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Does anything work in getting a victim away from a sociopath?

Since Lovefraud launched in 2005, I’ve collected 2,850 cases—people who have contacted me to tell me about their experiences with a sociopath. In nearly 100 of these cases—3.4%—the person who contacted me was not actually the victim, but was a friend or family member who was trying to pry the victim away from the sociopath. For example, here’s an email that Lovefraud recently received:

I have a sister-in-law who is dating a married man, who claims he will be getting a divorce, which is still yet to happen. Now she’s pregnant with his kid so things are more serious. They were supposed to move out together a couple months ago, but when the day came he disappeared, then a couple weeks later she found out she was pregnant by him then they were in contact again. Anyways, they went ahead and got an apartment again, which he’s not living in because he is still living with his wife, so it’s a come and go when he pleases… He’s using her! This is not his first child out of wedlock, in fact, he has no contact with the other one and he has now cheated on his wife six times! All these red flags, and all she does is cover up for him. I’ve noticed she’s been depressed and been doing irresponsible things with her health as a result of this guy! Everyone also bluntly tells her that she’s basically his whore, so she knows how everyone feels. What do I do to open her eyes?

Lovefraud’s standard advice in this situation is that there isn’t much someone else can do—it’s up to the person who is involved with a sociopath to open her own eyes and see what is going on. In order to break away, the victim must feel, and own, the negative emotions associated with being controlled and/or abused. This will spark the victim’s desire to get out.

The best thing loved ones can do is stay in contact with the victim, because the sociopath will try to isolate him or her. Friends and loved ones should be emotionally supportive of the individual, but not supply material support, such as money or a place to live. The idea, essentially, is to wait it out, and then, when the relationship crashes and burns, be there to pick up the pieces.

Dr. Liane Leedom explained this approach in her article, “How can I get my _____ away from the psychopathic con artist?”

I’ve sent many, many people the link to that article. But every time I do, it is so dissatisfying. Isn’t there anything a loved one can do?

I understand that people become deeply bonded to sociopaths, especially when they are emotionally and physically intimate, and more especially when they are pregnant. I wrote a whole chapter in my new book, Red Flags of Love Fraud, that explains exactly how this happens. Chapter 6 is called “Sociopathic sex and bonding,” and it explains the psychology and biology of how this powerful psychological love bond is formed.

Here’s a chapter by chapter summary of the book.

Still, I don’t like the idea of just waiting around the victim hits bottom. Sometimes, by the time that happens, the victim is so broken that there is no recovery. And sometimes, when the victim hits bottom, she is dead.

So, I ask Lovefraud readers: Have you ever conducted a successful intervention? If you were the friend or family member of someone in the clutches of a sociopath, were you able to get him or her out? How? Or, if you were the person bonded to the sociopath, did anyone ever do or say anything that gave you the strength to leave?

If anything works, please let us know. I’d love to be able to offer more heartening suggestions.



115 Comments on "Does anything work in getting a victim away from a sociopath?"

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  1. ColoradoKathy says:

    Dear Heartbroken Mom,
    You wrote: “…they all said that they wouldn’t have believed us anyway.”
    Mom, this is a letter of thanks to you for trying to warn your DIL.
    One of the most horrid elements of my (finally! concluded) marriage of thirty years to a psychopath was knowing his family had to be aware of his disorder but didn’t say a word until after the ceremony…about a year later, his mother let on that “he’s a pathological liar” and that was the only warning I got, way too late to save me and our two daughters from the conniving, methodical, calculating destruction they knew was ahead for us.
    His mother was sadly affected by a premature form of Alzheimer’s and passed away. Throughout the years, his father shared venomous feelings for my husband, claiming he’d “turned into somebody else” in his late teens and broken the man’s heart. I defended my husband against all these tales and the accusations that attended them. At 94, my FIL passed away, leaving a substantial estate to my husband and his sister.
    Well, guess what?!
    My husband decided to dump me and the kids for a married woman he met at work, and to keep all of “Grandpa’s” money for himself.
    No, it didn’t work out that way in the affair or the legal proceeding, thankfully! — but that was his wish for the loyal wife and daughters who only thought they knew him.
    The man has spent the past three years living it up on his father’s money while the rest of us work, weep and wonder what’s next. (Just now he called to tell me he’d be happy to paint my house and would give me a good rate.)
    My mom died when I was young and I’ve no local extended family to rely on or to offer the kids for support. His only other relative is a sister out-of-town who says he was a pain for their family too. Yeah….I’ll bet.
    And, I’ll bet they were just thrilled to see their problem getting married off to somebody who’d take care of him for them. Where a nasty young man was before, a lovely (if artificial) family appeared. What my husband has done is literally his father’s worst fear, he’s everything my FIL said and more (less), a nightmare of lies, manipulation and abuse. IF ONLY the man and his then-sane wife would have told me BEFORE I married him, then I wouldn’t feel my kids and I had been surrounded by evil from the get-go, and JUST MAYBE I’d still be able to trust somebody, anybody, sometime in the future.
    As it is…not.
    If your son gets close enough to another relationship that you feel the partner is at risk, ABSOLUTELY — PLEASE!! — share your thoughts briefly and directly: “My son has disappointed me in his previous relationships, and I want you to know that my concerns remain.” Then if that person goes ahead with the relationship (she will, and I would have) at least she won’t feel as though you were just another guard in her torture chamber, holding open the door.



