“Personality disorder” as an excuse for criminal behavior

One of the good things about the conviction of Jerry Sandusky on almost all counts related to molesting 10 boys was that his lame personality disorder defense did not fly.

Histrionic personality disorder? Huh? That was the prevailing reaction when defense attorneys claimed that the former Penn State assistant football coach wrote those “creepy” letters because he suffers from histrionic personality disorder.

Read the creepy letters

Several experts in personality disorders were quoted in news reports stating that even if Sandusky does have histrionic personality disorder, it would not be an excuse for the molestation.

Why not?

It’s quite simple: Most people with personality disorders are not delusional. Those with antisocial, borderline, narcissistic and yes, histrionic personality disorders are not “hearing voices” or out of touch with reality. (By the way, the American Psychiatric Association is in the process of revising its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Histrionic personality disorder isn’t even included in the new version.)

Over and over, Lovefraud readers tell me about outrageous deceit, manipulation and conscienceless behavior in their own interactions with personality-disordered individuals. Here is the common denominator: Sociopaths know exactly what they are doing. They just feel entitled to do what they want, and do not care who gets hurt in the process.

I was worried about the introduction of “personality disorder” as a defense in a criminal trial. Because it was permitted in the Sandusky case, would it open the door for all the defense attorneys in the country to blame their clients’ crimes on personality disorders? This would be a serious problem, because researchers estimate that 47 percent of male and 21 percent of female prison inmates have antisocial personality disorder.

For the most part, people with personality disorders are quite capable of making choices about their behavior. They know the difference between right and wrong, although they may have no emotional investment in doing what is right. They can follow society’s rules and laws when it suits their purpose.

Jerry Sandusky was convicted. I hope this continues to mean that when these disordered people commit crimes, they won’t be able to get off by claiming the psychological equivalent of, “the devil made me do it.”

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46 Comments on "“Personality disorder” as an excuse for criminal behavior"

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Yes, slimed and WTF? That’s exactly my reaction. But I’m glad, on some level, that I have his written words. They’re there. He can’t change them or deny them or warp them like he did so much of what he said verbally. They’re a concrete reminder of what he is. I taught college-level English, but didn’t realize until the end of both spath “relationships” that there were clues in the diction all along.
I believe that I did have nightmares, but I don’t remember them. I slept only in short bursts, and I’d always wake up suddenly and with a feeling of overwhelming fear and anxiety. I was desperate for a sound, peaceful sleep, and I knew that the PTSD I was experiencing during the day was heightened by weeks without sleep. I went to the doctor at my local walk-in clinic for help. As embarrassed as I was, I gave him the brief story of why I was at the end of my rope and asked for a prescription so that I could sleep. I was met with manipulation and condescension–and then given what amounted to a placebo prescription. That night, while on the phone with a dear friend from high school who is also a doctor in another state, I was told that I’d exhibited drug-seeking behavior and, after all the crying and insomnia, probably looked strung out. I keep getting the bill from that doctor, for all the unnecessary tests he did that he assured me would be covered by my insurance, and am waiting for my anger toward him to subside before I confront him about his behavior. I can’t imagine how many of us survive these awful encounters only to be met with disbelief and further manipulation and condescension from those from whom we seek help.
It’s amazing, though, how we’re sometimes able to find strength through our dreams, as Truthspeak articulates. The mind is extraordinarily powerful, and I’m thankful for sites like this that not only support members emotionally but offer knowledge and paths to personal growth.

And yes, he’s educated. Still upset that he didn’t get into Harvard and had to suffer through the 12th best liberal arts education in the country.

Hilary, ugh – the victim-blame is infuriating, and it can be so demeaning and humiliating.

I believe that this is why I so strongly urge survivors of socipathic entanglements to seek counseling through their local domestic violence agencies. What we have all experienced was, on some level, abuse and/or violence. And, whether it’s a domestic partner, family member, or co-worker, it’s all abusive.

The intelligent sociopath is frightful – they use their education to their best manipulative advantages, and it’s sickening. A friend of mine who has a degree in psychology was taken in by a spath professor and got herself out of it before it went too far – thank goodness. But, at one point, she was outraged at the fact that this was an “educated man” and that it had been so difficult to see any indications that he was spath. My feeling is that any arena where there is power and control is a venue for spaths to operate. What better power is there than a make-or-break position of authority with regard to a student’s success or failure? With one stroke of a pen, a student’s years of effort can be dashed, along with their hopes and dreams of a career. What could be more powerful than that, aside from being a Judge?

Tzzzzzzzz…..so glad that you are out, Hilary. So very, very glad for you.

