"But he seems so nice and caring?"
Yeah, well, so did Ted Bundy.
When will we collectively finally realize that some of the most abusive, predatory people in the world are simply playing a role for the masses even though they may seem "nice" on social media or in person? It's crazy to me to think that we, as a whole, STILL believe that the "bad guy" looks like a bad guy.
Now, with that said, I'm guilty of it, too. I have been known to judge a book by its cover despite the fact that my childhood abuser is good looking, charming, and funny. And my ex fits the same bill plus add a dash of Svengali.
Predators—both male and female—are the best actors in the world. Most are extremely likable with the uncanny ability to sniff out vulnerability and deep wounds in their prey. They are masters at pulling people into their circle.
Here are a few things I've learned about predators over the years:
So how do you know if you're dealing with a predator?
Pay attention to your gut feelings about a person and don't naively believe what they are sharing on social media or in person. Trust your intuition and the physical signs that help you recognize intuitive hits. The kick in the gut feeling is one of the biggest clues that someone is stealing your power/deceiving you. And if you venture into a relationship with someone who fits the bill, do your homework. Ask around and/or do a background check to ensure there are no restraining orders on the report.
Predators know what they're doing and how to do it—even if they look nice.
For more on the subject, check out:
As many of you know, I just finished writing a book about my journey from 2009-now. It's definitely a stranger-than-fiction tale but here's the thing -- it's all real. In fact, it was too real for me back when my intuition hit me over the head. I was terrified and didn't see the whole picture then, but I do now. And I wanted to share how intuition helped me survive and heal from childhood and narcissistic abuse.
I thought I'd share a bit of Chapter 2 where I share what happened when one amazing kid named Nate Pannell came into my life.
If you are looking for proof that intuition is real, check out this excerpt....
CHAPTER 2 – NATE & CARRIE
“Mom, do you remember the Pannell family in Defiance?” I asked while talking on the phone one day in 2010, the year my intuition kicked into high gear.
“Sure, I do—John and Denise, right? They graduated a couple years before you.”
“Yeah, they did. I don’t really know them but we are friends on Facebook. The strangest thing happened when I was mindlessly reading the feed today—I started to recognize that their son, who has apparently passed on, was in the kitchen with me.”
Silence filled the space where she was supposed to be thoughtfully commenting. I didn’t blame her. It’s a shocking statement to hear and this was all new to my parents. I’d been grappling with it all in the comfort of my own home with Scott and the kids, but this was a leap I hadn’t taken yet. I was telling my parents I was sensing things that maybe weren’t there. Crazy things that they didn’t have any experience with at all. The fear of judgment and ridicule was consuming me but I didn’t stop.
I went on to explain to my mom what I’d been dealing with for some time now and how messages from what could only be described as spirit were somehow being made known to me. And now, it was starting to happen when I scanned the Facebook feed. She listened supportively, not really knowing what to say as I continued relaying what happened that day.
I told her that while I was looking at photos of a memorial held for Nate, I heard his voice and saw flashes of scenes that he wanted to talk about. I felt him around me more than saw him as an apparition but one thing was clear—he was ready to talk. When I first started to recognize he was there wanting to communicate, I experienced chills up and down my body. I noticed they were predominantly on the left side of my body and made note of that, too.
I picked up my new tarot card deck for backup because I really had no idea what I was doing. I thought maybe somehow the cards would help. I was encouraged by my Reiki instructors to play around with tarot because it was a visual representation of what comes in intuitively. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure what I believed but I thought it was worth a shot. I pulled three cards and shockingly was able to finish deciphering the last message Nate was trying to share. It was for his brother. After I made sure I had all of the messages written down, he pled with me to pass them to his parents.
I sat frozen in my chair thinking about what just happened. The last thing I wanted to do was reach out to grieving parents who may or may not be receptive to me. Their family had been through so much already. What if I was wrong and none of it was real? What if they saw me as someone trying to somehow take advantage of their situation? I wasn’t asking for money or anything, of course, but still. I don’t know how I’d react if someone reached out to me this way. Finally, I rose from my chair knowing I needed time to think about all of it and bee-lined it for our bedroom. Sitting on the edge of the bed with my notes in hand, I knew I had a choice to make. For now, it was to hide what had happened and go about life as normal. Normal was easier.
