Measuring the Intensity of Sadism

Scientists developed this 9-question test to measure how sadistic you are

Business Insider        April 9, 2017
By Rafi Letzter

Science can’t say whether people in your life are good or evil, per se. But it’s getting better at figuring out whether they enjoy hurting you.

A fairly new field in personality research studies “misanthropic” traits: characteristics that lead people to hurt those around them for their own benefit. And psychologists have established a “dark triad” of harmful personality traits: narcissism, psychopathy (or a lack of empathy), and Machiavellianism (or a tendency to manipulate others.)

Any one of these traits makes a person stressful to those around them. Taken together they add up to an “antagonistic and selfish” strategy for getting ahead at other people’s expense.

Now, some researchers suggest a fourth trait should join the triad: sadism, or joy in inflicting pain on others.

Why sadism matters

Sadism is a term with a long history. Sadists take pleasure in hurting other people. They’re our most fearsome and evil villains — whether real or imagined, like Ramsay Bolton of “Game of Thrones.”

But the idea of sadism is fairly new to clinical settings. That’s in part because the whole study of personality, and specifically of “dark” personality traits, is fairly recent and underdeveloped. But it’s also because traits like sadism, along with the rest of the dark triad, are difficult to tease apart with clinical precision.

Even papers that support the idea of sadism as part of a larger “dark tetrad” acknowledge that its effects can be difficult to distinguish from the three existing triad traits.

But a growing body of work in just the last few years has shown that sadism correlates specifically and strongly with cruel behavior — for example, trolling and cyberbullying.

The sadism test

In order to develop a rigorous test for sadism, researchers assembled a list of questionsdesigned to poke right at the heart of a sadistic personality.

The first version was 20 questions long. Subjects were asked to say how strongly they agreed or disagreed with a list of (rather chilling) statements, using a scale from one to five. (One meantcompletely disagree and five completely agree.)

  1. I have made fun of people so that they know I am in control.
  2. People do what I want them to because they are afraid of me.
  3. When I tell people what to do, they know to do it.
  4. I never get tired of pushing people around.
  5. I would hurt somebody if it meant I would be in control.
  6. I control my friends through intimidation.
  7. When I mock someone, it is funny to see them get upset.
  8. Being mean to others can be exciting.
  9. When I get annoyed, tormenting people makes me feel better.
  10. I have hurt people close to me for enjoyment.
  11. I enjoy humiliating others.
  12. I get pleasure from mocking people in front of their friends.
  13. I think about harassing others for enjoyment.
  14. I have cheated others because I enjoy it.
  15. I think about hurting people who irritate me.
  16. I’d lie to someone to make them upset.
  17. I have stolen from others without regard for the consequences.
  18. Making people feel bad about themselves makes me feel good.
  19. I am quick to humiliate others.
  20. I have tormented others without feeling remorse.

When 199 undergraduate students took the test, the results were promising but inconclusive.

The test, researchers found, was good at measuring sadism and dark triad traits. And it suggested that there were specific and interpretable patterns in people’s misanthropic personalities. But it didn’t as good a job as they’d hoped in identifying sadism as separate from psychopathy and the rest of the dark tried.

So they weeded out questions that might have caused too much overlap and tried again with a nine-question version of the test:

  1. I have made fun of people so that they know I am in control.
  2. I never get tired of pushing people around.
  3. I would hurt somebody if it meant I would be in control.
  4. When I mock someone, it’s funny to see them get upset.
  5. Being mean to others can be exciting.
  6. I get pleasure from mocking people in front of their friends.
  7. Watching people get into fights excites me.
  8. I think about hurting people who irritate me.
  9. I would not purposely hurt anybody, even if I didn’t like them.

This time, when 202 students took the test, the results were stronger. It still correlated with other dark triad traits like psychopathy as expected, but did a better job of showing that sadism is a separate category. In both tests, men scored much more highly than women for the negative traits. These results were published the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

The researchers note that there’s a lot more work to do on what they’re calling the Assessment of Sadistic Personality (ASP), including finding subjects who aren’t college undergrads taking questionnaires for course credit (not the most diverse or representative sample). But they expect it will play a significant role as they come to understand sadism in clinical terms.

ISOLATION: One of the most important elements in understanding victims and victimizers

  1. Isolation and domestic violence are two sides of one coin. It is used to create a bubble in which harm (physical, mental, financial, emotional, spiritual, etc.) can easily take place.
  2. Isolation is an effective tactic employed to increasingly separate the victim from her family, friends, social circle and most importantly, her sense of a healthy empowered free self.
  3. Isolating the victim gives the controller more opportunity to be abusive and involved in every aspect of the woman’s life, i.e., where she goes, what she wears, what she eats, the home she lives in, the money she has access to and the entire socialization process of both her and her children if they are involved.
  4. As the torture and abuse intensifies, in a predictable pattern of escalation, not being with people and having the ability to live a normal social community involved life becomes a new norm. In order to hide the painful truth, deep shame and tremendous embarrassment to both herself and in the outer world, she withdraws to his advantage.
  5. This is a tragedy that is foundational to the domestic abuse relationship and why isolation is the tool most often used by perpetrators who seek to dominate and control women.



