Sociopath Fathers : The ‘Charming’ Killers

This article has been composed largely from my professional experiences over many years in child protection work and child/family advocacy, from the contributions of professional colleagues, and from the personal testimonies of mothers and children who have been subjected to domestic violence and abuse.

The sociopath is referred to in psychiatric terms as having Antisocial Personality Disorder, which is characterised by an individual’s common disregard for social rules, norms, and cultural codes, as well as impulsive behaviour and a complete indifference to the rights and feelings of others. This condition is included in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and in the World Health Organisation’s ICD10.

However, the problems presented by the sociopath tend to be mostly social problems rather than symptoms of mental illness or criminal behaviours, although these are not excluded in some sociopaths. It is estimated that 3% of the male population are sociopaths and they inhabit all walks of life, from business and commerce where their ruthlessness can make them highly successful, in politics where their absence of empathy can enable them to be elective autocrats with a capacity for corruption and callousness, in organised crime often involving drug dealing, and in many other professions.

What Sociopaths are Like

They view the rules and expectations of society regarding acceptable behaviours as inconvenient and unreasonable and impediments to their inclinations and intentions. They are extremely adept at ‘sailing close to the wind’ in avoiding lawbreaking or detection if they do break the law. Although the sociopath is extremely adept at evading detection for criminal behaviour, studies have shown that 47% have a significant arrest record and it is reasonably estimated that up to 25% of the prison population have sociopathic traits.

Sociopaths can be identified in adolescence or even earlier. Children who regularly engage in arson, vandalism, consistent lying, theft, aggression towards others, and the torturing of animals are showing the early tendencies and signs of sociopathy and they are indifferent to parental punishment and pain. “It doesn’t hurt” is often their response and this truly reflects their response and it is accompanied by an absence of any form of remorse for their behaviours.

They are self-centred, narcissistic individuals who are impulsive, manipulative, and consistently untruthful. As sociopaths grow into adulthood they often engage in alcohol and drug abuse and this serves to exacerbate their behaviours and conduct towards others, and they can show extreme violence towards others when under the influence of alcohol or drugs, yet blame the drink or drugs for their actions. They tend to disregard driving laws and requirements for vehicle registration and insurance as of no consequence. They also engage in violence towards their partner in a relationship and on occasions towards their children as they know their offences will be difficult to detect and prosecute.

Jekyll and Hyde

Yet despite such behaviours, the sociopath adopts an alter ego when with significant others. They are extremely charming, of a calm and collected disposition, and very plausible and persuasive. They can have a group of close friends and even neighbours who consider them to be very friendly and a ‘good bloke’ and will be well thought of at the local pub or club. Such friends and associates find it difficult to believe that such a person could possibly be violent towards a partner or their children. This ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ personality is often referred to by professionals and by partners who have experienced the violence.

In cases of partner violence or child abuse, this dual personality is often clearly apparent and the plausible, manipulative personality enables them to persuade gullible Court officials, lawyers and even Judges, that they are innocent of the abusive behaviours alleged by their children or the violence alleged by the former partner. The sociopath father can be extremely adept at ‘playing victim’ in court processes, accusing the mother of obsessive concerns for a sick child or of actually making the child ill (Fabricated and Induced Illness in Children), or of not ensuring that the child engages in a ‘meaningful’ relationship with the father, when in fact the child has protested loudly that s/he does not want any contact.

The use of Parental Alienation Syndrome has proved to be a highly effective tool for sociopaths to use in disputed court proceedings regarding the custody and contact with children, as they can so readily engage in deception and fabrication, distortion and embellishment of facts regarding events and actions. They are adept at attracting the sympathy of Court officials and lawyers and using them to gain what they see as their rights. Some sociopaths also appear to have infiltrated the Father’s Rights Groups in some countries, where they have been able to bring influence to further enable their domination and control over females.

The sociopath is an emotional shell, with no capacity to feel the pain of others and words only have meaning in so far as they persuade and manipulate others to the sociopath’s views. Feelings and emotions are non-existent but the sociopath is often able to cleverly mimic such emotions when needed and in ways which will deceive the observer into believing they are true emotions.

The Victims’ View

Protective mothers and partners who have experienced domestic violence have frequently described the onset of such attacks. “I see it in his eyes”, they say. It is beyond hatred and is a ‘demonic stare’. “I know then that I’m in for a beating”. Violent attacks are often followed by pleas of forgiveness which have the appearance of remorse and regret, although the sociopath does not take responsibility for his conduct but blames anything or anyone he can. “It was the drink”, he says or even blames his victim for behaving in a particular way.

