Feminine Psychopathy: More Common and More Deadly Than One May Think

This article contains gruesome details. Readers' discretion is heavily advised.

Alyssa Bustamante, 15, sentenced to life in prison for the death of Elizabeth Olten, 9, circa 2009. Now twenty-three, circa 2017, the so-called "thrill killer" still feels zero remorse. (Trial photo circa Crime Watch Daily, 2009) 

Feminine Psychopathy: More Common and More Deadly Than One May Think

Devin Nassar-Reis

Prof. Phil Yeager, PSY2012, Palm Beach State College, Palm Beach Gardens, FL

Author Note

Some details may be considered disturbing or grisly by the reader.

Abstract

Feminine psychopathy is more common than one may think. Who you least suspect may not be the way she presents herself to the world. The woman next to you who seems to “have her life all together” or is “on top of her game” may indeed be a psychopath, and nobody around her knows it. We as humans often associate psychopathy with men, such as Charles Manson and Ted Bundy. For years, the concept of a woman being a psychopath was almost often excluded to television, such as foreign dramas, with characters like Rachel from the smash-hit Korean drama Heirs and Yeon Min Jung from the equally-successful drama Jang Bo Ri is Here being associated with psychopathy almost immediately; while both women may be fictional characters on television, their negative tendencies are very real. While women are considered the more nurturing and empathetic sex, they have often been considered the more vicious and cruel species. Psychopathy is more common in women than men. The women we least suspect may be putting on a façade for the world.

Keywords: Women, Psychopaths, Gaslighting, Bully, Emotional Immaturity, Violence, Empathy, Jokes, Dark Subject Matter

Feminine Psychopathy: More Common and More Deadly Than One May Think

The concept of female psychopathy may sound like a logical fallacy or a made-up lie, but it is very real and more common than one may think. Women who are psychopaths have always been used as characters in wildly-popular teen dramas like Supernatural and Tokyo Ghoul, but the dead giveaways of their personalities are very realistic. Psychopathy is more common in women than men, contrary to popular belief and assumptions. One example would be Lynnette Fromme, a young woman who became infamous for her involvement in both the Tate-LaBianca murders in 1969 and attempting to assassinate then-president Gerald Ford in 1975; to this day, she still shows no remorse or regret for her involvement in the Manson cases and her attempt to shoot Gerald Ford, even saying “I would do it all over again if I could” in an interview with Wolf Blitzer for the news program 20/20. Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, who prosecuted both the Tate-LaBianca case in 1969 and the attempted assassination of then-President Gerald Ford in 1974, immediately noticed her lack of remorse for her involvement in both cases, stating “The only two that tried to keep his flame alive were Squeaky Fromme, who tried to assassinate Gerald Ford, and Sandra Good” in an interview with Time magazine in 2009, regarding the fortieth anniversary of the case that was deemed “the crime of the century” by several news outlets; both the Manson trial and the assassination attempt of Gerald Ford caught more attention from the media than that of the 1996 trial of OJ Simpson. (Q&A: Manson Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, Andrea Sachs, 2009) A woman with psychopathic tendencies is often hiding in plain sight. She could be anyone, from the woman who seems to have the lifestyle anyone can ever want or the sweet girl-next-door who buys coffee for everyone at the office. Oftentimes, the women we least expect are real-life wolves in sheep’s clothing. While all may seem clear on the exterior, the storm that is brewing on the interior has deadly consequences. When the truth comes out, her victims experience the shocks of their lives and are left questioning their own well-being.

Blurred Thought Processes: Not Only Applicable To The Victims

While tendencies such as lack of empathy and bullying are noticeable almost immediately, the aftermath that hurts the victims and bystanders is equally shocking. A woman who is a psychopath feeds off drama and lack of trust, like a school of piranhas feeds from a bloody animal carcass that drowns in a river; no lie to start such drama is off limits. Lies include serious subject matter, such as violence and personal history. Many men who were married to psychopathic women have cited irreconcilable differences as a reason for ending the marriage, as well as domestic violence. While her victims find a successful relationship or friendship elsewhere, the aftermath of these tendencies leaves a suffered not only constantly second-guessing themselves,

