Abusers with a little help from our friends!

Psychology Today January/February 2020 pp73-81 reports “Why Would Anyone Aid and Abet A Predator, The Mind of an Enabler” by Jennifer Latson

This article by Jennifer Latson, highlights how predators like Nxium leader Keith Raniere, Jeffrey Epstein, Bernie Madoff, Jimmy Savile, Ian Brady, Sun Myung Moon, Jim Jones, Adolph Hitler, Harvey Weinstein, Larry Nassar and Louis C.K. recruit and keep enablers at bay. Predators/cult-leaders, like these, are often very good at targeting those they violently or criminally abuse and also potential enablers. Enablers, are usually those with little sense of self-direction and a strong need to belong. Often they have a go-along-to-get-along mentality and are generally lacking the “courage to voice their objections”. Manipulators heap praise and promises on their targets and begin understanding an individual’s unique fear and the fear of being exposed as complicit. Once an enabler is implicated, predators create mistrust of outsiders and play on their unique and common fear.

A different type of enabler are narcissists-they lack empathy, don’t value those of lessor status and are driven by a need for recognition and high self-esteem. So, they care more about a predator’s approval than the victim’s suffering although they may not like hurting others. The need for approval, love in some cases, can be so strong all orders given by the predator or cult leader are acted on.

Psychologists speak of the “dark triad” traits often found in predators-“narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism”-being so focused on their own desires they will manipulate, deceive and exploit others. These traits while rare in the general population are not surprisingly exhibited more often in leadership. “If an individual in a position of political power is a psychopath, he or she can create an epidemic of psychopathology in people who are not, essentially, psychopathic” according to Andrew Lobaczewsk author of Political Ponerology.

So how to avoid being an enabler? Abuse is rare, but beware that leaders or influential people prone to abusive behavior will work diligently selecting and conditioning collaborators. Only with collaborators/enablers will they be repeatedly successful as predators. As humans, we find success and happiness in groups making it hard to push back against those we have befriended. We have to fight off rationalizing bad or abusive behavior and do the right thing by disapproving or "blowing the whistle". To help us, we all need training in our communities and at work about the moral obligation and duty-to-report. We recognize though, if "whistleblowers" are not protected from damaging recriminations we won't report. Regulations protecting whistleblowers must be made well known to all and must be enforced without exception.