The Human Equation

Serial killers, self-reliance, and everything in between

The Predatory Stalker

A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

Boy meets girl.  Boy and girl begin dating.  Boy and girl break up.  Boy can’t let girl go and begins to stalk girl.

This is the scenario most of us think of when we think of stalking, i.e., an ex who can’t let go of a former love. However, there is a rarer type of stalker who doesn’t target intimate partners.  This stalker is a sexual predator who goes after casual acquaintances or complete strangers. This is the predatory stalker and, when caught is often proclaimed by those who knew him as the least likely of perpetrators.

The Attorney From Hell  

Take, for example, accused attorney Danford Grant.  Described as an up-and-comer in an elite Seattle law firm, he has been charged with four sexual attacks on three different female massage therapists.  And, as the details in the charges emerge, these attacks appear to be well-planned and researched.

For example, during a rape-at-knife-point of a Bellevue, Washington massage therapist, Grant allegedly told the woman that he had been research on her and accurately recited her home address and husband’s name.   If convicted, Danford Grant would be an example of one of the rarest and most dangerous types of stalkers – the predatory stalker.

The Predatory Stalker

For the predatory stalker, stalking is foreplay; the real goal is sexual assault.  While they may gain satisfaction from the sense of control and power stalking gives them over the victim, it’s the violent and sexual fantasies that they engage in while researching, planning, and following the victim that really gets them off as they prepare for the ultimate thrill – the sexual assault itself.

The stalking may have a sadistic quality to it.  For example, some predatory stalkers mess with their victim’s minds by leaving subtle clues that they are being followed without revealing their identity.  However, even when the victim is unaware that she is being stalked, the perpetrator can still take delight in the details – deciding how long to prolong the suspense, rehearsing the attack, fantasizing about the victim’s response.

Is the Predatory Stalker Mentally Ill?

Not in the way most people think.  Predatory stalkers are not “love-sick” (i.e., due to unrequited love).  Nor are predatory stalkers motivated by strong emotional attachment to their victims. Their stalking does not reflect efforts to establish or maintain close, positive relationships with victims; nor did it reflect separation protest or intense personal distress over the dissolution of a close relationship. Predatory stalkers are more likely to use stalking o gratify their need for dominance and control and, ultimately, to gratify sadistic sexual desires.

Predatory stalkers have a different set of problems.  In comparison to other types of stalkers, predatory stalkers are more likely to have a history of convictions for other sexual offense and to have a diagnosable paraphilia (pattern of deviant sexual arousal), particularly involving sexual sadism. Unlike stalkers who develop delusions that their victim is really in love with them or has committed some imaginary offense, these stalkers rarely have psychotic disorders.  They do, however, often have personality disorders.

Is the Predatory Stalker a Psychopath?

While most stalkers (or sexual offenders, for that matter) are not psychopaths, it is interesting that those stalkers who do have psychopathic traits tend to exhibit pursuit behaviors that are similar to stalking predators.  For instance, research suggests that psychopathy is associated with what could be summarized as “boldness and coldness” in stalkers.

Predatory stalkers are also most likely to lead double lives, leaving their friends and family stunned and disbelieving when they are finally caught.  Night stalker Delroy Grant, for example, who stalked, raped and terrorized retired pensioners for years, was viewed as a friendly, self-sacrificing neighbor who religiously cared for his wife who was paralyzed from the neck down from multiple sclerosis.  Midwestern “Mall Rapist” James Perry stalked young girls in the malls and shopping center parking lots,  was a popular member of his suburban community, where he lived with his wife and two young children.

The Bottom Line

All stalkers have the potential for violence although, fortunately, few actually commit it.  Predatory stalkers, however, are a particularly dangerous breed.  Cold and calculating, on the surface they are often able to maintain a façade as a devoted husband, caring professional or kind-hearted neighbor.  Underneath, though, lurks an underbelly of twisted sexual desires and predatory violence.

Joni E. Johnston, Psy.D, is the author of Complete Idiot's Guide to Psychology.

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