In early courtship, female partners have been persuaded by the charming person in the sociopath and only rarely have they seen the violent potential. However, they soon experienced the possessiveness and jealousy of the sociopath and unfounded accusations of infidelity.

The goal of the sociopath father is to attain complete domination and control over his female partner and his means are to create fear, isolation, and total dependency. He seeks to take total control over his victim and will use any means possible to do so. Critical and abusive words and actions are the most common means. Then he isolates his victim from her family and friends and uses financial controls to limit her movements and decrease her self esteem. He systematically destroys her feelings of self-worth, dignity, and security.

If his female victim threatens to leave him, he will often threaten to kill her and their children if she were to do so, and warns her that she will never be safe for the rest of her life. This gives him an immense hold over his female partner but eventually the situation becomes so intolerable, she finally escapes.

A Young Mother Writes

“I was 21 years old and a free spirit when I first met John. He was handsome, well spoken, and very charming and soon after our first date, our relationship became serious and we were inseparable. I was oblivious to the red flags that were coming my way because he made me feel good and he was good at mind games – controlling my movements, jealous over past lovers and any other man I was acquainted with.

“He slowly began to strip me of my self-esteem, telling me my clothes were too revealing, that my make-up was done to impress other men rather than him. He’d suddenly stop the car and scream and shout at me and spit in my face, testing for my reactions and saying it was all my fault, never his. However, I stayed with him because I loved him and believed I could help him to change his behaviours. The physical violence began a week after he moved in with me. It started as a slap followed by gushing apologies and promises that it would never happen again.

“Then it began occurring more regularly and I was slapped, punched, bitten, strangled to the point of unconsciousness, spat on, pinched, kicked, yelled at, and chased around the streets. But all this was done behind closed doors or away from our neighbourhood because John wanted to be seen as a ‘nice guy’ by his friends and our neighbours. He made me cut all ties with my family and friends back home, and forced me to quit my job.

“He then locked me in our flat on most days and I was only allowed out when he was with me. He inspected the house when he returned from work and felt the bed for warm spots as he was constantly afraid that I was cheating on him. He was a master at interrogation and would go on for hours. If he was dissatisfied, an argument would ensue which rapidly grew into a violent attack on me. I was constantly walking on egg shells and afraid of him and he slowly eroded my whole being and I felt I was becoming a mental vegetable.

“John wanted a child and it was not long before I became pregnant. However, I managed to escape from him for a short while and obtained some comfort and support from my family but after begging me for months I agreed to return to him, by now heavily pregnant. It was not long however before the beatings began again, including kicking me in the stomach and risking the life of our unborn child. I resolved that I had to escape him and managed to do so again.”

The Protection of the Law?

But the suffering of the protective mother is far from ended. There then begins the harassment and continuing interference in her life, using the children as a means to do so.

It is unfortunate that the Family Law, which altruistically sought to give reasonable fathers a continuing and an active part in their children’s lives, has been a gift for the sociopath to continue to exert domination and control over his former partner and children. Although the sociopath may not have had a ‘meaningful relationship’ with his children in their past lives together and does not honestly want one in the future, he insists on this as his right under law as it provides him with the opportunity to continue to abuse his former partner and the children.

This usually involves avoiding payment of child support or paying inadequate amounts at infrequent intervals. Then he plays petty games at contact arrangements, such as returning the children late or in a dishevelled state. He abuses his former partner in phone calls and makes continuing unreasonable demands for more time with the children, although when the children are with him for staying contact, they are left with his new partner and he spends little time with them. He uses the Courts and its officials to enforce his rights if his former partner refuses to comply with the contact arrangements as a consequence of his behaviours. This has resulted in some protective mothers losing custody of their children and even being imprisoned and the children being placed with the sociopath father, to endure unwitnessed further abuse.

It has also led to the deaths of several hundred children, killed by their sociopath fathers, and many mothers and other relatives have also been killed. In 2005 in New South Wales, one of Australia’s six States, 117 children suffered unnatural deaths at the hands of their parents and 74 intimate partners were killed. On occasions the sociopath father has taken his own life with those of his former partner and children.

It is to be hoped that society and Courts are able to more easily identify such sociopaths in the future and thereby provide the necessary protections for children and their mothers.

