The difference between a Con and an Abuser

Someone asked me today what the difference is. This is something I have wanted to write for a while and is my personal opinion only, based on my experiences with both types of people.

All cons are sociopaths, but not all sociopaths are cons.

Whilst every sociopath is the same in a lot of ways and ends up devastating your life if you are with him long enough, there is a difference between being abused and being conned. All sociopaths lack empathy and sense of consequence and all have a grandiose sense of self. They are all manipulative and controlling. Not all of them are clever enough to be cons though.

Mr Mean was mostly honest about who he was. He used his real name, I met his family, I spent time with them and saw where he lived. He was honest about where he worked and other than a few embellishments, most of his history was genuine. He twisted stories to make himself the victim, but over-all, his background was real.

He was narcissistic and verbally, as well as mentally, abusive- he did not put on an act, he was who he was. He withheld the truth a lot, but did not lie on a daily basis.

He was controlling and manipulative – he displayed 14 of the 15 characteristics of a verbal abuser, as defined by Patricia Evans in her book “The Verbally Abusive Relationship.” He was a mean, nasty man and hurt me over and over again but at least I knew the name of the man who was hurting me.

I am sure most of you have read the earlier posts on this blog about Mr Mean, so you are familiar with the story. When he left me, I was angry, in pain and isolated. It took me a long time to get over him but I got over him eventually. I recognised the abuse for what it was, once I educated myself and I ended the relationship. I did not blame myself, I knew that he was the one with the problems.

When he left, I knew where he was and who he was. I am not minimising the effect he had on my life at all, he left a trail of destruction, but I do not feel that he conned me. Sure, he lied to get himself out of trouble but I do not believe I was conned.

He did not make me mistrust people – I saw him for what he was – an abusive, angry, controlling, manipulative jerk. I knew I would be better off without him and there was a sense of relief once he was gone.

Andrew Harper is a con.

He entered my life with a fake name, a fake history and a fake life. 98% of what he said was a lie- in fact, he lied about things he didn’t even need to lie about.

He fabricated a history with a dead fiance, a family who had rejected him, women who were stalking him – all to make me feel so sorry for him, and I did. He lied about being a psychologist so that I would open up and share things with him that he could then use to control me. He lied about a military background, he lied about businesses he owned and his financial situation.

Based on those lies, I left my job to work on the Papercrafts Roadshow with him. He faked phone calls, he faked documents- he knew exactly what he was doing and his goal was to walk away with the cash from the Roadshow- and he did. His reasoning was that the deposited the money (my money) into his trust account to save me needing to declare the tax on the income. He told me to give him the bills and they would be paid. He hid the mail from me so I didn’t know the bills weren’t being paid. All this after he had assured me that he did not want my money, all he wanted was to see me succeed and reach my full potential.

He was a person who was playing a role, as if he was a character in a TV show. I fell in love with his character, but I never knew who he really was. I don’t believe I ever actually met Andrew John Harper.

He knew exactly what I wanted from a relationship and he gave that to me. He did not call me names, did not yell at me, never lost his temper- in fact, he was so lovely to me that I failed to see the abuse until he was long gone. I did not realise how controlling he was but he isolated me and manipulated me to a point where I felt that I could not survive without him.

I did not know he was leaving me. The morning that he left, he kissed me and hugged me and told me he loved me. He told me he would be back in a couple of days. I did not see him again, until 7 months later when we were on opposite sides of the dock in court.

For six months after he abandoned me, I did not know who he was, where he was, what he was doing or what he had done. The sense of betrayal was excruciating, at times almost unbearable. I considered ending my life because I believe that without him, I was nothing. I had made huge life decisions based on things he told me and the effect he had on my life will last forever. I blamed myself, I felt stupid and naive and completely gullible. I was not sure I would ever be able to trust myself again.