Gaslighting, Bullying, Lack of Empathy and Need for Attention: Little-Known Dead Giveaways

Women are vicious overall, even more so than their masculine counterparts. The social concept of women and girls bullying or mistreating one another is not unheard of, as it has been around since the dawn of time; unfortunately, it is no longer an aspect of survival. Bullying and psychopathy go hand in hand, especially with women. According to Dr. Robert H. Hare in a publication for Workplace Bullying Institute, women who bully one another in the workplace for reasons unjustified are more likely to be psychopaths. A woman who has psychopathic tendencies uses bullying behaviors for her own personal gain, whether such actions are used to move up in the workplace or to have the lifestyle of a peer.

Oftentimes, bullying can take a more exhausting and deadly turn for victims that will drive him or her to question their overall well-being; this is referred to as gaslighting, widely known as guilt-tripping. As defined by Dr. Stephanie Sarkis in an article for Psychology Today, gaslighting is a manipulation tactic in which a sufferer begins to question the reality of the various scenarios in which he or she is involved; techniques include harassment, denial, and monetary bribes to make victims of these scenarios look bad. (Gaslighting: Know It and Identify It to Protect Yourself, Psychology Today, Stephanie Sarkis, 2013) A psychopath will often use this mind trick to not only bully potential victims into submission, but to create a negative environment for bystanders as well. Gaslighting is a shockingly common form of bullying.

Women are often considered the more emotional of the two sexes. Through those emotional experiences, we begin to mature. With psychopathy, emotional immaturity can extend far beyond the teenage years, often because of the need for attention. A woman who is a psychopath has the emotional maturity and attention desire of a young teenager, according to a publication by Joni E. Johnston. (Female Psychopaths, Psychology Today, Joni E. Johnston, 2012) Even the most minuscule setbacks can result in a full-blown public meltdown that an immature high schooler would throw if another girl looked better than her at a party; these tantrums are more often verbal than physical. When these emotional outbursts bring her attention, she is satisfied. While women are considered more mature than men by light years, according to a 2013 publication by PsychCentral. (Sorry Guys, But Women’s Brains Mature Faster, Rick Nauert, 2013) A psychopath may be emotionally immature and crave attention like a has-been celebrity, as well as a callous person overall.

When something bad happens to a peer, we often find ourselves saying, “That’s horrible” or “I hope things get better”, especially with the loss of a relative or friend. Women who are psychopaths could really care less, as satisfying their own personal desires come first. While any normal woman may rush to a friend’s side at any given crisis, a psychopath would respond with, “I have better things to do” or “I really don’t care”. This stems from a lack of empathy. Lack of the ability to empathize is more prominent and consistent in women with psychopathic traits, versus a normal woman who is just going through a rough time overall. A woman who is going through a rough time would show remorse for callousness.

Lack Of Remorse, Very Little Friends, Violence, and A Twisted Mindset: No Laughing Matter.

Any normal individual would feel both shameful and apologetic after committing a heinous act, ultimately expressing regret after being caught; oftentimes, they do not expect to be forgiven. When a psychopath is caught, she would normally respond with excuses and arrogance. Other than bragging, she would also push the blame onto someone else, as well as manipulating the bystander into believing that the individual committed the act. Nearly forty-two years after attempting to assassinate then-president Gerald Ford, former Manson Family member Lynette ‘Squeaky’ Fromme shows no remorse to this day. Her excuse for attempting to shoot the president in 1975 was “to win Manson’s approval”; she was ultimately sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. (Gerald Ford Survives First Assassination Attempt, September 5, HISTORY channel) Years after the incident, a psychopath will still make excuses, brag, and blame a bystanding individual. This can be deadly.

Women are naturally very social. Oftentimes, we know one woman with few acquaintances, either because she is socially awkward or has a hard time making friends altogether. We have always known someone with few friends, or it has happened to us at one point or another. While this can be perceived as normal for individuals with disabilities such as autism or Tourette’s Syndrome, a lack of friends is perceived as abnormal for a neurotypical individual. Psychopaths often have very little or no friends not only because of callousness, but because of their actions. One’s actions affect the amount of people in their inner circle. Their behavioral patterns drive individuals away. A woman with very little or no friends is not only a dead giveaway for the type of person that she is, but can be a hint at the type of person she is.

