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Researchers Ask 47 Inmates How They Pick Their Victims, 1 Trait Stood Out from All the Others

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Ted Bundy, the notorious American serial killer, rapist and necrophiliac, once chillingly said he could identify a victim merely by observing her walk.

Disturbingly, recent research supports his assertion.

Women, pay attention: The way you walk could make you more susceptible to being targeted by a psychopathic killer.

In a study published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence in February 2013, researchers interviewed inmates at a maximum security penitentiary in Ontario.

They found that 47 individuals scoring high on the interpersonal and affective aspects of psychopathy were exceptionally skilled at assessing victim vulnerability based solely on walking style.

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While the study — titled “Psychopathy and Victim Selection: The Use of Gait as a Cue to Vulnerability” — was published 11 years ago, it is especially relevant today particularly when considering recent events that have plagued cities across the United States.

One example is the horrific incident this month in New York City in which a man lassoed a woman with a belt from behind and dragged her to the ground before he placed her between two vehicles and raped her.

This finding not only underscores the eerie accuracy of Bundy’s statement that “he could tell a victim by the way she walked down the street, the tilt of her head, the manner in which she carried herself,” but it also raises important questions about the nature of psychopathy and its implications for victimization.

According to the study — co-authored by Angela Book and Kimberly Costello of Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, and Joseph Camilleri of Westfield State University in Massachusetts — psychopathy is marked by traits such as lack of empathy, manipulativeness and superficial charm and provides individuals diagnosed with it with a predatory edge in criminal behavior.

The study found that inmates with higher psychopathy scores could identify vulnerable individuals from non-vulnerable ones merely by observing their gait, thereby exploiting their weaknesses with chilling efficiency.

Additionally, these women appeared to be unaware of their surroundings, walked at a slower pace with smaller steps, and often had their heads down.

This research aligned with previous studies suggesting that nonverbal cues, particularly gait, are reliable indicators of vulnerability.

The study confirmed a common-sense maxim many of us have taught our children: Be confident and look confident.

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Psychopaths tended to select “submissive” women as potential victims, focusing on specific walking patterns such as strides that were too long or too short, awkward weight shifts, disjointed movements and even the way they lifted their feet. Women judged as vulnerable to attacks such as muggings or sexual assaults walked with less-coordinated movements and appeared less confident.

Inmates overwhelmingly selected women who appeared scared or uncomfortable or who walked awkwardly, suggesting they wouldn’t put up a strong fight if attacked.

Interestingly, this finding contrasts with noninstitutional participants, who did not explicitly mention a woman’s gait when making similar judgments.

This underscores the reality that some individuals are “social predators,” capable of detecting and exploiting vulnerability. This alarming skill highlights the urgent need for targeted interventions to prevent victimization.

Given psychopaths’ ability to identify and exploit vulnerability, it is essential to inform the public about these risks and raise awareness to prevent victimization.

In a world where predators can identify vulnerability at a glance, equipping oneself with self-defense skills is imperative.

Training in self-defense empowers individuals and serves as a deterrent to would-be attackers.

An assertive posture, confident gait and awareness of one’s surroundings can signal to predators that a potential victim is not an easy target.

However, physical training alone is not enough.

The right to bear arms and the ability to use them responsibly is a crucial aspect of self-defense. Being trained and armed provides an added layer of protection, giving individuals the means to defend themselves and their loved ones against threats.

This is particularly relevant for women, who are often the targets of predatory behaviors.

Are nonlethal weapons (pepper sprays, stun guns, tasers) as effective as firearms at stopping violent criminals?

In fact, those who advocate for women’s rights and safety should be the first to support the right to self-defense as a natural extension of that advocacy.

Liberals who claim to prioritize women’s safety should champion policies that promote self-defense training and responsible gun ownership. If those on the left had any regard for women at all, they would champion women getting trained and armed. But they don’t, so they won’t.

Empowering women with the means to protect themselves is a concrete way to reduce incidences of victimization, particularly when it comes to warding off psychopathic killers.

We live in a world where bad things happen, and we must be prepared to protect ourselves and our families.

Understanding the mechanisms behind psychopathy and how predators select their victims is only part of the solution. Equipping individuals with the knowledge and tools for self-defense is equally crucial and should be heavily promoted.


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Adelle Nazarian has over 15 years of experience in journalism, geopolitics, and the media world. She is also an entrepreneur who has founded and served as CEO of several organizations. She enjoys traveling, is constantly learning and is inquisitive by nature. Adelle speaks English, Persian (Farsi), French and Mandarin Chinese. Follow Adelle Nazarian on X @AdelleNaz.
Adelle Nazarian has over 15 years of experience in journalism, geopolitics, and the media world. She is also an entrepreneur who has founded and served as CEO of several organizations. She enjoys traveling, is constantly learning and is inquisitive by nature. Adelle speaks English, Persian (Farsi), French and Mandarin Chinese. Follow Adelle Nazarian on X @AdelleNaz.




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