This Issue of the Stalking Report is by psychology of stalking expert, Dr. Joe Davis.
The article focuses on the topic of Stalking in the Workplace … Part-II
Falsely Alleged Victimization Syndrome (FAVS): Victimization as Secondary Gain
“To be or not to be, that is the question” (William Shakespeare, from the play HAMLET, Act-III).
Many stalking cases I have worked or consulted on are quite complex, demanding and time consuming. Stalking cases often place high cognitive, intellectual and emotional demands on all personnel involved. The type of case I will briefly discuss here is of no exception. This type of case is referred to as FAVS.
Have you heard of FAVS or Falsely Alleged Victimization Syndrome? Let me discuss a new phenomenon we are seeing that involves a “type of imagined unwanted pursuit” that on the surface level appears to have all the merit and foundation of any stalker case but often reveals a psychological unveiling of twisted, distorted and embellished confabulations or fabrications that is just as surprising to many agencies as it is to many of the people personally involved with the FAVS subject. To the new or untrained professional involved in a stalker-victim investigation, the process that this type of subject can place the agency or investigator in can be overwhelming often leading the aforementioned on a “wild goose chase”.
Did you know that being in the helping profession could place those who work with victims of stalking and related cases in a one-sided impressionable bias or myopic role; that is, regardless of the circumstances or situation, we truly want to believe and help any victim involved in a crime. However, in some very rare cases, the incident of stalking may NOT exist and is only imagined or feigned by the subject.
In these cases, the alleged victim and subject is quite convincing and convincible to those who take their statement. A closer look at many of these cases has told me that such situations reveal some motive involving a secondary gain, i.e., attention, sympathy, extended services, mental health support, financial support or gain, etc. Instances of “believed stalking” are referred to as “Falsely Alleged Victimization Syndrome” or FAVS. Thankfully, FAVS is rare. However, to the untrained investigator or interviewer, similar in scope to Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy (MSBP), FAVS can have a very perplexing, yet significant time consuming impact and drain on any agency’s services and their human resources.
When working with the “stalking victim”, if you suspect a possible FAVS case, know what elements to look for, i.e., inconsistency in their statements, successive or subsequent interviews regarding the victim’s stories seem to worsen, stories lack corroborating support and evidence, dates of recall for events lack consistency or credibility, etc. Note: many FAVS cases take on an appearance of a theatrical quality.
Page 2, FAVS
Almost surreal-like, many FAVS impressionists alleging stalking victimization emotionally choreograph, psychologically dramatize or manufacture or fabricate information to tell the investigator or interviewer what he or she wants to hear in that interview. Oftentimes, the interviewer or investigator as a follow up measure to the interview session will literally find that the evidentiary trial of clues or events offered by the FAVS subject either has no reliable and valid connecting element, beginning or ending points. Note: demand characteristics (Orne et al.) are often attributed to the authority figure (interviewer) doing the interviewing from the FAVS person.
When interviewing a potential FAVS case, it is imperative that you design your interview questions and queries beforehand around the dates, times, places and events regarding stalking-stalker conduct as revealed by the subject. Remember, stalking is a form of unwanted pursuit that involves a repeated following with some form of harassment of another person where a “credible threat” is often involved suggesting an intent (explicit, implied or other) to place that person in reasonable fear for his or her safety”. In other words, stalking is a “repeated pattern and course of harassing conduct intended to frighten, intimidate or terrorize a targeted victim”. Finally, make careful observations (later transfer these observations to recorded notes, etc) as to subject’s mental status (mood, affect, hygiene, dress, orientation, perceptions, pre-occupations, mannerisms, rate of speech, thought content, etc), eye contact, body language or other non-verbal behavior physical reactions around the aforementioned disclosures. Furthermore, statement analysis as well as voice-stress analysis can also be key interview examining points when suspecting a FAVS case.
Usually, since the many FAVS subjects are unusually cooperative (often appearing to go out of their way to help the investigator or interviewer), see if you can secure consent to audio and video the initial as well any subsequent interviews. Doing so insures a “second look” at the subject as to the aforementioned verbal, non-verbal and mental state cues that are brought to the interview process.
Remember, many cases of stalking that we want to place on our “wish list” to be moved to the “case closed” file never actually make that category. As colleague, Steve Albrecht, DBA, CPP, PHR, a security expert puts it, “stalking cases are never case closed, only case inactive”. Therefore, stalking cases can remain open almost indefinitely.
Stalkers do get out of jail and do move on. However, stalkers can move on to find new victims. And there are a number of sufficiently documented cases where stalkers even re-attach to their previous victims. The case of Arthur Jackson is one such case. Jackson, (Cal. People v. Jackson) not limited by incarceration and confinement, found a way to continued to terrorize and threaten by correspondence actress Teresa Saldana, a crime victim of his relentless stalking pursuit, even from prison.
For more information on FAVS, training, education, organizational workplace policy, corporate or agency program development or for a confidential consultation regarding stalking, workplace violence, threat-risk assessment or threat management, contact the author, Dr. Joseph A. Davis at his office at 858-268-3610 in San Diego.
All research references and citations are available upon request.
Ó 2002 Joseph Davis, Ph.D., LL.D., All rights are reserved by the author.