As obvious as it sounds, violence is synonymous with psychopathy. Physical or verbal, no form of violence is off limits to a psychopathic woman. She will often have violent tendencies, such as torturing animals, as a child; these are actions that she will hold onto as an adult, which can ultimately drive her to commit murder. According to an article written by Dr. Seth Myers for Psychology Today, violence can stem from relational aggression, in which the woman uses a relationship to a sufferer as a gateway to execute these actions. Whether verbal or physical, violence is an outlet for harbored aggression. When aggression is concealed for a long time, tendencies come to light in a horrifying manner. (Your Field Guide To The Female Psychopath, Dr. Seth Meyers, Psy.D, 2015) One infamous example is Brenda Spencer, the San Diego teen who killed two people and injured nine others at Grover Cleveland Elementary School, located across the street from her house; this was in 1978. After she had fired thirty rounds out of a rifle her father had given her, she had barricaded herself inside her home for seven hours. Her motive behind the crime was not only bizarre, but shocking. When asked by police, she replied with, “I hate Mondays”. Brenda was very public about her violent mindset, and shows no regret for her actions. (San Diego Police Museum, Brenda Spencer) A psychopath may be subtle about their tendencies.

All of us joke around with friends and family; it’s a natural part of our social lives. With a woman with psychopathic tendencies, humor can be deadly. Many psychopaths in the workplace comment on how a top position at their job is “to die for”. While this statement has been used freely by perfectly healthy individuals, a woman that is unstable may take this statement a little bit more literally. Many psychopathic women will often joke about murder, which is a dead giveaway that they will act on it. In 2009, fifteen-year-old Jefferson City teen Alyssa Bustamante viciously stabbed her nine-year-old neighbor Elizabeth Olten to death, leaving Elizabeth’s remains covered in twigs and brush before leaving the scene; before heading off to church, the teen had written in her diary that she killed the little girl “just to know what it felt like”. According to peers, she had frequently joked about homicide and violence. (Alyssa Bustamante, 15, Charged With Slaying of 9-Year-Old Elizabeth Olten, Pete Kotz, True Crime Report, 2009) Twisted thoughts are an immediate giveaway, as these expressions can be fatal to another human. A twisted and mindset is never a laughing matter.

My Family and I Knew A Psychopath Personally When I Was A Kid-Before I Even Knew What Psychopathy Was.

The saying “mothers know best” can be applied in various scenarios, as any mother has naturally instinctive tendencies. My mother, brother, and sister, whom I will be referring to as Amelia, Andrew, and Christie, got the shock if our lives in 2005, when I was eight years old. Christie knew a woman, who I will be referring to as Cassidy, and they were friends for a brief period of time. On the outside, Cassidy seemed somewhat normal to my sister, her friends and myself. She was extremely polite to me, Andrew, and my mother; my mother and Andrew found that very overly-polite façade so off-putting, it made them both uncomfortable. Cassidy had sometimes given me small gifts like slap bracelets and hair clips, which any little girl my age would love. Christie and Amelia were friends with my neighbors that lived down the street, who I will call Allison and Tom. Tom and Allison’s son, who I will be referring to as Joshua, was a friend of mine; we went to school together at the time. When they both started high school, Cassidy and Christie not only grew apart emotionally, but lost contact altogether; Cassidy had moved to Oregon, whereas Allison and Tom stayed behind in California. Allison and Cassidy began to argue, like all siblings do, but many of those arguments became both verbally and physically violent. One day, my mother, siblings, and I got the shock of our lives. The morning of April 4th, 2004 will haunt me and my family for the rest of our lives. Christie went outside to pick up a copy of our local newspaper, immediately after she and Scott had finished getting ready for school. She had done that every morning as usual, not thinking anything of what would happen next. Christie experienced the shock of her life that morning. In tears, she told me and my family, “Cassidy killed someone.” I did not want to believe that what Christie had said was true because I was so blindsided by my child-like ignorance. After my mother, had picked up Christie and I from school, Allison had called my mother in tears, “Joshua is dead, Amelia. Cassidy killed him. She didn’t even call 911”; she came over with Tom that evening to tell my family and I the full story. Tom was equally unable to comprehend what he had borne witness to the evening before. The truth was that she and Cassidy had gotten into an argument that had taken a grisly and twisted turn. Cassidy had robbed Allison and murdered Joshua. In the front-page article, it had shown that she had shown no remorse for the death of an innocent human being. All Christie, Andrew, I felt in the year afterward was a combination of pain, anger, and sadness. All my mother and brother saw in Cassidy was the devil in its most human form. I was so blindsided by my own childish innocence that I was completely unaware of the true evils of this world; my innocence had completely gotten the best of me. To this day, Miranda, Scott, and I cannot discuss the subject matter without feeling the unimaginable pain and anger that we had felt at the time. The images from that morning in April replay in my mind repeatedly, leaving me horrified every time.

