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Dr Tammy McCracken - Lice and Low Level Predation.

Every predator hunts for specific prey and humans are no different. We hunt for food and resources and occasionally other humans. We prefer assigning human predation to violent sociopaths, serial rapists and other overtly heinous people.

We focus our research and training here because these predators are clear targets; targets we feel we can do something about and this makes us feel better.
Creeping predators, or cockroaches as Anna Valdiserri (now under her pseudonym A.R.Banks) calls them in her book Creepology, are much harder to see. Creepers use the same skills you do to navigate social terrain and evidence of their predation is subtle. That little itch you get around the creeper gets ignored because the source of that itch is disguised in patterns of normal social behaviour. 
Rory Miller talks about participatory-active mindsets have the best shot at shutting creepers down. You have to see it coming though, and low level creepers camouflage their predation well. 

It’s easier to identify something if you already know a few of the identifiers so let me introduce you to Julie, David and Jason.  

We’ll start with Julie because she is starting over and living with friends. She needs to make connections through their community while she gets herself settled and meets neighbours Paul and Ellie. Julie and Ellie form a tight bond and although It takes time, they become best friends. Julie listens and encourages Ellie’s misgivings about her marriage and simultaneously deepens her friendship with Paul.
Julie babysits, so Paul and Ellie can have alone time. She meets with Paul when he needs advice on how to reconnect with Ellie and suggests he let Ellie explore her bisexual interests; on the premise that it could spice up their marriage. Instead the marriage collapses.
Ellie moves out of town and Julie goes to visit her. Paul pays for Julie’s airfare because she is both broke but the only one who might entice Ellie back to him. Julie visits Ellie and seduces her. Ellie and Paul’s marriage is Julie’s third coup; she has two additional destroyed marriages under her belt, but they are hard to trace because Julie keeps her circle of friends and prey separate. 
Now David:
Katelin is David’s protégé in a finance company.  He is a control freak but helps catapult her into a high profile position. He tells her “we make a good team, you’re patient with my micromanaging and you know how take the initiative”.
Because of her patience, he was learning how to dial down the controlling behaviour. “You’re the first person I have trusted to manage big accounts with little oversight”.  Katelin knows she has to pay her dues and bites her tongue and long days turn into late nights. David jokes Katelin is one of the few people his wife trusts him around for late night projects. “She knows how driven you are to succeed and she’s hoping I’ll finally take a vacation because I actually trust you”. 
When he brushes her leg he belittles her reaction no offence girl, but you’re just one of the guys. He hijacks a presentation during a high profile meeting and later explains he was protecting her from a misogynist colleague. She won’t be bullied he says, not on my watch.
David is concerned that her boyfriend is too controlling and has tantrums when she refuses his advice to “ditch the bastard”. When David bullies her for making a mistake, she writes it off as just trying to help her climb the ladder and the tantrums are just his way of showing that he cares. There’s more but you can see where this is going, can’t you?
Low level predators come in all kinds of shapes, sizes and skill levels. I know about David and Julie because I knew their victims so I have only the details they chose to share; case studies of a sort, makes it easy to get academic. The problem with keeping a purely academic attitude is that we get to distance creeping predation. 
It happens to other people, so let’s get to know Jason. I can introduce him more clearly because this campfire story is mine. 
First real job out of college I moved into an old upstairs flat a few hours from home. On moving day, my new downstairs’ neighbour happened to be home. He was about fifteen years my senior and noticed my dad and I struggling to haul a piece of furniture up the stairs. He introduced himself and helped get the big stuff into my tiny flat. He promised to look out for me as he shook my dad’s hand and while looking at me added “I’m here if you need anything, don’t hesitate to ask”.
My first few weeks of launched adulthood, my interactions with Jason were nothing more than a wave as we passed. He checked in once or twice to see if I was finding everything around town. A few months later he brought me ‘left overs’ when he had made dinner for a friend and had extra. 
When I missed two days of work with the flu, he dropped off some chicken soup. Driving back and forth to visit my fiancé one state over, Jason remarked that he thought my brakes were faulty and that I should have them looked at. 
I came home from work one night to find my thermostat broken “on” and my flat was pushing 95 degrees. He heard me throwing windows open and came to help.  I was honestly grateful.
That was the opening for escalation. Passing hellos turned into dialogue and although I didn’t really want to talk to him, I felt a little sorry for him. He didn’t have much of a social life and It wouldn’t kill me to be nice to the guy.
My mailman was the first to slap me upside the back of the head with an overt warning. He noticed Jason going through my mail but I blew it off. Next, Jason showed up on my doorstep with a vase of flowers and an excuse that he had bought them for his mother but she was leaving town for a few days.
He knew things about my friends, my job, and my routines that struck me as a little over informed. I explained it as we lived in a small town and in a small town if you forget what you’re doing just ask a neighbour…right?
Then one morning my phone rang. It was Jason. Hey, you okay?  It was seven am, why wouldn’t I be? You’re usually in the shower by now, didn’t want you to be late for work. Thought maybe you’d overslept. 
I was late to the party but I was finally paying attention. 
And like lice who go unnoticed until you can’t get rid of them, it was too late to be anything but reactive. More flowers and when I refused, he left them anyway or sent them to my work. He would show up at the grocery store the same time I did and when I changed my routines he found reasons to be out in the alley behind our flat when I was coming home.  
When I set hard boundaries he cowered. He asked to talk, wanted to make amends, apologise.  I agreed to talk and what I got was his plan. We were going to get married, I would see that my fiancé was bad for me and I would come to my senses and realise I was supposed to marry him instead. The wedding I was planning was for him, not my fiancé. 
Jason played on all the social scripts that worked to get close to me. He waited until we had a solid neighbourly relationship and set the stage by putting my dad’s paternal fears at ease as ad hoc oversight. When I set boundaries he complied and then escalated from a different angle. 
He stopped stalking me when I moved out of state. Pre social media and internet days, it was much harder to track someone down that it is now. 
Creeping victimisation patterns are subtle and gradual but if you know what you’re looking for, you will see the evidence everywhere. If you don’t know what you are looking at, it will appear invisible. Kind of like lice.