We ask therapist Leonie Adamson from the video counselling app Dr Julian how to spot the signs of a sexual predator
Harvey Weinstein, 67, who was once one of the most powerful producers in Hollywood, has been found guilty of sexual assaults, including rape.
Around 80 women, including well-known actresses Gwyneth Paltrow, Uma Thurman and Salma Hayek had accused him of sexual misconduct.
The allegations of sexual assault and harassment against Harvey Weinstein began in 2017, fuelling the current eave of the #MeToo feminism movement.
Weinstein was convicted of third-degree rape and first-degree criminal sexual act in New York City yesterday, 24th February 2020 – a victory for the #MeToo movement.
He was cleared of the most serious count though, of predatory sexual assault but faces up to 25 years in prison. Weinstein still faces charges in Los Angeles of assaulting two women back in 2013.
After the verdict was announced, reports have said that Weinstein was taken to New York’s Bellevue Hospital as he was suffering from chest pains.
Writing for the New York Times, Hollywood darling Salma Hayek described her story of assault, degradation and harassment at the hands of the director.
Her story traced the sexual advancements, the sweet talking and even the death threats. ‘I will kill you, don’t think I can’t,’ she alleges he told her. At its worst, Hayek was forced into a sex scene with another woman to avoid being kicked off the film, Frida – a movie she had spent years researching and preparing for. This scene left her crying and convulsing as she had a nervous breakdown, ‘I had to take a tranquillizer, which eventually stopped the crying but made the vomiting worse.’
And she’s not alone, in an Instagram post, Cara Delevigne has described feeling ‘powerless and scared’ in the face of Weinstein and the number of women alleging abuse (including rape) rises every day. Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Asia Argento, Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, Rosanna Arquette and many more are among the women who have come forward.
But Weinstein isn’t the only offender. Ex Harrods boss Mohammad Al-Fayed came under the spotlight last week as women came forward to speak out on a Channel 4 Dispatches show about how the businessman forced himself on them. One woman was as young as 17. Al-Fayed hasn’t commented on the show but has denied allegations of sexual assault and rape in the past and no charges have been brought.
In the light of recent events, it is timely to uncover just who a sexual predator is, in both straight and same sex relationships.
How to spot a sexual predator
‘They can wield a lot of control and power’, says therapist Leonie Adamson who has 10 years clinical practice who specialises in sexual abuse. ‘But the most interesting thing to consider is why they don’t stand out from the crowd. Often people will talk about them being creepy or lecherous, but without any substantive information, there is no real proof. Some people will know only too well what they are capable of, such as the celebrities that have come forward about Harvey Weinstein, but won’t want to “rock the boat”, perhaps fearful of any repercussions this may have on them.’
Using words and actions, the predator will undermine her every move
‘I have counselled many women who have experienced sexual trauma. They have been emotionally scarred, lost their sense of identity, and live with the experience every single day’, says Leonie.’It starts with the cycle of abuse and very quickly becomes a nightmare, from which there is no escape. Using words and actions, the predator will undermine her every move, dictate every thought and in the end, he will have ultimate power and control over her everyday life.
‘In many cases, victims weren’t believed, and this has caused them further distress. In some cases, they have come from abusive families themselves and their sense of self-worth is so low, that they feel they deserve to be treated badly. However, because the sexual predator flourishes in silence and covert behaviour, the mask must be uncovered to help free victims from this abuse. Their voices must be heard and respected. Always.’
1. He’s really attentive in the early stages
In the initial stages of the relationship, the preparator will be very attentive. Lots of calls and texts which seem quite innocent. This does not mean that they are a predator, but if it continues and intensifies then they are worrying signs. This is how the perpetrator begins to build the process of dependency of the victim. They will be very much the answer to their dreams, a knight in shining armour, and would certainly never hurt them. They are being protected, loved, respected, and are the focus of the predator. This is the beginning of the grooming process. The perpetrator will use their loyalty, and vulnerability against them at a later stage.