After a minute or two of contemplation, I swiftly opened the front drawer of my bedside table and stuffed the messages inside. I knew I needed time, so I waited to be filled with courage and knowledge that what Nate was asking me to do was the right thing.
The courage came two days later in the form of a very quiet, calm knowing when I least expected it. I wasn’t even thinking about Nate until, out of the blue, peace came over me. I was still terrified but deep down I knew I had to try. Even if they slammed the proverbial door in my face. Even if I was going to be the laughing stock of my hometown after word got around. I gently pulled the paper filled with Nate’s messages out of the drawer and crafted a quick introductory message to his mom, Denise. I nervously hit the send button hoping that I was doing the right thing. And it was indeed exactly what was meant to happen.
It was the right thing. Denise responded kindly which started a back-and-forth exchange leading to a phone call and later on, an in-person meeting.
About a year after I shared Nate’s messages with his family, I asked John if he wouldn’t mind writing what the experience was like for them. He told me he would be happy to write it up.
A week or so later, John shared his account of their experience with me via email. As I read it, my jaw hit the floor. I had no idea the impact it made on his entire family. I knew from sitting with them that they greatly appreciated that I reached out to them, but I didn’t fully grasp how much it shaped the course of their lives.
I was in tears reading about the healing that Nate had facilitated from the other side. Of course, I knew what the whole experience did for me and I’m eternally grateful. Nate and his beautiful family helped me understand that what I was experiencing wasn’t just my imagination. It was very real and very important for all of us. I just had to have the courage to trust.
Written by John Pannell, Nate’s Dad:
"Almost four years ago, I was just surviving being a bereaved parent of a
child that has passed away. It was a daily struggle getting through a day without a total meltdown and the overwhelming feeling that I didn't want to live the rest of my life in the role of a grieving parent. It was in the midst of one of my many meltdowns that I remember my wife coming upstairs, in tears, telling me she got a message from Nate, our son that had passed away at the age of 13 from an AVM. I tried to listen to what she was trying to tell me, but it seemed Greek to me because I couldn't get past my own doubt in what had happened. She tells me that she got an email message from this lady in California about how strange it may seem, but she thinks she has a message for us from our son. If we were willing, we could give her a call.
Denise called her and spoke for almost an hour. Denise was trying to relay the information from the four pages of notes she took while Kiersten talked. The only comfort this brought to me was that for the first time since Nate's death, I had seen tears of joy versus tears of sorrow. Denise and Kiersten had kept in contact, I kept my distance. One day, I remember Denise telling me that Kiersten was going to be in the area and wanted to meet with us.
Out of obligation to Denise, growing skepticism, and just a dash of curiosity, I agreed to meet with Kiersten. My anxiety level that day was extremely high. I remember when Kiersten showed up at our house and sat down with us at dining room table. It was my wife, our younger son, Jack, my wife's aunt Sally, Kiersten, and myself. There was a lot of small talk and I listened intently trying to find what the catch was. Over the next three and a half hours, what I got were answers, hope, and explanations. I had questions to authenticity as to who Kiersten was and what were her motives were. I found Kiersten to be one of the most genuine persons I have had the pleasure of meeting. She spoke from the heart. She relayed to us information as it was interpreted by her. What I found was she spoke with a gift. Her heart was pure. Her interpretation spot on. She offered validation that was unquestionably accurate. She gave us peace knowing that our son was fine. Kiersten taught me that events that occur are not just coincidence.
Kiersten opened up a form of communication between my son and I that allowed me to go from being a grieving parent just existing to being a bereaved parent that is allowed to live. She has helped us by being a conduit for question and answer sessions, she has taught us what it means to look for the hidden meaning, most importantly, she gave us our youngest son back. You see, until that time, there wasn't much communication between him and his mother and me. I know a large amount of time that first night meeting Kiersten, she spent talking with Jack. I have never asked either one what exactly was said, but I can say whatever it was, it made a difference in a young man's life.
Meeting Kiersten and being open to her gift has not taken away the fact that we lost our oldest son. That is something we live with every day. Having Kiersten reaching out to us, opening herself up to us, putting it all out there, all for us and never asking for anything in return, has given us peace.
Kiersten, I know that my statement doesn't even start to do justice to what you have given us."
-- John Pannell
Nate has his own page on my website here.
I woke up this morning thinking about how different my life is now compared to three years ago.
Back then, my hair was falling out and I was always on edge. Tears streamed down my face several times a week because no matter what I did to avoid fights, I was constantly doing something wrong in my ex's eyes.