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  2. lost everything says:

    A dose of cold, hard, irrefutable facts, as often as needed, for as long as needed. General terms or vague references do nothing, except perhaps make the person you are trying to help hate you and turn even further to the spath.

    While facts are as hard to come by as any medical break through, they do work. Saying that someone is irresponsible, hurts others, takes advantage, lies, can all be denied by the person needing help and turned around by the spath. Having your victim talk to some one that was involved with the spath is a hard does of reality. Your friend may deny what the past victim says, but contrary to their words the seed has been planted. Mind seeds are like lawn weeds, they never completely go away.

    Things that were said to me by well meaning people; ‘I think he’s gay'; ‘maybe he’s doing drugs'; ‘his last girlfriend dumped him after he made her cry'; ‘I can’t put my finger on it, but something’s not right'; ‘he’s using you'; ‘you are going to get hurt'; and my favorite ‘he makes me uncomfortable to be around’. These are broad sweeping statements that, under the right circumstances, can be applied to many people.

    Don’t ever lie or exaggerate about the spath to the person you are trying to help. As Sargent Joe Friday said;”just the facts”. Once a victim catches you in a lie about the spath, even if you meant it in all best intentions, they will never believe you or any of your words again. The spath will be the hero, without lifting a finger.

    When dealing with an spath, I also believe that a physical separation is a wonder drug. I think the Amish rite of “rumspringa” is a perfect antidote to the spath. The victim gets to see the real world with no input from the spath. The old chestnut, ” absence makes the heart grow fonder” does not apply to anything to do with the spath as the spath has no heart. The victim will grieve, cry, for being away from their ‘love’ at first; but seeing and living in a world without the sociopath additive, will eventually take over. The freedom is exhilarating.

    Or maybe the Amish people could offer a ‘retreat’ program for people in a sociopathic relationship. They have to do nothing except let us live in their world with no phones, computers, no contact with the spath, nothing. For us a carefree, threatfree, sociopath free time; a chance to meet ourselves again. A reverse rumspringa.



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  3. fight says:

    I think any friend or family member of either a sociopath or their new victim, might consider anonymously sending a copy of Donna’s book to the new victim. I have not ordered it yet, but plan to soon. Just the Red Flags would be a gift to someone who has not heard of sociopaths and their behaviors. But, I would always recommend mailing it anonymously and from a different city than you are from. I was able to talk to my father in law several times. But, we made a deal that neither of us would ever tell. He told me that he and his wife (who has dementia) thought that their son just needed to find the “right” good woman to marry. THEY were asking me what I thought was wrong with him. Everyone involved could be in danger of revenge of the spath. I think all warnings should be clinical (Donna’s book or a type written reference to this web site) and anonymous. Spaths are a danger to their families also.



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  4. Tea Light says:

    In response to the original letter, telling a pregnant woman who has been manipulated and exploited that she is ”basically his whore” is unlikely to do much to increase her self esteem sufficiently to enable her to establish and maintain healthy boundaries. Concerend friends and family need to understand that clear thinking and self protection goes out of the window when we are targetted by these ruthless exploiters. We have to fight to get clarity and to recovery, and that comes with no contact, with education, with increased self awareness and awareness of psychopathy / abusive personalities. The focus for those who care should always be on trying to raise the self esteem and self protective instincts of the victim, until they are ready to move forward.



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  5. HeartbrokenSister says:

    I am new to this, but wanted you all to know I feel better knowing I am not alone…..unfortunately. This is all so sad.

    I have 2 sister that I am very close with. I am married and have 4 kids. We have divorced parents however our parents raised us to ALWAYS stay close to each other, which we always have until 2 years ago when our little sister let a psychopath she met on a dating website (yes while he was married) with 5 kids move in for 30 days. He was just retiring from the Military (Army).