2. He uses manipulative language
The element of gaslighting will be slow but carefully introduced, whereby the predator will mock the victim on her clothes, friends, or anything else which doesn’t meet his expectation. When the victim challenges the predator (in the early stages), he will lie, twist the information, make her feel like she is the bad person, state how hurt he is, and that he doesn’t deserve this kind of treatment. After all he has been so good to her. In the end, emotionally exhausted, and feeling very stressed she will relent and accept that it was all her fault and apologise. This shows the predator that he can control and manipulate her, without any fear that she may challenge him.
3. He makes it seem normal
The victim has now normalised the behaviour and feels that perhaps this is what she is deserves. This cycle of abuse has now begun, the initial honeymoon period is over, the uncomfortable feeling that something was wrong is now clearer and the “explosion” where the predator makes his move is now a reality. This pattern will start with emotional and psychological abuse and ultimately include sexual abuse.
4. He plays the victim
There’s a real sense of grandiose behaviour associated with this kind of man. Never taking responsibility and always playing the victim. This kind of cool indifference is very similar to narcissism, but again not all narcissists are sexual predators. They will use coercive control to get the victim to play the deadly game of cat and mouse and will always blame her for what goes wrong, or if she refuses will degrade her in whatever way he feels is necessary to teach her a lesson. Women who have experienced sexual abuse as a child are perhaps more vulnerable to this type of grooming and will be re-traumatised as a result.
5. He ridicules her
A sexual predator will have no consideration for her thoughts and feelings, instead focusing on himself. He will be making sexual comments to her, commenting on her performance, isolating her insecurities to use as bait later. Needing to know every detail about her past experiences is also an indicator. The predator can then ridicule her using degrading language to her and using words that insult and belittle her.
6. He pushes her boundaries sexually
He will have no respect for healthy boundaries, always needing to push you to carry out tasks which are not comfortable for you. He’ll get a huge kick out of this, and is likely to be vigilant in his approach, regardless of the victims fear and anxiety. There could be suggestions of risky sexual behaviour, in which the victim engages with other men and the predator watches. He will then use this to blackmail her later, and this is the start of the cruel aspect of the behaviour, where the victim will feel totally humiliated and trapped in the relationship.
7. He disempowers her
All the while he will be assuring the victim that the behaviours are okay, and that he loves her. He will try and normalise her distress and tell her that she has done it before and will again. That people now know that she is promiscuous and that she is lucky that he stays with her. All feeding into the destruction of her confidence, which will disempower her. Overwhelmed and lonely, she has no family to talk to, and he will have isolated her from any friends who could have helped. They were a threat to him, they could have seen behind his mask, and influenced her. So, they had to be eradicated sooner rather than later.
8. He secretly boasts about his conquests
Finally, a sexual predator will boast of his conquests and make the victim feel less of a woman as he describes his other relationships. Reliving the relationship, and knowing he is causing distress, he needs a reaction to fuel his game. He will have no concept of what is appropriate if he is not inconvenienced in any way. He will be a different person to the outside world, which just negates anything she says about him – his mask never slips.
Should you feel that you have been or are in a relationship with a sexual predator, please don’t be afraid to speak up. Seek support from relevant organisations such as Women’s Aid, Refuge and Rape Crisis Centres who will keep the information in confidential manner. Websites such as rightsofwomen.org.uk can help you negotiate the law and your rights in coming forward. Talk openly, it will be difficult as its very personal. But it’s the first step to coming to terms with this abusive relationship and the start of the healing process.
Making sure you have a safety plan in place is vitally important if the relationship is still ongoing. Predators are very in tune to any subtle changes in the relationship, and will know if something has changed in the relationship dynamic. Gather as much information as possible, and consider using legal provisions, as the predator will not want to accept the relationship is over and may increase his campaign accordingly. Make note of any correspondence from the predator, but do not reply to it. Remember that this is not your fault and you can be free of the predator. Be consistent, strong and have your voice respected.
Leonie Adamson is a therapist on the Dr Julian App, which has been set up to improve accessability to counselling support. You can book and have appointments with qualified counsellors such as Leonie (£60 per hour) via secure video link from the comfort of your home. Download the app onto your iphone/ipad via the Apple Store.
Leonie has worked with organisations such as Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis with vast experience in domestic violence, stalking and abusive relationships.
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