This morning, I thought about how far I've come. Just two years ago when Scott and I weren't back together yet but we were spending time together, I was still experiencing PTSD-like reactions.
The excerpt below (from my upcoming book called TNF: One Woman’s True Story of How Intuition Helped her Survive and Heal From Abuse) illustrates just how much narcissistic abuse affects you subconsciously.
We spent time together as a family and we spent time alone just hanging out without any pressure. He saw me through what I know were PTSD reactions to the abuse I’d endured for so long.
One night, we went down to one of our favorite Italian restaurants in town. As I sat down in the booth, it hit me that I was still unconsciously choosing the side of the booth that didn’t face the door. In an effort to be fully open with him, I shared my revelation.
“Scott, I just realized something,” I started.
“What do you mean?” he replied nonchalantly while looking over the wine menu.
“Well, I didn’t realize I was still conditioned to pick the seat that doesn’t face the door.”
“Wait, that was a thing?” he questioned, putting down the menu. “God, Kiers, I’m so sorry . . . what happened?”
“You know how the eye contact thing was a big deal to him?” I said. “Well, one time, when we were traveling, I took a seat in a Mediterranean restaurant that faced the door. It was during the day so the light was kind of blinding me when the door would open and I would instinctively look up.”
“Don’t tell me . . . he thought you were scoping out other men,” Scott said shaking his head.
“Yes, that’s exactly it,” I went on. “If I wasn’t being accused of checking out other men, then I simply wasn’t present with him. I was too busy looking at the door, apparently.”
He reached over and grabbed my hands and said how sorry he was that I went through that, and that I was still going through that.
“I just can’t believe that I’m still doing it, even though you are not him, and I know that.”
It's been two years and a few months since my recovery started and I'm proud to say I no longer unconsciously pick the seat that doesn't face the door, my hair is growing again, and I haven't cried (aside from when I watched the end of The Notebook this morning) in months.
Life is calm, peaceful, and fun. The way it's meant to be.
If you just left an emotionally abusive relationship, know that it gets so much better. Just give yourself time. <3
For more information on narcissistic/sociopathic abuse, check out these past blog posts:
HOW TO SPOT A WOLF IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING
PROCESSING THE EMOTIONAL AND PHYSICAL AFFECTS OF ABUSE
ADDICTION: BIOCHEMICAL BONDS OF NARCISSISTIC ABUSE
This puppy—all 88,000 words—is finally heading off to my editor! Woohoo!! "TNF: A True Story About How Kids in Spirit Helped Me Survive and Heal from Abuse" is the working title/subtitle but that could easily change. Thought I'd share part of Chapter 18 (the unedited version, of course)......
The restraining order made me feel like I’d done everything I could to protect myself but there was also the minor detail that I still lived on the first floor of the apartment complex. And he knew that. Given what I’d endured and the fact I was standing up to him, I worried he might try to confront me in person. I’ve never known anyone to drive all night like he did when we were together. There were times he prided himself on driving across the country in 3-4 days time.
All of this led me to knock on the apartment manager’s door and explain what had been happening, that Scott and I had reunited, and that I now had a restraining order against Blane. “Luck” would have it that the apartment complex manager had dealt with a similarly abusive ex and had, at one time, woken up to her abuser having snuck into her first-floor apartment. He hid under her bed before he made himself known to her. She knew all too well what I was potentially facing.
To say she was sympathetic is an understatement. She was super happy to see Scott and I back together and not the least bit timid when she told me that other tenants frequently called the office to complain about the yelling they heard coming from my apartment. It turns out, others were equally as worried as the maintenance man was when he called the police.
She said because I held in my hand an official restraining order against him for domestic violence, I was legally allowed to get out of my lease. Scott was not; however, because he wasn’t on the order. He would have to file his own case against Blane and that wasn’t a viable option. In that moment, we hatched a plan. His two-bedroom apartment was about to become a four-person home until his lease ran out.
Later that night, we sat down with the kids at dinner to tell them what we’d learned and what we wanted to do. They’d been through so much but we had a feeling that this move would be welcomed. Especially because we let the kids have the two bedrooms and we set up our bed in the living room. Loft-style living for seven months sounded like a fun adventure. And who could argue that placing your bed just inches from the kitchen was a bad thing?!!
