Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

I Carry a Gun Now

(Photo by BW Square on Unsplash)

I’ve been riding a roller coaster of emotions for the last month because a crazy guy formed a connection with me. I have PTSD from things that happened to me in the past, and his unwanted attention kicked it into maximum overdrive. Writing, focusing, and functioning have been difficult, although I’ve been trying to maintain a regular routine.

This guy has been driving by my house with his dog for over a year. I could always hear him coming down the road because he would go slow and let his dog yap through the open window. He has an adorable dog, and I enjoyed hearing that dog bark when he drove by, as crazy as that sounds, because it made me smile. He came by about the same time every evening, and it was always just him and his dog. I could never get a good look at the guy because he always sat hunched down in the seat, but he was a white guy with a beard and wore a hat or bandanna on his head. I thought he was weird. It was creepy how he drove around like that every evening, even when gas was $5.00 a gallon. I figured he worked all day and then hung out with his dog after work. But he seemed like the loneliest guy in the world.

As I became more aware of him, he became more aware of me. I had a strange feeling that he and I would eventually come face to face.

The dirt road behind our property crosses a dry wash. I often walk through our back lot and along that dirt road into the wash. The wash curves behind our neighbors’ properties and onto another road. As I came from the wash one evening, who did I run into in his truck? The weird guy. He leered at me and smiled. We recognized each other, locked eyes, and something passed between us. I immediately felt uncomfortable, vulnerable, easy prey, and targeted. But like a stupid fool, I waved at him without thinking, and we both went our separate ways.

A few days later, he saw me walking down the road and stopped his truck to talk to me. He had his dog with him and started talking to me as best friends. I immediately felt a strong creep vibe and SEXUAL PREDATOR kept flashing in my head. Although he looked like a fully mature adult, he was much younger than me and came off as childish with an intellectual disability. We had a short conversation about rattlesnakes and dog bites. Although he was friendly and very polite, he kept trying to play on my sympathies and reel me in, but I cut it off, wished him a good evening, and headed home. I walked away feeling a strong connection between us and kept saying to myself: “I don’t want to have a connection with this guy.”

I have fifteen years of experience working with inpatient psychiatric patients and made a quick mental health assessment in my head as we were talking. I concluded the following based on his body language, speech, presentation, and interaction:

  • Delayed thought processes (mentally slow)
  • Unable to keep up the conversation (inarticulate)
  • poor education
  • Sexually and emotionally deprived
  • Socially awkward and sexually inept
  • Looking for attention, intimacy, and a mother to nurture and take care of him
  • Very needy
  • Mommy issues – either living with his mother or no mother in the picture
  • Probable history of psychiatric care and medication
  • Use of pornography and possible sexual molestation of children (based on his childish nature)
  • Possible criminal history

Once again, I felt uncomfortable, vulnerable, easy prey, and targeted, but at least I knew something about the guy. I told my husband about the incident and figured things would go on as usual. Instead, the guy’s behavior changed, and he began to drive by at odd hours, with and without his dog. I got a couple of weird phone calls. You know, the ones where nobody says anything but you can hear that someone is on the other end of the line. Two dogs went missing from the neighborhood. Dead snakes were showing up in odd places. I figured he felt rejected and was punishing me in some way. I looked through the county sex offender registry but didn’t find anyone who looked like him.

Things calmed down, then we passed each other on the road when I was going to town and he recognized me. That set off a whole new chain of events. A few days ago, he started honking his horn in front of my house. My husband was in the yard, though, and when the guy saw him, he took off. At 4:30 the next afternoon, I had just climbed into a nice hot bubble bath when I heard a big commotion outside. My dog was barking, and I heard the guy racing up and down the road in front of my house with his dog barking. I was pissed. I climbed out of the tub, wrapped myself in a towel, and ran to the window. He took off. He drove by around the same time the next day but seemed calmer and just looked at the house and kept driving.

I talked to my husband about the whole thing. I told him: “If something happens to me, you’ll be the first suspect, and the guy honking his horn will be the second. Remember that!” I told him I would ignore these childish antics and start carrying my .38 special when walking or working in the yard. He said, “If you have to shoot someone, make sure you finish the job.”

Since things have calmed down again, I hope the guy got it out of his system and will leave me alone. I don’t know his name, where he lives, or anything about him, and he hasn’t broken any laws. There’s nothing to give the sheriff’s office. But he knows where I live, my car, the truck my husband drives, and presumably, my phone number. My biggest fear is that he will harm my dog or my husband or start doing property damage. The BIG UNKNOWN makes me anxious, afraid, hypervigilant, angry, and depressed.