I’ve noticed your advocacy of such, Truthspeak, and it’s brilliant. Thank you. It’s so important to spread the word about where victims can go to heal and learn–and to go from victim to survivor.
Nick was a classic snake in a suit, always striving for more power, more money, more of everything. He makes six figures as a biotech consultant in the health care field–and although he can’t seem to keep a job for more than a couple of years, one company after another keeps not only hiring him but promoting him. Right now, he’s employed by a company that publicly prides itself on innovation, values, and quality of life! Ha! I read somewhere that the health care industry is overrun with sociopaths, which probably shouldn’t be surprising.
A spath professor would be incredibly dangerous to his students, both as professor and predator. It’s natural to admire our “teachers” in life, so he’s positioned perfectly for the strike. Ugh.
Thanks for your kind words. I remind myself every day to be grateful that I’m out, grateful that I’m no longer confused, and grateful to his other woman for putting herself in the line of fire, however unintentionally, and sparing me more pain. I’m glad your friend is out, and that we’re all here doing the work to protect ourselves, too!

Thanks Donna, I hope that PA enforces their sex offenders list and compliance better than Arkansas does.

When Hamilton moved to Arkansas and I found out he was a sexual predator “Level 4 in Texas” and he was NOT reporting his living address in Arkansas, and I found out taht since he had NOT BEEN “ASSESSED” in Arkansas that he didn’t have to report his address and my local sheriff could not arrest him as not reporting his address.

Then I called the assessment board and this woman told me that they were a year behind, that they did about 5,000 assessments per year and that they got 5,000 new ones each year so they STAYED 5,000 assessments behind. He had been here about 10 months by then.

So I spoke to a supervisior and raised a bit of the specter that I might go on the news with the information about him not being assessed etc. and I gave them 3 days to have him assessed before I went to the news stations…well, they did assess him, and assessed him as a level TWO!!!! When I asked about why he was a 4 high risk for viiolence in Texas and a level 2 in Arkansas where you would only have to search for him by NAME not just an address or area, they said, and I quote: “well, he didn’t do any of these crimes in ARKANSAS” Rape a 9 year old, an 11 year old and a 14 year old and because it was done in Texas he got a level 2 in Arkansas. WTF????

Sandusky, like donna said, due to his age and the FAME of the situation will probably be in prison until he is on his death bed with cancer or heart problems etc. and I don’t think any judge in America would DARE give him a slap on the wrist sentence.

I hope the victims of Sandusky will sue and bankrupt his estate…and I know his wife wasn’t convicted of these crimes and that will effect her, but I hope the victims get something out of it.

Thank you for this thread! My experience interviewing family members of these “paths” leads me to believe there is “knowledge” and “understanding” of the actions being carried out with intent and feeling “justified” to do the actions.

I have one study of a woman in her sixties that carried out actions since childhood that would have landed most “in jail”; her family covered her “in shame”. I asked each family member “Why?”: “she wants what everybody else has”!

This family’s “dirty little secret” has bilked many a person, stolen reputations, and caused harm to person/property and continues to operate while writing a small town paper column to “self promote” her “angelic” persona while trolling for new “victims”; she targets vulnerable.

Yes, she has a mental illness and has been in patient diagnosed with co morbid bipolar. Yes, she is aware she is “stealing, robbing and committing crimes (perjury/false police reports, theft, assault, conspiracy, and probably more)” and told she derives pleasure from her “success”! I was recently “warned or threatened” that I remain in her “sites”.


I haven’t read through all of the comments, as I’m uninterested in reading other’s opinions on personality disorders. But I’m very disappointed in your statement:

“For the most part, people with personality disorders are quite capable of making choices about their behavior. They know the difference between right and wrong, although they may have no emotional investment in doing what is right. They can follow society’s rules and laws when it suits their purpose.”

Who are you referring to? ALL people diagnosed with personality disorders or particular personality disorders? From what I read, you’re not a licensed mental health professional, just a journalist. I don’t know where you get off making such an ignorant statement. “ALTHOUGH THEY MAY HAVE NO EMOTIONAL INVESTMENT IN DOING WHAT IS RIGHT.”

You should NOT make the assumption that people with personality disorders are like that. Especially since you don’t even specify. Obviously you are not familiar with the different types. I AM very well educated on them, especially on Borderline Personality Disorder. Your statement doesn’t even make sense.

Before you make outrageous statements like that, better get your facts straight.

I found the statement Donna made to be totally true….Many of us will never see what we are calling people with personality disorders….psychopaths….sociopaths diagnosed as such…..but we do see the reality of the symptoms that are manifested….and being able to understand it in some way here on Love Fraud is extremely helpful to our healing from the insidious nightmare we have been in….

Thank you Donna and everyone….there are so few “professionals” who even have a clue of what we are dealing with….and I for one spent a lot of money….getting no help at all….

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