Grace and I scooted out after dinner to run errands and when we came back, part of our apartment living room had been moved up to Scott’s place by Scott and Noah. It was so fun to see the excitement on both of their faces when we walked into his apartment.
We had a blast making our “tiny home” work for us and took pride in our innovative layout. Being under one roof again was a dream come true and a financial godsend. Having hemorrhaged money with Blane, it was nice to feel like I could breathe a little bit, again.
But mostly, I was just relieved to feel like I could actually physically breathe again. I’ve never been a real “cuddler” but the first few months we were back together, it’s all I wanted to do. I felt safe and happy again nestled in Scott’s arms while we watched movies in our living room bed. Life was beginning to normalize thanks to Scott and the kids, my therapists, my friends, and my resolve to undo the subconscious programming that kept me locked in the cycle of abuse.
It took about six months for my body to calm down chemically from the addiction to the abuse known in many circles as trauma bonding. Normality and awareness were the cures. Then it came time to kick the cigarette habit that had spiraled out of control towards the end of my time with Blane. Intuitively, I knew I could do it and it wouldn’t take much effort since I was out of the abuse but it took two tries to get there. On the second try, I quit cold turkey. I surprised myself with the sudden switcheroo after using cigarettes for coping with relationship abuse for so long.
Even when I received a Facebook message from a man I didn’t know who shamed me for speaking out about the abuse I endured, I didn’t race to the closest convenience store to buy a pack of Virginia Slims. I simply sat at my desk, frozen.
I didn’t know this man named Scott Tullman but I decided to accept his private Facebook message out of curiosity. I didn’t know what to expect, but in that moment, I didn’t think it would be something scathing and shaming. Turns out, I was wrong. Mr. Tullman told me how horrible I was for talking openly about the abuse I endured in addition to lots of other lovely digs. It didn’t even occur to me at the time that this message could be my ex.
I wrote back that I thought it was so strange that he was writing me about something he had no experience with, and that maybe he should support women who report abuse versus shame them. Naively, I still didn’t think it was a fake profile. After I wrote back, I blocked him.
About an hour later, I received another message request from a woman named “Karen” claiming to be Scott’s wife. My jaw hit the floor. Who were these people who were so invested in shaming me for sharing my journey? Did they know my ex? Maybe I was a bit slow that day, or maybe I just generally believe people and what they are presenting, but I still thought the whole thing was real.
Hours went by when suddenly it hit me: they aren’t real people. They are one person (or one person and an accomplice) disguised as Scott and Karen in order to get the last word and circumvent the law.
I went to work investigating who Scott Tullman and Karen Marie were, starting with Google image searches that revealed both profiles used photos of other people who were traceable. Scott’s photo was of a well-known photographer named Lee. I let Lee know his picture was being used on a fake profile; he was grateful.
Karen’s photo was of a bartender in NYC. I used my detective experience to connect more dots: Karen and Scott lived in different areas of the country yet Karen and Scott both reviewed the photography business of a woman named Kim on Facebook. Kim was connected to— you guessed it—Blane. Kim reviewed Blane’s HOUZZ profile yet when questioned directly by Egan, she denied knowing Blane or Scott, her supposed client. The connections were pretty clear to me but getting Facebook to give me the IP information proved impossible.
I remembered what the detective at Flagstaff PD said: “You know that when you file a restraining order, it doesn’t guarantee your safety, and you can pretty much bet he will try to get around the order by sending messages somehow.” I immediately sent her all of the evidence I found and she urged me to see what I could get from Facebook but warned me it would be difficult. Again, she was right.
He violated the restraining order which technically meant he should have been arrested and taken to jail but I could never get the IP info from Facebook which was the very thing I needed to present to the court. This is just one of the ways abusers can break restraining orders regardless of how much evidence piles up. It was beyond frustrating, to say the least, but not something I wanted to dwell on once I realized I had no recourse.
The only thing I could do was help others who were in similar positions so I wrote a blog post about how to research fake profiles. Maybe, just maybe, I reached one person who was able to put their abuser behind bars for breaking a protective order. I know I reached Kim and Blane because miraculously Scott Tullman’s profile photo using Lee’s image disappeared and was replaced by an untraceable stock photo. Someone had been reading my blog.
“You’ve got to be mistaken.”
“His kids (adult kids) will be devastated if they find out.”
“How can you be sure this happened to you? That it was him?”
“We were never with him during evening time nor did we spend the night.” (As if sexual abuse can only happen at night.)