I question everything people tell me now, if something doesn’t quite add up I no longer give anyone the benefit of the doubt, I would rather save myself the potential pain. Andrew changed me in ways that I would never have imagined. I did not dream that I was being abused – in fact, after Mr Mean I thought he was my saviour and I felt valued and protected.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and all I can do now is to educate myself further and help other victims through the ConnedinAus Facebook group and the Conned in Australia blog.

One thing I do know for sure is that I would rather be alone for the rest of my life than allow another sociopath into my life.

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Con Victim Support Group

Since featuring in Woman’s Weekly with our story, my co-survivors and I have been contacted by several other victims of con artists.

We have created a Blog and a Facebook group to support other victims, using our combined knowledge, experience and talents. If you have been conned and need support, please contact us.

Moving On….

I firmly believe that nothing new can come into your life, until you make room for it. When we get complacent and settle down, things seem to slow down. Well, I had ground to a complete halt. Something really drastic had to happen.

Through an almost unbelievable set of circumstances, I was offered a job with the newspaper in Mt Isa. It has meant sorting through my entire life and deciding what to keep, and what to give away. It is tough but so cathartic. I have a huge sense of leaving the past behind and moving forward. The act of cleaning out the house is a physical manifestation of what is happening inside me.

I am making room on the inside for new experiences, new challenges and new adventures.

I realised last week that I have been holding onto things, not because I actually need them or like them, but because they cost me something and because of that, have a certain perceived value.

I got a very clear analogy of my relationships with Mr Mean and AJH. I hung onto the relationships long after I knew there was something desperately wrong, because each relationship cost me in a different way and as such, I saw it as something valuable and worth fighting for. So I stayed because I had invested so much of myself into it. As a result, I lost a lot of money and a lot of me was almost destroyed.

Now I have the opportunity to start again. I realise that not many people get a chance like this, and I am extremely grateful.

Letter to Woman’s Weekly

This letter is being published in the February Woman’s Weekly. I had a lot of help perfecting it, thank you Diana and Rebecca.

Thank you so much for printing the story about myself, Diana and Rebecca and our struggle to stop a conman.

We have been contacted by several women who have been victims of conmen. We are astounded at the response and had no idea that there were so many women struggling with similar issues.  If we can help, and something positive can come from our experience, then what we went through was not for nothing.

There are a few resources available to victims. If they visit their GP, they are entitled to up to twelve free sessions with a psychiatrist. Counselling has been crucial to my healing process and I would encourage others to seek help. There is also a very good website, http://www.lovefraud.com/ which is full of information about healing and recovery after being conned. The book “Without Conscience” by Dr Robert Hare is brilliant.

We have set up a blog at http://conneddownunder.blogspot.com/ and a Facebook group, where victims can support one another in a safe environment. Sometimes just hearing the words “I understand” can make all the difference.

Thank you once again,

Rochelle Fisher

 

 

Now it makes complete sense…almost….

I have been reading Lovefraud for a while now, and it is an incredibly helpful website. Today I read this:

A love bond is created by pleasure, and during the seduction phase of the relationship, the sociopath generates extreme pleasure for the target. However, addiction research has discovered that although pleasure is required to form a bond, pleasure is not required to maintain it. Even when a relationship starts to get rocky, normal people still feel bonded. Again, this is Nature’s way of keeping people together. If parents split up at the first sign of trouble, the survival of children would be in doubt.

Sooner or later, of course, relationships with sociopaths get rocky. Perhaps the sociopath engages in cheating, stealing or abuse. The sociopath’s actions create fear and anxiety in the target. But instead of driving the target away from the sociopath, anxiety and fear actually strengthen the psychological love bond.

So what do the targets do? They turn to the sociopaths for relief. The sociopaths may apologize profusely and promise to change their hurtful ways, reassuring the targets. The targets, feeling bonded to the sociopaths, want to believe the reassurances, so they do. Then the two people have sex, which reinforces the bond again.

From the target’s point of view, the relationship becomes a vicious circle of bonding, anxiety, fear, relief, sex and further bonding. The longer it goes on, the harder it is for the target to escape.

The result: For the target, the love bond becomes an addiction.

