In 1977 Colleen Stan left her home in California, to attend the birthday party of one of her friends. She was an experienced hitchhiker and felt comfortable getting into the van of Cameron Hooker, who was with his wife and baby.

Hooker soon left the main highway and traveled down an isolated road where he put a knife to her throat. When they reached his home, he took her out of the van and into his basement. He then put a blindfold on her, stripped off her clothes, and strung her up by her bound hands, and proceeded to severely beat her. After the beating, Hooker and his wife proceeded to have sex underneath her stung up body.

After that first night, Hooker kept Stan locked in a wooden box under his bed, for 23 hours a day.  Hooker was in charge of every aspect of Stan’s life, her bodily functions, her hygiene and her food and water. She was beaten or deprived of what little she was given, if she objected, or misbehaved in anyway. Eventually, she would become his sex slave. He would penetrate her vaginally and anally with objects. Daily he would enforce the belief that she was being watched by a group called, “the company,” which would kill her parents if she tried to escape. He continued to threaten that he would sell her to someone else, whose abuse would be much worse. He even got her to sign a contract, that she would willingly be his slave, for life. The abuse continued for 7 years until she managed to escape, with the help of Hooker’s wife.

This horrific true story is documented in a book called, The Perfect Victim: The Girl in the Box, by the prosecutors of the case, Christine McGuire and Carla Norton.

During the trial the prosecution called Psychiatrist Dr Hatcher to explain why, when given several opportunities to escape, over a seven year period, Colleen Stan remained in that house and continued to allow herself to be abused and locked in a box.

Dr Hatcher indicated that what Mr Hooker had done would be sufficient to coerce the majority of individuals into a desired behavior pattern and to give up any overt resistance.

He listed several steps:

  • Seize the victim
  • Physically or sexually abuse the victim
  • Isolate the victim
  • Be in complete control of the victims bodily functions
  • Controlling food and water
  • Punish for no apparent reason
  • Establish a pattern of abuse so the victim grows a tolerance and knows what to expect
  • Teach the victim that you are in complete control and they must ask for permission to do anything.
  • Become the only source of the victim’s stimulation and entertainment, so the victim actually looks forward to the abusers visits, because the only other option is total sensory deprivation.

As I was reading this I started to see a lot of similarities to my own relationships. “I never would have left,” was the last meaningful thing I said to my long-term Narcissist before he walked out. At the time, what I was trying to convey was that I was loyal and he was not. I was the kind of girl that stuck it out, through good times and bad and he was the selfish cheater, that only thought about himself.

We were both unhappy, but I couldn’t get past the fact that he was able to leave me so easily, after all that time, and I would have stayed despite the immense physical, emotional and psychological toll. For a long time, I believed that loyalty was the reason I stayed, paired with everything I had invested. Why did I say? Why was I so willing to give up my dreams, my goals, my present and my future for this relationship? As I grew and healed, those questions haunted me.

Grooming the Victim

Some abusers do have a deliberate plan when they enter into relationships, a series of behaviors, that they’ve used successfully in the past, to extract what they want from others. As for my Narcissist, I doubt that he was cognizant of what he was doing to me. I was an afterthought, and his behavior was probably just an unconscious pattern he had used previously with other women.

Pedophiles have a list of grooming behaviors they use on their young victims to ensure that they comply and don’t tell on them. Were Narcissists any different? I noticed with all of the Narcissists I dated that there was a pattern and it went something like this:

They all started by putting me on a pedestal.

Then they would start with little digs, putting me down or insulting me.

Every problem or issue became my fault. They would blame and shame me for everything that was wrong with them.

They would isolate me from family and friends, causing a fuss every time I wanted to spend time with someone else, so much so that it was just easier not to.

Their behavior and mood was usually unpredictable, which kept me anxious and walking on egg shells.

They behaved as if my dreams, goals, needs, and wants were irrelevant, so I didn’t get to spend too much energy thinking about them.

They lacked any form of empathy, to any hardship I was going through.

They kept threatening to leave if they didn’t get their way, or I displayed any type of displeasure.

They kept coming and going from the relationship (either physically or emotionally).

I was required to consistently meet their needs and make my life all about them.

When my long-term Narcissist did leave me for good, I was a complete wreck, a shell of a human being. I couldn’t function and it took me years to claw my way out of the depression that followed. When my friends asked why I wasn’t the one to leave? It seemed like a valid question. I wasn’t locked up or confined, I was free to leave at any time, but I couldn’t.  It didn’t make any sense.

The truth is, the cage I was locked in was a mental one, although there were no bars or locked doors, it was just as restrictive. When someone drives home the belief, on a daily basis, that you can’t survive without them and that they are special and important and that you aren’t worthy of them, it sets you up for total dependency. I created the following equation to illustrate the formula:

Put you on a pedestal (pull away/blow cold+blame/shame you)      

Your already low self-esteem

A x (B + C) / D = fear/dependence/helplessness

Some people paint – I make math equations, what can I say, but the bottom line here is, while you have been grappling over the question – why did I stay?  – The truth is, the majority of people, if faced with the same set of circumstances and behaviors, would likely have reacted precisely the same way.

The police and the military have special techniques that they use to extract confessions from prisoners. This type of mental warfare does exist. There are psychological techniques individuals and institutions use to “break” people. It’s a form of brain washing and it’s the same reason that victims of abuse continued to stay.

If you notice that you are currently in a relationship where these behaviors already exist, or you start a new relationship and these signs are present, get out immediately. Chances are you are being groomed for abuse and dependency, stop it before the technique takes ahold of you and you are accepting treatment you never, in a million years, thought you would.

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Written by Savannah Grey

Savannah Grey is a Freelance Writer, a Hypnotherapist, Consultant, Sports Fanatic, and Philosopher and has a degree in Psychology. She is the founder of www.esteemology.com, a website dedicated to educating and healing survivors of abusive relationships.