In conclusion, psychopathic women are more common than we think. While all may seem like sunshine and clear skies on the exterior, a deadly Category Five hurricane is brewing on the inside. Only after years does a sufferer learn the truth about their aggressor. Victims experience the shock of their lives after a woman, who can be anyone’s wife or girlfriend, is the opposite of who she seemed like. Wolves in sheep’s clothing come with immediately dangerous personalities. Psychopaths are not who they present themselves as. Feminine psychopathy is far from fiction. It is all-too-real.

Acknowledgements

During the Manson trial, prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi also created the modern insanity plea protocol, which involves looking at the individual’s medical and psychiatric history, as well as the individual being considered a threat to themselves and others under Freud’s definition of insanity; the 2009 interview for TIME magazine was one of his final interviews before his death. He passed away on June 5th of 2015 at the age of ninety in Rosemead, CA. Lynette Fromme has been denied parole by the state of California several times, as she is still considered a threat to the public, as well as herself; she is still serving life in prison without the possibility of parole for the attempted assassination of Gerald Ford, as well as her involvement in the Manson case. My mother’s grandparents were close friends with Rosemary and Leno LaBianca. My mother was seven years old upon hearing of the Manson case. Alyssa Bustamante had attempted to plead insanity at the time of her trial, but her medical and psychiatric history had proven otherwise; she did not fit Freud’s definition of insanity, and still shows little remorse for her involvement in the death of Elizabeth Olten. She was ultimately sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, as she was ineligible for execution by lethal injection because of her age. Brenda Spencer is currently serving life in prison, although she was tried as an adult and was considered eligible for the death penalty. She was sixteen at the time of her prosecution. My family has since lost contact with Allison and Tom, as we had moved to Florida from California six years ago. Allison and Tom still live in California. Although my family has Allison and Tom’s home and cell phone numbers, we rarely ever talk. Cassidy is currently serving life in prison without the possibility of parole at a women’s prison in Oregon, as she was sixteen at the time she murdered her nephew; she is still considered ineligible for the death penalty because she was a minor at the time of her prosecution. Christie and Andrew had found out about Joshua’s untimely death by reading the newspaper; Christie does not like to talk about the crime to this day. The names of the individuals mentioned, as well as some circumstances, have been changed for privacy purposes.

References

A&E Television Networks (2014) Squeaky Fromme. Bio Networks

Barry, Michael T. (2017) Brenda Spencer-“I Don’t Like Mondays” (January 29, 1978). Crime Magazine

Freeman, Rhonda. (2015) 6 Obstacles To A Relationship With A Psychopath. Psychology Today

Johnston, Joni E. (2012). Female Psychopaths. Psychology Today

Kotz, Pete (2009) Alyssa Bustamante, 15, Charged With The Slaying Of Elizabeth Olten, True Crime Report

Meyers, Seth (2015) Your Field Guide To The Female Psychopath, Psychology Today

Nauert, Rick. (2013) Sorry Guys, But Women’s Brains Mature Faster, Psych Central

Sachs, Andrea (2009) Q&A With Manson Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, TIME Magazine

San Diego Police Department (2001) Brenda-Spencer, San Diego Police Department

Sarkis, Stephanie (2017) Gaslighting: Know It and Identify It To Protect Yourself, Psychology Today

Personal Experience (2004)

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