Under Attack? What can I do?

Background

The 2018 annual report for the Armando Martins Campaign touched on the likelihood of neighbours going on the attack by describing the factors involved.  Although it focused on a narrow part of the community, at large the report found the likelihood of a neighbour or work colleague singling a person for special treatment is high enough to cause concern.  There are implications for the health and welfare of whole communities.  How authorities respond to this behaviour is another concern.  Victims are treated like dreamers.  The amount of money at stake for both the victims and the authorities, were they to deal with nightmare neighbours properly, is high enough to have an impact on what the public (and mental health) services can deliver. 

The problems nightmare neighbours cause is largely due to toxic minded people and these can be found anywhere, in schools, the neighbourhood or in a workplace mingling with ordinary citizens.  The understanding of toxic minds is not developed sufficiently enough for people in positions of responsibility to understand and act upon appropriately.

For the purpose of this article therefore,  bullying and intimidation is viewed as a process and focus is given to the points in the process where the victim has opportunities to take proportional countermeasures.  These are summarised toward the end of the article.  The main aim is to discuss the impact on the victim and the role of the perpetrator in conflict situations for the purpose of enabling the victim to decide what can help them. 

WARNING:  This article describes actions taken by victims of bullying when the police or authorities didn’t react.  As far as the author knows he was right in taking those actions and they were proportional and appropriate.  They were consistent with public safety training he received while in the NHS.  See also here  for an article on the topic of what to do in the event of an attack.  You should always report crime to the police.  Just because your local community safety unit don’t respond, bullying is nonetheless a crime and never acceptable.

The rules of Occasional Conflict

The occasional conflict between an individual human being and an acquaintance, neighbour or work colleague can be expected.  It’s a normal part of daily life.  Normally any bad feelings generated are easy to disperse by an apology, a favour, a few drinks, and/or a hand shake.   Recovery is quite easy to achieve this way and these are the only countermeasures needed in normal situations.  The normal rules of society are that regardless of any action by the victim that may have sparked a situation, to continue it, with another wrong, won’t make it right.  People make mistakes or act criminally and the fair way to deal with them is for them to face a fair trial, own up, pay up and apologise.  The right to a fair trial is enshrined in the human rights act.

Continuing Conflict

Abnormally, if both parties don’t recover, something might be blocking that and it could turn into a continuing and persistent conflict.  Often passed off as normal behaviour – various types of conflict exist.  These are often explained away as spats, grudges or vendetta.  In all of these, one of the parties will go on to become victimised or punished, usually outside the rule of law, by the assailant(s).  Assailants have various motives and techniques for achieving their ultimate aim – to score a hit for their own pleasure by harming the victim.  Usually they disguise this as normal behaviour.

In the worst case scenario in any type of conflict, depending on the mindset of the perpetrator, the victim can face the ultimate price – death.  Kenneth Noye famously killed his victim, 
Stephen Cameron, in a road rage incident (technically a spat).  This happened near Swanley in Kent in 1996 while Noye was out on licence from prison.

Not all Injuries are Visible

Many people become victims of the extreme, abnormal and inappropriate behaviour of their assailants.  Not all injuries are visible.  For example Stalking, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP), is one form of  extreme behaviour that a victim may encounter.  They say that stalking can be triggered by the perception of the perpetrator, that the victim has somehow treated them badly or unfairly.

Unwanted Behaviour

In stalking, therefore the assailant is responding by disrupting the victims life, coercing them with unwanted behaviour that the victim(s) will struggle to cope with.  According to the RCP between 20% and 40% of victims experience symptoms of mental disorder as a result of being stalked.

How do you Respond to that?

According to one victim of bullying, this manifest in prolonged internal mental conflict about the situation that developed between him and a neighbour and how to deal with it.  

Such a mental state is a very useful tool in the hands of a bullying manager or work colleague.  Once the victim begins to suffer, sooner or later, depending on his or her own characteristics, he or she will eventually become unfit for work.  This is due partly because of sleeplessness and partly because of mental exhaustion.  Such is the level of harm caused by this trauma, it is likely to lead to a mental breakdown and for some victims, suicide. 

Recovery is a specialist job and scarce health resources mean that the victim can be easily made unfit for work and without support from colleagues.  At work, when their performance dips they become vulnerable targets for unlawful dismissal (which occurs despite the best occupational health and anti bullying policy.)   Returning to work if the situation has not been dealt with, would simply put the victim back in harms way.  Even if the conflict is manifest in the community, the victim is at risk from poor work performance.

Deliberately Engineered Toxic Situations

All of the above become useful weapons to a toxic mindset and they will very quickly take advantage of any mistake or action by the victim that can be used to deliberately engineer a toxic situation.  This will provide the assailant with what they want from it – gratification. 

Who is in the driving seat?

The characteristics of toxic mindsets are discussed elsewhere but if your occasional conflict at work or at home has developed into a continuing conflict with unwanted behaviour, then it is not the victim, but the colleague or neighbour turned assailant or perpetrator who is driving it.