Scary stuff, although it explains a lot for me.  Thank you Love Fraud!

For a long time I could not understand why the break-up with Andrew was harder to deal with than any other break-up. Even after I knew and really faced the truth about him, there were things about him I missed.

Of course, that is exactly how he planned it.

Andrew John Harper – Conman

For more information regarding Andrew John Harper and the victims he conned, please visit this blog.

If you have any information regarding AJH, contact us at stopharper@live.com

Woman’s Weekly – January 2011

For more information about Andrew John Harper, visit this blog.

FROM LEFT: Rochelle (That’s me), Diana and Rebecca.

These three women were duped by a charismatic con man, but fought back by warning other women on the web. Now he’s under arrest, reports Jordan Baker.
(Woman’s Weekly had to change Andrew’s name for legal reasons)

It was the eyes that hooked Diana Mors. His charm and generosity were appealing, too, but she loved his George Clooney gaze – a gaze that made her feel like the only woman in the world. Tom* was funny, handsome and smart, almost too good to be true. But, she reasoned, good things eventually come to those who deserve them.

It was in late 2008, as they got to know each other through emails, that Tom told her of his loneliness after his fiancée died in a car accident. He mentioned only in passing the fortune that alloweé him to take extravagant holidays, wander the country and go back to university. He was new to Brisbane and would be staying a little while, he told her. He had a suggestion: could he rent a room at her house rather than stay at a lonely hotel?

He moved in, romance blossomed, and Tom showed his gratitude by taking her shopping for designer clothes and a car. They had have extravagant dinners. But Tom never paid for the shopping sprees on the spot, and the purchases were never delivered. When they dined out, she would pay and he’d add it to the money his personal assistant was transferring to her account.

When, after six weeks, he owed her about $2000, Diana told Tom to leave and sort his finances out. “You know where I am once you’ve worked things out,” she told him. He packed his bags and disappeared. She later found out he moved straight in with Rebecca, a woman he met online using Diana’s internet connection.

While living at Diana’s house, Tom had dazzled smart, savvy Rebecca Bell, 33. He shared many of her interests, and she was moved by the tragic story of his fiancée who died in a car accident. “He had a lot of confidence and I think that enticed me,” Rebecca says. “You feel like you haven’t had a connection with someone like that in a long time.”

He was wealthy, he told her, but expensive hotels were lonely. He was staying with a friend, but would rather rent a room off Rebecca. She invited him into her home and romance blossomed. He valued her opinion and consulted her about his business dealings. She saw emails and texts from his associates, which seemed to back up his tales. He took her shopping for expensive gifts, although there was always a reason why he could not pay on the spot.

“Each time I’d try to ask him questions, he’d produce a document or email, or turn it around on me, saying how could I not trust him?” she tells The Weekly. As Rebecca waited to move into a house he said he had bought for her, Tom flew to Adelaide to give a speech on carbon credits. “I knew he was leaving,” she says. “I was relieved. And then a little light bulb went off in my head.”

Rebecca dug out the phone number of the “friend” he’d mentioned, a woman called Diana, and sent her a text message. It read: “I’ve been with Tom. I think he’s a con man.” Diana called her immediately. “Honey,” she said, “you don’t know the half of it.”

Using information they remembered from conversations with Tom, they tracked down one of his victims, who in turn helped them track down others. With painstaking research, they pieced together the past 10 years of his life and contacted 21 women across Australia and the USA, who had been hurt and ripped off by Tom. Diana and Rebecca learned that there were worse cases than theirs; some women were financially ruined. Their quest became two-pronged – to protect other women, and to support those who had fallen victim. They call it a “survivors group”.

Yet on the many occasions they tried to report Tom to police, they got little sympathy. “Police would say there’s no law against lying or moral misconduct,” says Diana. “What gets me is if I walked into David Jones and took thousands of dollars worth of goods, I’d be in prison. But when he walks into someone’s life and rips them off, you get a condescending look and ‘buyer beware, honey’.”

Read more of this story in the January issue of The Australian Women’s Weekly.

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