Perp Traits and the Manipulator

I recently read a fantastic little book, entitled Girls Fight Back! The College Girl’s Guide to Protecting Herself by Erin Weed.  We recommended this book at our recent self-protection workshop.  For anyone with a teenage or college-age daughter, this book is written in a style and tone that would really speak to young women.  It is very engaging, but very practical.  I know that Erin Weed has worked with groups like Gavin de Becker & Associates, and has really done her homework in the arena of women’s self-defense.  In addition to that, she has spoken to hundreds of thousands of people across the country, addressing the topic of personal safety.


I’d like to share the information on the personality traits of perps and some tactics that “manipulators” like to use to gain compliance of potential victims.  Having a profile, so to speak, helps us to better define our threat.  I could not help but take mental inventory of past people and situations that were potentially dangerous for me.  Obviously, we want to be able to recognize a potential threat and lock it down before it ever escalates into something more.  More than this, we want to listen to what our intuition tells us.  Some of these things seem so ridiculously elementary, and yet if you really look around, so many of us are truly oblivious about situational awareness (the more I harp on it, the more I also make myself aware!).


Perps are broken down into three categories:


  • Opportunist—no pre-meditation involved.
  • Manipulator—plans, preys on people’s emotions and has clear intention.
  • Criminal—is seasoned.  A good example would be a serial rapist. 



Perp Personality Traits:


  • Has often committed crime before
  • Cannot control impulses or temper
  • Hasn’t enjoyed much success in life
  • Paranoid
  • Involved in substance abuse
  • Enjoys many forms of violent media (movies, video games, music, etc.)
  • Is fascinated by weapons



This is not an exhaustive list, for sure, but I’m certain if you or I notice several of these traits in an individual, it’s going to raise a red flag to be particularly cautious about him; this is someone to really keep an eye on if we are traveling in the same circles on a regular basis.


Weed talks about manipulation tactics within the context of a story about a rapist.  I wish to avoid anyone with this modus operandi:


  • You and the perp happen to be at the same place at the same time, alone, and he suggests that you are a “team” or there for the same purpose.
  • He’s playing “Mr. Nice Guy”.  He may act nice, but this behavior cannot outweigh your intuition about him—his intent may be totally different.
  • He gives you too much information/lots of unnecessary details about who he is, what he’s doing, etc.  He wants to sound truthful.  Just remember that the more he talks, the harder it is for him NOT to contradict himself.
  • He insults you in order to engage you in conversation.
  • He gives you something to bait you (for example, a jacket if you are cold).
  • He invades your personal space to test your boundaries.

4 Zones (between ourselves and other people):

–Intimate (within 18 inches of you)

–Personal (18 inches to 4 feet)

–Social (4 to 10 feet)

–Public (10 to 25 feet)

Note: As I read this, I realized these zones may be different for people of different cultural backgrounds.

  • He may use phrases like “I promise” to gain your compliance after he senses your doubt about his intentions (perhaps he is attempting to gain entry into your home, or even your car)
  • He won’t take NO for an answer


One of the best ways to deal with manipulators is to decide on your personal boundaries ahead of time and establish them FIRMLY early on in a situation that activates your sixth sense in a very negative way.  The manipulator is skilled at preying on emotions.  I would say he looks for women who fall into the category of “pleasers”.  Pleasers don’t want to offend anyone, even at the expense of themselves.  The cold, hard truth is, we sometimes have to be offensive to protect ourselves—can we afford not to be? 


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