I started watching a documentary series about psychopaths on Discovery+ and Googled the characteristics of stalkers. This guy fits the profile of a Private Stranger Stalker, Intimacy Seeking Stalker, and Incompetent Suitor Stalker. He may even be a Predatory Stalker. According to the articles, most stalkers are obsessive, narcissistic, socially awkward and inept, controlling, manipulative, attention-seeking, and feel no empathy for their victims. They want the victim to constantly think about them and react to their actions. They want to possess and control the victim to feel powerful, dominant, and adequate. It’s been estimated that 50% of stalkers suffer from some form of mental illness, including schizophrenia, psychosis, and personality disorders. Women are the most likely victims, and men the most likely stalkers, but anyone can be a victim or a stalker. The most dangerous stalkers have been involved in domestic violence and broken relationships.

Why did it happen to me? I was there. I was visible and presumably available. I was fair game, vulnerable, and an easy mark. All the time that guy was driving by my house, he watched me work in the yard, feed the dog, perform routine chores, paint the front deck and front door, read books, and work on the driveway. He saw me walking in the desert alone. Whatever fantasy or need he was feeding, I fit the bill.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to write this post because it’s so intensely personal, but I thought it would be therapeutic, increase public awareness, and help others.

Thanks for listening! Stay safe!

Dawn Pisturino

May 22, 2023

Copyright 2023 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

78 Comments »

Attachment Disorder and Crime

Abstract
Attachment disorders arise when children experience prolonged and persistent abuse and neglect.  They are unable to form attachments and respond to the world with anger, defiance, and aggression.  They resist authority figures and defy social rules.  Without early intervention, these children are at high risk for delinquency, criminality, and the commission of violent crimes.

Attachment Disorder and Crime
       Criminologists recognize that antisocial behaviors, which are more common in males, can lead to an increase in criminality and violent crime (Siegel, 2012).  Much of their research has been based on John Bowlby’s attachment theory.
       Psychoanalyst John Bowlby studied Lorenz’s research on imprinting.  He concluded that “children come into the world biologically pre-programmed to form attachments with others, because this will help them to survive” (McLeod, 2007).  Failure to make secure attachments can lead to “affectionless psychopathy” later in life (McLeod, 2007).
       “Attachment is an enduring affective bond characterized by a tendency to seek and maintain proximity to a specific person, particularly when under stress” (Levy, 2000).  This bond is created between mother and child during the nine months of pregnancy and the first two years of life (Levy, 2000).  The mother-child bond is unique and forms through social releasers — behaviors that ensure a reciprocal response between mother and child (McLeod, 2007).  Smiling, eye contact, holding, rocking, touching, and feeding are cues which create a “mutual regulatory system” (Levy, 2000).
       When the mother-child bond fails to develop, infants can suffer from severe colic and feeding difficulties, fail to gain weight and reach important developmental milestones, remain detached and unresponsive, refuse to be comforted, and respond too readily to strangers (Attachment Disorders, 2014).
       Children need a “secure base” to learn trust and reciprocity, qualities which lay the foundation for all future relationships (Levy, 2000).  They must be able to explore their environment without fear and anxiety so they can attain full cognitive and social development (Levy, 2000).  A strong, secure attachment between mother (or other primary caregiver) and child helps the child to learn self-regulation (self-management of impulses and emotions) (Levy, 2000).  The child has the opportunity to form a strong self-identity, competence, and self-worth and to create balance between dependence on the mother and his own autonomy (Levy, 2000).  A secure base allows the child to learn empathy and compassion and to develop a conscience (Levy, 2000). A well-established core belief system helps the child to evaluate himself, his caregiver, and the world around him (Levy, 2000).  He learns resourcefulness and the resilience to cope with stress and adverse events (Levy, 2000).
       Even adopted infants can “develop healthy attachment relationships” in the first year of life if raised in a safe and secure environment by a caregiver who is consistently responsive to their needs (Reebye, 2007).  Children with Down Syndrome tend to develop attachments later, during the 12-24 month period (Reebye, 2007).
       Secure attachment allows children to develop positive patterns of cognition, behavior, and interaction which help them to survive successfully within the family and society at large (Levy, 2000).  They internalize altruism, empathy, compassion, kindness, and morality, qualities which lead to proper social behavior and social cohesion.  They learn to view themselves, the caregiver, life, and the world as essentially good, safe, and worthwhile.
       Children who do not develop secure attachments experience just the opposite.  They learn to view themselves, the caregiver, life, and the world as hostile, dangerous, and worthless (Levy, 2000).  By age four, these children exhibit symptoms of chronic aggression — “rage, bullying, defiance, and controlling interactions with others” (Levy, 2000).  These are the children who overwhelm the child welfare and juvenile justice systems and carry diagnoses of conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and antisocial personality disorder.  Children with severe attachment disorder typically engage in cruelty to animals, bed-wetting, fire-setting, pathological lying, and self-gratification at the expense of others.  They are predatory and vindictive, controlling and manipulative.  They lack empathy, remorse, and a moral conscience.  They are unable to form close relationships with others because they never experienced it themselves.
       Adults with these traits are often labeled psychopaths and may become serial killers and mass murderers (Levy, 2000).  The motivations for their crimes are manipulation, dominance, and control.  They feel powerless and inferior, committing horrific crimes against others as a way to release their frustrations and hostilities (Levy, 2000).
       But why do some children fail to develop a secure attachment to their mother or other primary caregiver?  Researchers have determined several common factors — “abuse and neglect, single-parent homes, stressed caregivers, parents with criminal records” (Levy, 2000).  Other factors include parental mental illness, substance abuse, and a history of maltreatment.
       Within the family, persistent conflict and violence lead to childhood anxiety, fear, and insecurity.  Children learn that violence is an acceptable way of dealing with life (Levy, 2000).
       Poverty, living in an unstable community rife with violence, access to weapons, and graphic depictions of violence on TV and in the movies desensitizes children.  They learn to “express feelings, solve problems, boost self-image, and attain power” through aggression and violence (Levy, 2000).       