    My grandparents live on one street (they recently passed away), my father next to them, my niece (older sister’s daughter) lives next to my dad; my sister who is dating the psychopath lives next to my dad; our mom lived in the garage converted apartment with my sister dating the psychopath; my cousin lives on the other side of my sister. Again – our family is very close and have NEVER had anything like this happen in our family.

    We are 48, 49 & 50 years old now and even though we had our teenager typical fights, we have ALWAYS remained close. Our little sister has no kids; very educated; financially set; great job; house paid off; money saved & wanted to retire early. She was an awesome aunt to our kids.

    February 2 years ago this psychopath called my sister to say he was getting a divorce & needed a place to stay “for 30 days”. My sister cut it off with him after she realized he was married back when she met him on-line.

    My older sister and I both told her (because we ALWAYS told each other the truth or like it was-but not as trying to be mean), “There’s NO WAY this guy will be out in 30 days, especially if he has 5 kids; a wife who didn’t work, plus he just retired from the Army as a Ranger, so we knew his retirement wasn’t enough money to cover all of his “baggage”, plus go find a place of his own.”

    Well, like most of the articles I have read says “he moved very quickly” to start up a relationship with my sister again. We started noticing our sister would stay home on the weekends when he had his kids – when he just moved in for the “30 days” they were “just friends” at first and she would go out every weekend with her friends.

    We, as we always have, started telling her “things are looking sketchy. We’re not sure this guy is all that he is bragging to be”. This guy bragged so much about “killing people during the war & he was Mr. Tough Green Beret” we knew this is NOT normal if you have to brag like this. Our grandfather, whom we highly respect, was in WWII, earned a Purple Heart, Bronze Star, etc. and never once heard him ever say he killed anyone during the war. We truly believe this guy has PTSD from the Military.

    After we started trying to tell our sister things, she started distancing herself from us and didn’t want to hear it. So I continued researching things and went as far as reaching out to his ex-wife, who happens to be a very lovely lady, unlike he was telling us when we first met him. She told me alot of facts that have been exactly on point. My sister says, “She’s the bitter ex-wife” The ex-wife did not try to say mean things, she stated the facts.

    My older sister and I talk every am on my way to work. We couldn’t stop talking about, “what is going on with our little sister? What are we going to do? We have to save her! This guy is taking advantage of her!”

    Then, one day I said, “Can you imagine if she died and she never saw what we see in this psychopath and she died thinking we are these terrible sisters?” Well, about a month after this, we found out she has Triple Negative Breast Cancer. Talk about devastated – we were DEVASTATED!

    We continued to try to stay close because again, he was pulling our sister away – starting his isolation – well since February 2 years ago, she has been diagnosed with the breast cancer – has had a double mastectomy, refinanced her house (Borrowed over $100K) to help this guy with his “Up and coming Limo Business” he started after his retirement from the Militry, evicted our mother; he has cussed me out & tried to have my car towed because I was parked at my mom’s next door in his way (he could have easily backed out of the circle driveway), got in our dad’s face when he tried to stop the tow truck driver (our daddy is our world and no one messes with our daddy – he convinced my sister my dad was in the wrong and deserved it); called the cops on our mother; put a nasty &threatening note on my niece’s door because the wheel barrow wasn’t returned on time. My sister is very easy going and would have NEVER EVER put a note on the door or anything like that. My niece confronted her about it and my sister was very angry towards my niece and was okay with him putting the note on her door.

    These are just a few things that have happened in our last 2 years with this freak. As of today, our sister will not talk to us. We are again devastated because she has cancer and going through all of these treatments without us. He has also convinced her friends we are terrible sisters. Her friends have known us for many years and we are so upset that they should know better as well.

    Actually, a couple of her friends have reached out to us to say they agree with us, but don’t want to loose their relationship with her.

    This psychopath has totally disrupted our entire family. My older sister and I can barely sleep, trying to figure out what to do. I would love to know if there is actually a site to list these guys names so women/men can look up to see if they are “On the psychopath list”?

    Thanks for listening and sorry to ramble on – I could go on for hours with so many stories about this guy.



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    • Heartbroken sister – I am so sorry for your experience. Please understand that your sister is being mind controlled. She is also experiencing cognitive dissonance. What this means is that if anyone tries to “talk sense” into her about being involved with the man, she is forced to defend her position, which has the effect of pushing her further into his web.

      Therefore, anything you can do to keep communications open with your sister will be helpful. It’s probably best not to talk about the man – talk about easy topics, maybe things from your childhood.

      You might want to get the book “Freedom of Mind” by Steve Hassan. he’s an expert on cults, and essentially your sister is in a cult of one.



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