106 thoughts on “Sociopath Fathers : The ‘Charming’ Killers

  1. I am fairly certain my ex (and the Father of my 3 year old) is a sociopath, he has a lot of the characteristics described in the original article and all of the comments. However I have a question, are all sociopaths physically abusive? My ex never hit me and only once laid a hand on me in anger while he was drunk. I am so afraid though of what he is doing to our son mentally, when our son is in his care. My son never wants to go to Daddy’s, but may already starting to be controlled by his father’s charming disarming nature. Are there varying degrees of a sociopath? Also is being a sociopath hereditary?

    Thank you

  2. Thanks for your thoughts Charles. The idea of reform and a tribunal of inquiry sound very positive. Do you know if this is something organisations are lobbying for in the UK? I am keen to get involved and currently work as a volunteer for one of the national domestic abuse organisations. It would be great to pursue this more.

  3. Family lawyers’ income is directly proportional to the parental conflict they can and will create–i.e., as a direct function of the number of children they harm, and the degree to which they harm those children. Many family courts require that judges serving in that court have prior experience as a family lawyer (a child harmer/predator). This is the basic problem. Second, family litigation is a disgusting, un-evolved (barbaric) process that nearly always harms children and their parents. Making things exponentially worse, former British colonies, like the US and Australia, do not train their judges to be judges; they are simply lawyers, and when it comes to custody/family litigation, many or most family court judges will act to escalate the conflict, from beginning to end. These are among the reasons that in the U.S. and elsewhere, family court judges are one of the leading causes of suicide and homicide. Parents simply want to protect their children, are under extreme distress in a divorce, increasingly so once the divorce/custody litigation/prosecution begins. The lawyer for each parent, and the system itself, compel each parent to file a false complaint of domestic violence at the start of a divorce case. The taking away of children, or even the threat of this, causes terror and hatred among previously good, semi-amicable parents. Meanwhile each lawyer treats the divorce case as a war, where the goal is to destroy the other parent, which virtually always harms and financially depletes both parents, and harms the children in a myriad of ways. Most family lawyers instruct their client–even a co-parent of a young child or children–to not communicate with the other parent, which is the typical family lawyer’s first step in creating a war and harming and slaying of family members. Particularly while judges such as in the US are not formally trained to be judges (nor trained/skilled at conflict analysis/resolution, fact-finding, being neutral and objective–a virtual impossibility for most people trained as lawyers), family litigation should be abolished in every civilized court system, and replaced with mediation, counseling, communication, etc. (99% of parents love their children and want what’s best for them). A well-trained family court judge will almost never decide a custody case, and will rarely enter any orders other than orders mandating mediation, and inter-parent communication/counseling. This is because a wise and humane family court judge (that one out of a thousand) will understand that a third-party making parenting decisions is a disaster on wheels. One such well-trained family court judge, a senior judge outside of Baltimore, MD has a 100% rate of having parents settle their custody cases, and almost never harms children. Some of his less experienced colleagues will push 100 or so custody cases to trial in a single year, becoming somewhat of a serial killer. Indeed, untrained family court judges are one of the leading causes of violent deaths in the US and in several other countries (e.g., former British colonies). Similarly, temporary protection orders, usually obtained ex parte and, in divorce cases, often obtained without even allegation of violence or threat of violence (just linguistic jargon drafted by a malicious lawyer, followed by the word “fear” scattered throughout) has impacts that are not unlike a murder conviction (loss of all access to children the parents love more than anything). As a result of an ex parte TPO, good loving mothers and fathers lose all access to and rights over their children (often due to unskilled judges incapable of differentiating between facts and adjectives), which in turn causes extreme hatred, fear, and then real violence (while the lawyers rush back and forth to the bank over the course of the next ten years of litigation caused by an ex parte, bogus TPO. Temporary protection orders, obtained by predatory lawyers as a legal tactic (to escalate conflict, bankrupt both parents, and create life-long hatred and war between them), routinely lead to expensive and humiliating supervised visits, which routinely lead to bankruptcy and/or the violent deaths of children and/or parents alike. False complaints of domestic violence during a divorce proceeding are, in sum, one of the leading causes of violent deaths in countries such as the U.S. and Israel. As parents are becoming more sophisticated due to social media, more and more they are discovering that the never-ending financial and legal troubles associated with custody litigation, were caused not by their spouse, but rather by dishonest, predatory family lawyers, hired-gun custody evaluators (who work for the lawyers), and untrained/unskilled family court judges. Thus, these family court predators are increasingly among those who die from custody litigation. Finally, this cruel and barbaric process, family litigation, needs to become a thing of the past. As a nation, the U.S. can survive, if not thrive, by early retirement of all family litigators (this can help save their lives too).