 Prenatal drug and alcohol abuse, maternal stress,  birth complications, prematurity, nutritional deprivation, and genetics can lead to inherited personality traits and brain damage that interfere with learning, attention spans, and impulse control.  Compound this with a firmly-established attachment disorder, and a child is likely to be difficult to control, impulsive, hyperactive, defiant, aggressive, indifferent to learning, and angry (Levy, 2000).
       Children who are maltreated are often found in foster care, kinship care, adoptive care, and orphanages (Chaffin, 2006).  This includes children adopted from other countries.  They grow up in unstable environments, without the consistent affection and nurturing required to develop secure attachments (Chaffin, 2006).  They may grow up with suppressed anger that causes them to “seek control, resist authority, engage in power struggles and antisocial behavior” (Chaffin, 2006).  They become self-centered, resist close attachments, and eventually fall into delinquency and criminality (Chaffin, 2006).
       Teenagers still need a “secure base” as they wrestle with independence versus security (Mathew, 1995).  If a teenager has developed a secure attachment to his mother or other primary caregiver, he will weather the storms of adolescence with more resilience and adaptive abilities to cope with stress and change.  A strong, loving family environment teaches teenagers social competence and self-confidence.
       Adolescents who grow up in unstable, inconsistent homes torn apart by conflict and violence develop “psychopathology resulting from the inability to function competently in social situations” (Mathew, 1995).  “Delinquency, addiction, and depression” grow out of “inadequate problem-solving” (Mathew, 1995).  The teenager suffering from attachment disorder is incapable of interpreting and responding to social cues in appropriate ways (Mathew, 1995).  They view the world as a hostile place, attribute hostile intentions to other people, and respond aggressively.

       Decades of research have found clear links between early childhood abuse and neglect, attachment disorder, and delinquency and violence later in life.  It is not surprising, then, that children under age twelve have committed some of the cruelest crimes or that adolescent males are three times more likely to commit violent crimes than their female counterparts (Levy, 2000).
Method

Process
       Research was conducted online through EBSCO and Google Scholar using the keywords “attachment disorder,” “John Bowlby,” and “attachment disorder and crime.”
Results
       Attachment theory has been around for a long time.  It has been studied and expanded on by others.  A lot of research is available concerning attachment theory, maternal deprivation hypothesis, reactive attachment disorder (RAD), disinhibited social engagement disorder (DSED), secure base distortion, rage theory, disordered attachment, disorganized attachment, disoriented attachment, and insecure attachment.  These are all variations on the same theme — early childhood abuse and neglect lead ultimately to emotional detachment, dysfunction, anger, defiance, and aggression.
Discussion
       Traditional psychotherapeutic tools are ineffective on children suffering from attachment disorder because these children are unable to trust others and form the therapeutic bond necessary to engage in treatment (Levy, 2000).  Without early intervention, however, these children are at high risk for risky behaviors, criminality, and incarceration.

