Stalkers and Social Engineering – Selective Memory

Abusive individuals, stalkers and criminals specializing in destroying or selling human beings (e.g.: human traffickers, pimps, etc.) all have one primary goal in common: isolate the target. If the targeted individual has a protective, supportive, reliable and reasonably healthy community of people, then perpetrating the intended crime is extremely difficult, if not impossible. One method of isolating a specific person is through identifying and targeting their inner circle of friends and family.

Establishing Trust

This requires establishing rapport with those individuals, which can be done in any number of ways including (but not limited to): flattery, gifts, professional introductions, presenting the ‘good person’ persona (e.g.: at church), telling jokes, flirting, presenting professional credentials (e.g.: clergy, police officer, social services worker, doctor, teacher, psychologist, employee at a respected company, etc.), etc.

Creating an Accomplice

After the relationship has been established and the stalker has built up the trust of the inner-circle-member (read: friend or relative), discussions about the target are initiated.  By this point, the stalker has also identified enough of the prejudices, concerns and overall history of the friend or relative and will use this information to convince them to go along with attacking the target.

Invariably, the goal is increased power over the target, potentially absolute control, up to and including selling the individual into modern slavery. The accomplice will either be convinced this goal, as awful as it may sound, is for the best; or they will be told (and believe) the actual goal is something else entirely – but the permanent removal or isolation of the target is usually assumed and accepted.

Selective Memory

If the friend or relative has qualms about manipulating the target or other people on the stalker’s behalf, then the selective memory technique is used. This technique involves taking on the role of teacher and training the friend or family member to carefully focus on specific negative memories.

The stalker patiently walks their accomplice through identifying the worst memory they have associated with the target. That one fight they had in the fifth grade, the 12th birthday party that didn’t go as planned or that Saturday night during college when the evening did not end well. It could be a legitimately awful thing the target did, or it could be a normal falling out that occurs during every relationship. What is important is not the legitimacy of the event but the feelings the accomplice had as a result.

In short: remember that one time this person made you feel bad. Every time you’re not sure you can do this, remember that one time he or she made you feel bad.

This is repeated over and over, within the context of a patient and concerned teacher walking the accomplice through necessary painful steps to reach a specific goal.

Spotting Manipulation

Training another person to use selective memory to achieve a goal is a form of manipulation. It distorts reality, clouds thinking, and grooms the accomplice for additional activities that are equally unethical and (possibly) illegal.

When a person attempts to convince you (or another person) to focus all attention on a single event, consciously disregarding all other aspects to the relationship, it’s a huge red flag and a clear indication that this individual needs to be kept at a distance or eliminated from your social circle.

Bullying Is A Community Effort

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Amazon.com

To complicate matters, I realized that the girls’ parents were just as gossipy and juvenile as their daughters. At my daughter’s soccer game one afternoon, I heard several mothers talking about some of the players. They remarked on how fat some of the girls on the team were and how they should be at fat camp, not on the varsity soccer team. As they went on, I got angrier and angrier. They were chatting away about someone’s child. I left at halftime because I was disgusted with their behavior. Even if I wasn’t teaching my daughter this type of behavior, it was everywhere. Her peers were bullies, their parents were bullies, and it only made sense that Emily would learn to act that way too, in order to fit in. It seemed we were living in an environment where we couldn’t escape it.

Bullies ruined my childhood. Then I realized my daughter is one., Vox.com, by Kate Young on March 3, 2016

Elements of Workplace Mobbing

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Mobbing happens when conflicts in a workplace (1) escalate out of control, (2) begin to involve increasing numbers of people, (3) are left without effective intervention by management, (4) result in the targeting of a victim for blame (otherwise known as scapegoating) who is then held responsible for both starting and stopping the conflict and who, ultimately, is eliminated from the organization.

Overcoming Mobbing: A Recovery Guide for Workplace Aggression and Bullying by Maureen Duffy Ph.D., Len Sperry Ph.D.

October is national bullying prevention month!

Bad Management, Company Culture and Workplace Mobbing

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Unhealthy and toxic organizational culture and leadership combine to create mobbing-prone organizations. Singling out an individual “bully” to blame and purge from the organization is generally a poor and wrong-headed solution to what is an organizational and not an individual problem.

In addition to multiple acts of proactive unethical communication, the ganging up and mobbing process also includes a form of unethical communication characterized by failure to act or silence in the face of worker mistreatment. These kinds of aggressive acts against a victim include acts of omission that involve failure to take action when action is called for. Such aggressive acts of omission are frequently committed by management and administration in their efforts to appear uninvolved in an escalating conflict that results in the mobbing of a victim.

Overcoming Mobbing: A Recovery Guide for Workplace Aggression and Bullying by Maureen Duffy Ph.D., Len Sperry Ph.D.

October is national bullying prevention month!