  4. Victim of a Sociopath

    I think to myself how did I get here?
    Through the haze of smoke and the stench of beer
    My only comfort in a life so bad,
    To numb the pain of a life so sad…

    Go on and numb every part of me,
    Help me forget about ‘us’ and ‘we’
    Clear my mind and cast everything out,
    I feel so empty when I’m flooded with doubt.

    How can I compete against his lies?
    When he strikes out at me and then denies..
    How do you fight what only you can see,
    When he hides all his crimes to the powers that be?

    His charming demeanour, his cool disguise,
    While he continues to plot and scheme my demise
    All suffer but him, he succeeds in his quest,
    He does his dirtiest, evil best…

    He undermines me to those I love,
    His deception fits him like a glove
    He’s a grower of hate, how can it be?
    People I don’t know think that they know me!

    Dirty looks, cold responses and bias in place,
    Can’t comprehend the judgement written all over their face.
    Why do they so blindly give into his trust?
    Third hand information’s a foundation of dust

    He exploits all weakness to his behest
    He convinces, connives and will never rest
    Once he sets his sights on his target to avenge,
    He can appear as the victim and play pretend.

    When he fires his weapons they leave no trace,
    Only shots to my soul that will not erase.
    Destroying everything I love in his path,
    To intimidate his will through the force of his wrath.

    Is there hope for me, or will this be my end?
    When all is concealed it’s so hard to defend.
    It looks so real, it must be real?
    I’d believe him myself if I didn’t know the deal.

    By Hannah Coffey

    (I had the misfortune of having 2 children with whom I believe to be the most brilliantly deceptive, psychologically dangerous and manipulative undiscovered Sociopath out there; he played the courts and system like a finely tuned instrument, I lost custody of my 2 children in Canada to him despite my kids being very young at the time, Despite that I was a stay at home mom, had no criminal record, never drank smoked or did drugs back then, and since they gave him that power, he has held me hostage by my love for them ever since. He has whittled down my access on every single occasion always giving new excuses and rhetoric to disguise the same ongoing agenda-to shut me out of their lives and torment me by working on their innocent minds creating confusion that he can redirect for them back to his agenda… No matter what move I make to fight against this he checkmates my every move… I haven’t the means or the health left to go back to court (I had a heart attack at age 37) , and I believe even if I could the way Canadian family law is set up serves his interests far more than my kids or mine anyway, he always finds a way to manipulate every situation to his great advantage as he continually proves.
    The family courts are all about how things ‘look’ and ticking certain boxes and I have learned from experience that ‘appearances’ are a Sociopaths greatest strength, lies and deception can be tailor made to order so how can truth compete when it is not flexible to design and always more complicated? I hope one day there will be a confirmable test or way to prove and confirm Sociopathy in the family law courts…until then I believe the only defense against their evil cunning is making the general public more aware of Sociopathy and that it isn’t as ‘RARE as people commonly believe- victims aren’t using the word just for insult -it is legitimate and does not only happen in movies, it is out there in real life and everyone in the world needs to be aware of Sociopathy and Sociopathic behaviours as much as Rape and Cancer to protect ourselves, our children, families and loved ones? Until then all of us victimised by this psychological horror will continue to be victimised till the final goal is reached; to completely destroy us.

  5. Hannah these words rang true I can’t tell you – I’m up at 5 am – my children are with their unspeakably cruel sociopath father this evening and I kniw the mental torture mind control and horror he can inflict.

    My sister has cancer and he sees this as a gift from above to cause more drama and attention seek. My darling 13 year old son was told ( and sadly did ) to go through my phone and stalk me – I wasn’t ‘allowed’ to receive emails from a man ( most if I did were work !!! ). He just told me yesterday how awful it made him feel – his sociopath father made him do it.

    My daughter – aged 8 – feels she is not allowed to say she misses me. He tells them I am not important and a ‘mental patient’. My son yesterday – I am hugely sociable, forgive me but from a ‘good’ family and through friends and family receive lovely invitations – said he would rather go on the dole ( unemployment – as his father often is ) than join the army ! I have many friends in the Guards Regiments – his choice obviously but lovely kind people – and they are derided.

    I am tri lingual and my children were too. They have now been told they musn’t be.

    I have strong faith and can’t believe evil such as this – he dies a persuasive plausible charm offensive on all ‘professionals’ can win ?

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