       Several treatment modalities have been developed to help children overcome their attachment difficulties.  Most focus on learning how to trust and feel secure.  One of the more controversial, Holding Nurturing Process (HNP), involves forcibly holding the child and maintaining eye contact, which is supposed to promote secure attachment and self-regulation (Chaffin, 2006).  HNP has been associated with the death of several children, however, and criminal charges have been filed against some attachment therapists and parents (Chaffin, 2006).
       The most effective attachment therapies allow the child to gradually build up trust with a committed therapist who then works with the child to re-program patterns of negative thinking and behaving (Levy, 2000).  Therapy is based on the individual needs of the child and involves family, school, and community.  The child learns positive coping skills that help him to function successfully within the family and society.
       Parents and other primary caregivers can undergo Corrective Attachment Therapy in order to enhance their parenting skills and learn specific tools for dealing with a difficult child (Levy, 2000).  Parent and child must go through therapy simultaneously so that they both learn mutual caring and respect; open up to feelings of affection; set up limits, rules, and boundaries; share empathy and compassion; and learn how to be in tune with one another (Levy, 2000).
       If high risk families can be identified early in the process, families can be enrolled in special programs and children can receive the treatment they need to overcome the damage already done.   

References

Attachment disorders. (2014, January). American Academy of Child & Adolescent

       Psychiatry. Retrieved from 

http://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_youth/Facts_
       For_Families/FFF-Guide/Attachment-Disorders-085.aspx.
Chaffin, M., Hanson, R., Saunders, B., Nichols, T., Barnett, D., Zeanah, C., Berliner, L.,
       . . . Miller-Perrin, C. (2006). Report of the apsac task force on attachment therapy, reactive
       attachment disorder, and attachment problems. Child Maltreatment, 11(1), 76-89. doi:
       10.1177/1077559505283699.
Levy, Terry M. & Orlans, M. (2000). Attachment disorder as an antecedent to violence and
       antisocial patterns in children. In Levy, Terry M., Editor, Handbook of attachment inter-
ventions (pp. 1-26). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Mathew, S., Rutemiller, L., Sheldon-Keller, A., Sheras, P., Canterbury, R. (1995). Attachment  

       and social problem solving in juvenile delinquents (Report No. 143). Washington, D.C.:
       Educational Resources Information Center.
McLeod, S. (2007). Bowlby’s attachment theory. Simply Psychology. Retrieved from

http://www.simplypsychology.org/bowlby.html.
Reebye, P. & Kope, T. (2007). Attachment disorders. BC Medical Journal, 49(4), 189-193.
Siegel, Larry J. (2012). Criminology. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

(The references did not all format correctly.)

Dawn Pisturino, RN

Mohave Community College

Criminology 225
November 29, 2016

Copyright 2016-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

20 Comments »

Sociopath vs. Psychopath: What’s the Difference?

This explanation of sociopath vs. psychopath comes from a class I took. “Psychopath” is a term used mostly in criminal justice. Many people have fallen prey to sociopaths and psychopaths, which is why it is important to recognize that these types of people exist in society.

Sociopath vs. Psychopath:

“The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), released by the American Psychiatric Association in 2013, lists both sociopathy and psychopathy under the heading of Antisocial Personality Disorders (ASPD). These disorders share many common behavioral traits which lead to the confusion between them. Key traits that sociopaths and psychopaths share include: 

  • A disregard for laws and social mores
  • A disregard for the rights of others
  • A failure to feel remorse or guilt
  • A tendency to display violent behavior”

Sociopaths

“Sociopaths tend to be nervous and easily agitated. They are volatile and prone to emotional outbursts, including fits of rage. They are likely to be uneducated and live on the fringes of society, unable to hold down a steady job or stay in one place for very long. It is difficult but not impossible for sociopaths to form attachments with others.  In the eyes of others, sociopaths will appear to be very disturbed. Any crimes committed by a sociopath, including murder, will tend to be haphazard, disorganized and spontaneous rather than planned.”

Example: O. J. Simpson

Psychopaths

“Psychopaths are unable to form emotional attachments or feel real empathy with others, although they often have disarming or even charming personalities. Psychopaths are very manipulative and can easily gain people’s trust. They learn to mimic emotions, despite their inability to actually feel them, and will appear normal to unsuspecting people. Psychopaths are often well educated and hold steady jobs. Some are so good at manipulation and mimicry that they have families and other long-term relationships without those around them ever suspecting their true nature.”

Example: Ted Bundy, Charles Manson

NOTE: There is no cure for these disorders, and medication does not work.

Dawn Pisturino, RN

September 21, 2021

9 Comments »

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