Devastating Group Dynamics

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For mobbing victims, the huge disappointment is that the choice a bystander is most likely to make is the choice to not get involved and do nothing. From the perspective of the mobbing victim that choice represents betrayal. The mobbing victim is likely to think that coworkers will come to his or her aid and defense. That they usually do not is devastating to the victim, who valued his or her relationships with coworkers and who no longer feels able to trust them. From the perspective of the bystanders, trying to keep their distance is about fear and self-preservation. Bystanders do not want to have happen to them what happened to their mobbed coworker. The fear and avoidance of the social exclusion at the heart of workplace mobbing is deeply ingrained if not primal.

Overcoming Mobbing: A Recovery Guide for Workplace Aggression and Bullying by Maureen Duffy Ph.D., Len Sperry Ph.D.

Admiration List: Monica Lewinsky

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Monica Lewinsky is someone most people would not include on an admiration list because of her connection to President Clinton and the scandal that brought the White House under investigation and significant political fire.

She was 22 when her affair with President Clinton was revealed and exploited by both the Republican party and the news media (read: ratings, revenue, non-stop-sensationalist ‘news’ stories about every possible sexually graphic detail…you get the idea).

I was also in my twenties at the time and, as details about the investigation hit the news media, all I could think about was how this women was a victim. She was seduced by the most powerful man in the world. He was her boss, a career politician and a well known serial-seducer. By all accounts, she was neither his first, nor his last, conquest. This was predatory manipulation of a naive young women and, possibly, harassment.

Unfortunately, the scandal occurred during the 1990s, which was also when the details of the Anita Hill vs Clarence Thomas trial were frequently challenged as ‘not really harassment’ by most of the adults I knew. That trial outlined a situation that could be defined as workplace rape, yet people continued to justify it. As for Monica Lewinsky – presenting her as a potential victim was incomprehensible.

Not surprisingly, Monica Lewinsky faced a level of public humiliation, shame and ostracism that is hard to comprehend. She was publicly cast as a home wrecker, a whore and a litany of other things; while Clinton was…you know….a powerful man. You can’t blame him, it was that woman.

Fast forward many years and Ms. Lewinsky has resurfaced as a strong, confident woman. She is an anti-bullying activist, putting her own experiences with public humiliation to good use as she works to prevent suicide and fight cyber-bullying, face-to-face bullying and mobbing.

I admire all people who have faced incredibly difficult experiences and, somehow, managed to reach the other side. I have great admiration for people who use those experiences to become stronger and more determined to help others who have also been through the proverbial fire. Monica Lewinsky has done that.

Ms. Lewinsky has been added to my admiration list because, frankly, she deserves it.

Friendship Wins

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October is Bullying Prevention Month!

“I decided I’d rather be a Friend Fish than a Fresh Fish…That sounds like fun. Just looking cool gets boring after a while.”

Sea Monster and the Bossy Fish, written by Kate Messner and illustrated by Andy Rash

Work and the Aftermath of Abuse

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For most people, work is central to their survival—it’s how they make a living for themselves and those they care about and how they pay their way in the world. Work is also about belonging to something larger than oneself, and the relationships that are part of the workplace support that sense of belonging. When work is recognized as central to survival and belonging, it’s a lot less surprising that many victims don’t easily get over workplace mobbing and go on to develop symptoms of PTSD and/or depression.

Overcoming Mobbing: A Recovery Guide for Workplace Aggression and Bullying by Maureen Duffy Ph.D., Len Sperry Ph.D.

Bullying Ravens and Silver Wings

Amazon.com

This book is about a big Raven who bully’s a little raven and how they (eventually) become friends. It’s beautifully illustrated and presents an excellent (and often overlooked) perspective – the remorsefully bully. However, it provides very little in the way of useful or positive advice for those being bullied. Highly recommended as a conversation starter, particularly if used in conjunction with books geared toward providing practical advice to victims of bullying.

“I fell asleep, but in my dream I saw him flying still higher, the beating of his little heart thundering in my ears. When he was close to the moon, a harsh blinding light lit up the sky. It took me a moment before I could see clearly but then I saw him. He was gliding high above, his wings glittering silvery and as bright as the moon itself.”

The Little Moon Raven by Marcus Pfister

October is National Bullying Prevention Month

Fear, Resistance and Risk

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“Take This job and Shove It”: How Targets and Witnesses Fight Back When Faced with Bullying

Seeing what happened to others communicated in no uncertain terms what would happen if witnesses became targets. There was no question that bullying environments were marked by profound fear within entire workgroups.”

Resistance is risky business for workers, and there is always the potential for unintended consequences: they want change but are punished; they report abuse but are stigmatized for reporting; they fight back and are called insubordinate. The inherent risk is why most resistance is covert. Resistance always holds risk for workers, but the risk is even more pronounced in environments where employees are systematically abused.

Adult Bullying-A Nasty Piece of Work: Translating a Decade of Research on Non-Sexual Harassment, Psychological Terror, Mobbing, and Emotional Abuse on the Job by Pamela Lutgen-Sandvik

Note: For more information about combating workplace bullying, visit the Workplace Bullying Institute, Beyond Bullying Association, the International Association on Workplace Bullying & Harassment (IAWBH) and the International Conference on Workplace Bullying.