“You realize being vocal about this hurts all of us, right?”
I heard all of these at various times since I came out with what happened to me as a child. These are not reactions from cold-hearted, distant people. They are the reactions from loving, caring, heart-centered women in my family. Hurting them was the last thing I wanted to do but if I kept my secret to my grave, I would not have been honoring Little Kiersten, who carried the weight of all of the abuse for 35 years.
I soon realized protection of self and others (others that were not me) was the underlying motivation for the disbelieving responses. And I had every right to be angry as hell.
There I was, then age forty, stunned that I was being questioned the way I was, even after all the evidence proving my visions were pretty spot on. At least according to decorated police detectives with whom I volunteered helping to solve cold cases. Granted, no one wants to believe anything like this can happen to a child yet every year 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused. And these are the “reported” numbers. What about all of the kids like me who didn’t report it because they blocked it from their memory until years later? We are apparently just the ones who “want attention,” according to many who don’t believe in repressed memories.
Let me tell ya, if I wanted attention, this would not be the way I’d go about it.
I know in my heart NO ONE could have stopped what happened to me. He was going to do what he did, like he did to so many and he was damn good at getting away with it. It’s the hallmark of the sociopath, many of whom are charming, good looking, funny, and easy going. The man who sexually abused and raped me between the ages of 3 and 6 admitted to sleeping with over 100 women, young and old, during his decade-long marriage to a family member. I know I’m not the only child he abused, as well. “It didn’t matter the age, Kierstie,” said one of my favorite people who is now in spirit. “It was and is the cycle of abuse, generation after generation. You’re a cycle breaker.”
FUCK. I’m a cycle breaker. A cycle breaker who swears when talking about the weight of being a cycle breaker.
Now, if you’ve read my story or watched my TEDx talk, you know that it took channeling information (visions) about other children who had been sexually abused and murdered and subsequent validation from detectives around the country to make me take visions of what I endured seriously. I didn’t ask for any of the visions but they came anyways and when I finally realized I, too, was in the same unfortunate club, it made more sense why I was having the visions of others in the first place. It was scary and emotional, to say the least. I also had to endure gynecological surgery at age 19 to repair what I now know was scar tissue damage from being raped as a very young child. This is not something that’s uncommon, according to fellow survivors who endured abuse around the same age.
My first sexual experiences were terrifying and odd. I automatically went into a very submissive, “just lay there” role. It was what I knew to do even though I didn’t remember it then. Later, I would go on to have panic attacks when any kind of weight was on me.
The “proof points” just kept stacking up:
But back to what happens when you shed light on a dark family secret. Most times, I can quell the anger I still feel because I know their reactions are very human, very self-protective, and at the core, shame-based. I know they love me and would love to make this all go away for me and for them any way they could. It doesn't make me love them any less.
But sometimes, the anger rises. I think about how I would react if one of my kids came to me years from now talking of abuse inflicted by a distant relative. I would do whatever I could to help them and I would be hell bent on advocating for them. You'd have a hard time keeping me from going after (via communication or in person) the person who inflicted the abuse. I would campaign on behalf of my kids sharing what I could have maybe done differently and signs to be aware of in cases of childhood sexual abuse. Hell, I would own it all even though, from a spiritual perspective, I do understand that some things cannot be avoided in life. I naively believed that specific family members who were also hurt by him the most would rise up and want to get to the bottom of it with me—that they, too, would want justice for what he took from me. (My parents have been wonderful—they have shared and acknowledged what happened and cheered on my TEDx talk.) Instead, I realized that everyone has their own capacity to go deep and for many, a couple inches below the surface is about all they can go. Maybe it’s generational? Maybe it’s part of the non-cycle breaker DNA. I’m not really sure, but here are three things I’ve learned from my experience sharing what happened to me with my family:
To all of the warrior cycle breakers out there, I’m hugging you. It’s not an easy road but it’s a necessary one if we are going to eradicate this type of abuse for generations to come. Your voice and your story are important and whether you know it or not, in addition to helping heal your inner child, you’re literally helping heal generations of pain by shining a light on yours.
Keep shining and know you have an F-bomb throwing friend in your corner in Flagstaff, AZ who believes you and is grateful for your voice. After all, you’re one of the strongest people on earth—you’re a fucking cycle breaker.
* If you'd like to share your story, I welcome it. Please either share it in the comments or send me a message on the contact page.