narcisstic path, does come around and realize his part of the problem, I just have to let him go and he comes around on his own. Has shown me empathy and remorse, but at the same time I’ve had to stop trying to depend on him, believe him and control the outcome…..he will in time matue and come around.

    In my loneliness and lack of having a “man around the house” and a partner, sometimes I’ve expect too much from my sons….and so get dissapointed and frustrated every time. I set my bounderies when they get rude, insolent, abnoxcious and belligerent…..I let go!!!!! ……..and just when I think they’re done, they come back come around.
    Dont give up, just set your bounderies and let go!

    (((hugs))) and peace to you!



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  4. dancingnancies says:

    I’m not sure if this is your first time posting EDawn but if so welcome ( since this might possibly be your first non-lurker “appearance” 🙂 )

    Your situation DOES sound serious and honestly I don’t believe that you are necessarily reacting to old tapes. If you didn’t check out “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin Debecker I suggest you do. In fact, here’s a link : http://www.amazon.com/Gift-Fear-Gavin-Becker/dp/0440226198 The premise of the book is that violence CAN be predicted.. we just tend to suppress the signals which alert us to it. If we are more aware of them, we have a much better chance of staying safe. I ordered it and it just arrived recently so I still have yet to complete it ( in fact I’ve only about skimmed the surface.. just a chapter or two) I think that you should take as much precautions as you feel you should. It does strike me as rather odd that he has multiple deceased women in his past? And one of them a suicide.. but I suppose any inferences on those would just be guesses..

    YOU know most about your situation and those who don’t understand- they don’t understand because they haven’t been in your shoes and don’t know what he’s capable of. Or it’s easier for them to reassure you otherwise, because it’s a safer feeling.

    The motorcycle incident is very disturbing and I am so sorry that you went through that. What a trauma. You did well by getting away.. if I were you I would speak to someone who is well versed in criminology and tell him/her your story. If you could perhaps find someone in your area.. it would help if they know about sociopathy but i suppose it’s not necessarily a prerequisite as the actions he’s already taken are huge red flags in and of themselves. Maybe someone here on LoveFraud with more experience on your situation could even give you advice. It’s good that you’re aware, I’m sure it’s difficult to find validation amongst people around you as they have no idea what you’re going through.. but stick to your gut feeling, as I’ve learned it’s usually right.

    I am very sorry for your losses as a result of this guy. Many here I’m sure can relate… if not all. Hope that this pans out and you find out what you’ve gotta do. Best



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  5. kim frederick says:

    Edawn, Have the police investigated the deaths of, “his Angel’s”? I think you should talk to them. At least let them know of your suspicions and fears. I think you have reason to be afraid of him. Don’t doubt yourself.
    I’m sorry I don’t have more advise about how to protect yourself…but I do believe you should contact the police and at least have a talk with them.



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  6. Ox Drover says:

    Dear Edawns,

    There is an article here on LF (I am out of town right now and don’t have access to my records and computer at home) I wrote on books for people being STALKED….

    I think you need to ASSUME that this guy is out to kill you, and that does not mean you are nuts or “just paranoid” because when someone is out to kill you, you FEEL PARANOID….been there, and done that, and ESCAPED with my life. ONLY ESCAPED BECAUSE I WAS PARANOID….so it sounds to me like your GUT is telling you that there is A PREDATOR IN THE BUSHES.

    There are ways to “disappear” and leave no PAPER trail behind. I suggest you do just that. Which may mean that you have to leave everyone you know behind as well, just like someone who is a “protected” witness.

    Just off the top of my head I remember that California is pretty good about allowing stalking victims to change their names and identifier information…so you may need to go there to start. Do some research on line about this, in the mean time, do not have any documentation on your actual whereabouts, i.e. NO paper with your ACTUAL residence address.

    Don’t tell ANYONE who knows you anything at this time. Start your research on how to hide in plain sight. It may also be possible to talk to someone at a DV shelter that would be able to help you. I don’t know what your financial resources are either, so that will be another consideration. Good luck and stay in touch here at LF. If there is anyone in the world who knows what you are going through and will believe you, it is HERE. I ran for my life and I am alive to tell the story. There are others here as well. (((hugs)))) and my prayers for your safety.



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