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Riding in Cars With Strangers:
Was your daughter conned into an abusive relationship?
Annie McGuire, Founder
Fraud Aid, Inc.
"Never get into a car with a stranger!"
We tell them this over and over. We try to warn them of all the dangers lurking in their wee young lives without scaring them to half to death.
When they start dating we pull out another set of warnings to keep them from getting pregnant or dating the wrong boys.
We watch the clock. We toss and turn until they get home, and then we worry about what they're not telling us.
We can be the most vigilant, wisest parents in the world but no matter what we do, our daughters grow up and move out. They meet Mr. One-and-Only and set up house.
Sometimes One-and-Only is a fellow they meet in college, or a man in a faraway city where they've found a job, or a guy right here - in their own home town; a guy they grew up with. A bad guy in private who wears a halo in public. The worst kind of stranger.
As time passes, you notice a change. Oh, nothing you can quite put your finger on, and maybe you tell yourself that you're just being overly protective, or that you're just watching the natural progression of adulthood.
Yet, perhaps she's quieter; maybe her normal enthusiasm is a shade off. She's more defensive than she should be, or crosses her arms more than she used to. Perhaps its something around the eyes that gives you a small shiver of misgiving. She's nervous and occasionally shies away from direct questions. Her visits and phone calls are less frequent and suddenly, you find you are afraid they will stop altogether.
Small things, little things; hardly noticeable at first.
But, list the differences on a single page and you realize that this is not a natural change in behavior, that this young woman is no longer the same daughter you grew into parenthood with. You realize that whatever is wrong, it means your daughter's in trouble.
What kind of trouble? What's going on?
The con artist manipulates an individual's behavior for purposes that only benefit the con artist.
There are many men in this world who only thrive when they are in complete control of all people in their immediate environment. Men who will lie, cheat, use every trick in the book in order to seduce a woman into believing she has found in him all she ever dreamed of.
The goal is not always to gain money. Oh no. Possession, power, and control are strong desires. If money comes with the deal, so much the better; but for those whose only motivator is control and possession, your daughter is little more than an appliance.
The scheme begins with seduction. If your daughter is part of an active social community, the seduction is expanded to embrace all those who influence her. This includes you, her friends, her fellow club and church members, and even her co-workers. All of you will believe what he wants you to believe.
Once he has gained everyone's trust and has generally blinded everyone's ability to stop, look, and listen, he steps up to phase two: the isolation process.
It takes a remarkably short amount of time to brainwash a person, and no starvation and damp prison cells are needed. It only requires a short period of isolation and all con artists use the tactic.
He uses charm, sympathy, threats, generosity, fantasy, gifts, promises, illusions, "sleight of mind" you might say, to persuade your daughter to listen only to him. It is an essential part of the scheme to ensure that he seduce your daughter into intensely believing that he is the only one with the right answers, the only one on whom she can depend. The fastest way to expedite dependency is by emotionally isolating her, and he will use any and all means to achieve that goal.
Isolation takes the form of pitting one person against the other and is surprisingly easy to do. Insinuation works well to infuse doubt and hesitation. Suspicion. Anger. Doubt. These are all emotions that throw an individual off-balance. Now unsure of herself and unsure of others around her, your daughter's only certainty is that if One-and-Only says someone is not trustworthy and must be cut off for her own good, then it must be so.
Talking to your daughter does no good
Whether you decide to talk to your daughter yourself or believe that there is strength in numbers and round up the troops for a confrontation, the result will not be what you wanted. It will be just the opposite.
You are actually playing right into the hands of the con artist who is fully aware that such a meeting will occur somewhere along the line. He has prepared her for it by twisting your words around ahead of time. No matter what you say, he has either already countered your objections or will do so when she sees him again. The success will be his because your daughter will be further alienated from you. You will have served the con artist's purposes by proving to her that everything happened just as he predicted.
Important goal: As long as your daughter is in denial or is afraid to make a move to escape, there is little that can be done. Your objective is to educate yourself and prepare her to accept that something is wrong or agree that she is in a bad situation and needs someone’s help to get out.
Watch the con artist, know the enemy
If you had a wolf lurking around your sheep, you wouldn't waste time lecturing to the ewes and lambs. You'd keep your eye firmly planted on the wolf. This is no different.
What are you looking for? Opportunity!
Sorry to say, you are going to have to play the same game as the con artist, and you're going to have to do a better job than he's doing. Now is when you are going to pull out all the stops. Tell you're daughter you love her, be affectionate, tell her she's lucky. Spend as much time with both of them, alone and together, as you can. If she is living far away, talk with him as much as you can.
Be interested in him and what he's doing. Listen to what he says, watch what he does. There will be discrepancies, lots of discrepancies. What he says will not match his actions, his lies will falter from time to time, his body language (or voice tone if on the phone) will not match his words.
Use your observances to open your daughter's eyes, to help her notice the things that don't mesh. Keep in mind that challenges and accusations will not work. Avoid anger, don't whine.
There's no magic formula that I can give you; each situation is different.
To the best of your ability, choose discrepancies that she can verify herself. Never lie, not even a white lie. It will bounce back at you. You see, he will lie whenever it suits his purpose and eventually she will start seeing that. You must at all times provide a strong basis for her to compare your absolute truth with his lies.
With love, patience, and determination deeply planted in your every move, you may eventually be able to persuade her to get out, to come home. Or, should the sad need exist, press abuse charges and stand by her decision.
Law enforcement and Social Services
The brutal truth is that there is nothing law enforcement and social services can do to help you, much to their dismay.
Unless there is evidence of physical abuse, in which case they can step in without your daughter having to press charges, the manipulation for control in of itself is not a crime although in some states, verbal and emotional abuse is.
Please keep in mind that the type of control I've described in this article often does lead to physical abuse. If your daughter has become withdrawn and downcast, you may want to hug her more frequently, checking for wincing or flinching because of tender spots. You won't have to squeeze very hard for her to react.
Resources and Reading Material
If you suspect that your daughter, or anyone in your family, is being manipulated for malicious purposes, there are two excellent people you can contact for more information.
One is Rhoda Cook at www.straightshooter.net (you can reach her at email@example.com). Rhoda is a Private Investigator whom I’ve known for her years. She specializes in Sweetheart Scammers. Her prices are more than reasonable plus she goes the extra mile to dig up information that most PI’s miss. Rhoda’s been doing this for many years and is familiar with the types of activities manipulators get into.
The other is Catherine Nesmith. A former Deputy Sheriff, Catherine created Aardvarc which offers the single best source on the web for information covering domestic emotional and physical abuse. Please go to (www.aardvarc.org: warning signs).
Another excellent reference page is Biderman's Chart of Coercion. His list is right on the mark.
To best recognize con artist behavior, I strongly recommend the following books: Conquering Deception by Jef Nance, a Certified Fraud Examiner and former Police Interrogator; Reading People by Jo-Ellan Dimitrius; and The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene.
We are not attorneys and don't pretend to be. In our experience, the information and guidance offered on this site have proven to be effective; however, we always recommend that you consult with an attorney.
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