Last Sunday, the Asbury Park Press, a New Jersey newspaper, published a front-page article about the career of Edward J. Devine. On August 1, 2008, Devine was sentenced to five years in prison for bouncing checks and deceiving nonprofit and educational institutions.
The bulk of the story was not about those crimes, but what Devine did to the women in his life. Claiming to be the heir to a Sonoma wine company and a trucking mogul, he left one wife, Donna Devine, and her mother $400,000 in debt. He wiped out the inheritance of another wife, Deborah Weiss. He forced his first wife, Carol Ceralli, into bankruptcy.
It’s a story that many of us know, and some of us have experienced.
But what is significant to me about this story is that it was brought to my attention by my brother. He saw the story in the Asbury Park Press and sent me the link.
That same day, my husband suggested that I look into Mike Wooten, the trooper at the root of Sarah Palin’s Troopergate. My husband was the one who read the newspaper articles about Wooten. “The cop looks like one of your guys,” he said.
I investigated further, and my husband was right. In my opinion, Wooten is a sociopath.
So last Sunday, two members of my family alerted me to stories about sociopaths. They’ve learned what these predators look like.
I consider this a sign of success. I’ve been talking about sociopaths, and they’ve been listening.
Criticized by my family
It wasn’t always this way. When I was in the midst of the trauma, trying to pick up the pieces of my shattered life after learning that James Montgomery, my ex-husband, was a con artist, I could not talk to my family about it.
They criticized me for not listening to them when they expressed doubts. (This was after I was married to Montgomery—no one said anything before I married him.) Then they criticized my recovery methods. I quickly learned that it was best not to tell them what I was doing.
Eventually, however, I worked my way out of the hole. I also began to develop Lovefraud. But it took time. Lovefraud launched more than five years after my divorce.
Now, when I tell my family that more than 1,000 people who have written to Lovefraud with stories of being targeted by sociopaths, they seem to realize that I wasn’t as stupid as they thought I was. Anyone can be a victim.
Talking about the sociopath
So how do you talk to people about your experience with sociopaths? I think two preliminary steps are necessary:
First, you need to educate yourself about sociopaths. (The fact that there is so much confusion about what to call them—sociopaths, psychopaths, antisocials—doesn’t help.) Learn that millions of people have the disorder. Although there are symptoms and warning signs, these people are experts at hiding them. Treatment options are few to none. Everyone will run across a sociopath at some point, and if they don’t recognize the predator, they will become a target.
Second, you need to be able to discuss sociopaths as an educator, not as a victim. This means you probably are not going to be able to do it while the experience is raw. If you’re still coping with the pain, horror, self-doubt and grief, your friends and family will interpret your words as self-pity, and will come back with the refrain, “Get over it, already.” During the early phases of your recovery, it’s probably best to express yourself with the understanding community here at Lovefraud, rather than with your personal acquaintances who, however well-meaning, simply don’t understand.
But eventually, if you give yourself time and permission to heal, you will. And then, with your understanding of this destructive personality disorder, and your personal experience, you’ll be able to talk knowledgably about sociopaths to your friends and family. They’ll begin to understand, and start to recognize sociopaths on their own.
When you’re ready, you’ll be able to shine a light on these predators, and perhaps deny them a few victims. And that will lend some meaning of your awful experience.