Countermeasures

The following plan was used successfully to counter a sadistic neighbour who perpetrated over sixty attacking incidents in 25 years against one of his neighbours:

  • Realise somebody is driving the situation.  One victim describes the relief of finding this out, assisted by the counselling of the late Dr Tim Field, as something of an epiphany.  Firstly the knowledge that he was being bullied and what that was, was Something he could use to control the mental conflict which was preventing him from performing at work or at home.  (Bullying isn’t a dream like some people would have you think.)  Armed with this he set in his mind a simple mantra to deal with what bullies refer to as “overthinking it”.  To block some thoughts he would simply use his internal voice to say “It’s not me”.  He then focused on developing countermeasures aimed to stop the assailant(s) from engineering incidents, or if he could he would disrupt them.  This victim said that his assailants found it difficult to recruit somebody into his post.  A technique common in the NHS to deal with trumped up work performance issues.  The victim is demoted by a back door process of appointing someone to take his job.  It was difficult to recruit because the victim had met each of the candidates before their job interview.
  • Counter Denial, Keeping Records and Writing Reports.  The victims natural response to bullying is denial (part of the continuous mental conflict) once the victim has established what is behind his treatment it should become routine to log any incidents.  No encounter between the victim and assailant should be “shrugged off”. 
  • Realise its YOUR perception of events that matters.  Do not let the authorities “shrug things off”.  If you are the victim, its your perception of incidents that matters.
  • Make Time to Deal with it.  Dealing with toxic people can be a daunting prospect in complex situations like the workplace.  Effectively an assailant will triple your mental workload and divert energy from your lifestyle and job.  Focus on the problem by devoting time to it.  What happens at work, deal with at work.  One victim excluded himself from other activities or gave them “back burner” status until after the bullying had been resolved.  This episode earned him a lot of respect in the hierarchy for the way it was dealt with.  While he “wasn’t performing as a manager”, he was letting the CEO know how he and colleagues were treated at work and how to improve that by developing anti bullying policy.  Eventually in another job, this meant giving up his job, which had become unsustainable.  Each situation is different.
  • Create a fallback. The ultimate aim of an assailant is to hit you where it hurts.  If he or she can get you into the mental state described above it will have the desired effect – an impact on your ability to work.  Everyone who works should ask themselves if they are out of work, how will they survive? Make sure you aren’t the vulnerable person they think you are or want you to be.  Not everyone can do this but everyone should.  Putting aside a few months wages as a reserve will give you a choice.
  • Take back control.  Take control of any incidents.  This can be achieved by noting when and and how they occur and the content.  This will help in predicting where future incidents will occur. 
  • Get on with your life and live it the way YOU want to.  Controlling mindsets will aim to limit the victims lifestyle.  Sadists get pleasure from forcing people to obey their rules.  By doing things that the victim is perfectly entitled to it and not complying with twisted demands, it will expose the mindset of the perpetrator and deny the controlling assailant his or her pleasure.  It will also make them more determined and in turn they will increase the number of incidents, creating more opportunities for them to give away vital clues to the behaviour.   
  • Know the mindset you are dealing with.  Take care to listen to what is being said by the assailant and study his mindset.  Check against reality what he is saying to the victim and the authorities.  
  • Be alert.  Hyper-vigilance is an illness which leads the victim to be alert to sights and sounds associated with attacks.  While an illness, this can be very useful.  One victim said he got a valuable warning that an incident would be occurring from sounds he heard in previous incidents just before an attack.  While these sounds raised his levels of fear, they also enabled him to be ready to gather evidence and briefly prepare for the inevitable.
  • Establish True Intent and Motive.  Listening and recording what is being said by an assailant during any engagement helps to establish the assailants true intent.  If you cant record it, make notes.  Sort the lies and half lies from the truth and test them against reality.
  • Expose the assailants lies and deception.   A common tactic of bullies is to fool the authorities into believing they are the victim.  See DARVO here.  One victim said that observing the authorities reaction to his  version of events and then hearing what the assailant had told the same people about it raised his suspicion enough to research DARVO and eliminate it from the process.
  • Keep in touch with your GP about your illness.  He or she has access to medicines that help with symptoms of reactive depression and PTSD and the GP can give you time off work to take you out of the situation – if that’s where it is.  In the workplace, use the Access to Medical Records act to tell your GP to deny your assailant information about your illness.  The last thing any victim will need is an assailant that knows how effective his actions against the victim are.  He (or she) will be judging their success by it.  Unfortunately corporate occupational health departments have a habit of sharing your health information with workplace assailant’s.

Early Recognition

Depending on their own mindset, the initial response of victims when they realise they aren’t in a friendly relationship can be an unpleasant Adrenalin rush or shock.  This is caused by the fight or flight response being triggered.  Varying symptoms of post traumatic stress will occur from that point on depending on the victims mindset.  For the victim this is unpleasant but for the perpetrator it brings a moment of pleasure and satisfaction.

Conclusions

If you find yourself in persistent conflict and becoming traumatised, the best advice ever is to walk away early on in the process.  If you have just moved into a neighbourhood, this will not be what you want to hear.  Almost certainly if you have bought the property, its price will drop as you will have to declare neighbourhood disputes and problems when selling.  All this is good for the assailant of course as he or she can weaponise it and use it to blackmail the victim.

While putting distance between you and the nightmare might seem to be a good idea, and will prevent abusers from getting at you, in the background there will always be a link from one place to the next.  This can come in the form of references, or between neighbours, some of whom would go to the extreme of influencing your life and attempt to achieve that through destroying your reputation with stigmata that follow you to wherever you are.  

Of all the countermeasures we have come across I have left the best until the last.  Winning is highly recommended.  A win, will prove the victims case and exonerate him or her.  The bullying stops and whatever form it takes you get your self esteem back.  

Epilogue.

The right place for resolving disputes is through the courts, however, like the police their knowledge of the subject is limited and easily corrupted by money and power, gossip and lies.  The type of “justice” bullies rely on in the community by spreading lies and rumours about people is never acceptable.

Stuart Dixon

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