The Mother Ship is Your Soul

Oprah Gary Zukav

Before we dive deep into the daily horrors and awful complexity of life inside an abusive relationship, it might be helpful to look at the bigger picture and get our grounding in the spiritual journey. Victims of domestic and intimate partner abuse can remember what Gary Zukav is talking about in this interview with Oprah (“The Mother Ship is Your Soul”) and reset their lives in a manner that does not leave room for the suffering associated with this type of violence and harm.

Choking seen as prelude to murder

By Marisol Bello, USA TODAY

More states are trying to reduce fatal domestic assaults by increasing penalties against abusers who choke their victims.

New Hampshire and Delaware in May become the latest states to pass laws making it a felony to choke someone. A similar law that passed both houses of the New York Legislature this month awaits the signature of Democratic Gov. David Paterson.

States are targeting choking incidents because when an abuser tries to strangle someone in a domestic assault, it is a leading indicator that he will escalate his attacks and eventually kill his victim, says Gael Strack, a former prosecutor and founder of the Family Justice Center Alliance, which helps abuse victims.

Strack says states also need to train officers and prosecutors to look for evidence of strangulation, which can be hard to prove without bruises on the victim.

A 2008 study in the Journal of Emergency Medicine found 43% of women who were murdered in domestic assaults and 45% who were victims of attempted murder had been choked in the past year by their male partners.

Twenty-nine states have laws that make strangulation a crime, says the National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse, a program of the National District Attorneys Association.

New Hampshire passed its law after Melissa Cantin Charbonneau, 29, a mother and nurse, was killed by her husband two days after he tried to strangle her.

Jonathan Charbonneau, 32, shot and killed her in October. He also shot his father-in-law and then killed himself, a report by the state attorney general found. He was out on $30 bail after being charged with a misdemeanor for throwing her down a flight of stairs and trying to strangle her.

Her father, John Cantin, who survived the shooting, says his daughter would still be alive if her killer had been in jail, charged with a felony.

“I’m doing this for my daughter,” he says. “I don’t believe this bill will stop the person doing the choking, but at least when it does happen and they are arrested, they are put away.”

In Delaware, two state troopers who tracked domestic abuse cases found that over a four-month period, more than half of the cases in one county involving strangulation were prosecuted as misdemeanors, says Brian Selander, a spokesman for Democratic Gov. Jack Markell. The troopers pushed for the new law, which carries a penalty of up to five years.

In New York, Democratic State Sen. Eric Schneiderman introduced a strangulation bill after chairing a committee that investigated a state senator for domestic abuse. During the hearings, he learned there was no penalty for strangulation, even though women who were choked have a higher risk of being killed by their partner.

“I’m just sorry it took us so long in New York state to do this,” he says. “I think this will save a lot of lives.”


Several States Make Choking a Felony Charge

Several states across the country are moving to tighten the laws on choking and strangulation by making it a felony charge. Several states across the country are moving to tighten the laws on strangling. A much debated topic, choking and strangulation is one of the top domestic abuse crimes, but is not considered a felony by many states.

Those in favor of making it a felony believe abusers deserve more than a slap on the wrist when severe choking occurs, while those who oppose the bill fear the felony charge will be loosely tossed around, which is a problem when it comes to false complaints.

Prosecutors and police have long been frustrated by the legal system regarding choking cases – victims can suffer brain damage, even come close to dying, but often show no outward sign. Generally, assault and battery crimes that rise to the level of a felony include significant physical evidence such as bruising, blood or broken bones.

Experts note that choking often precedes murder, and that most victims of choking have experienced it more than once in an abusive relationship.

Nearly 30 states have made strangulation and choking (or “knowingly impeding someone’s breathing”) a felony over the last 10 years. The state of New York took the law the furthest by requiring no physical proof of injury. Instead, police officers are trained to notice other signs of strangulation that might not include bruising and marks around the neck.

There are also hold-out states where lawmakers believe there are enough protections in place for victims of domestic abuse. Many criminal defense attorneys believe the idea of accusing someone of a felony charge without physical evidence will undermine the fairness of the system. In other words, fair trials in the area of domestic violence should not rest on “he said, she said” accusations.

There is an obvious need to protect victims of domestic abuse. There is an equal need to maintain a level playing field for those accused of domestic abuse. We’ll have to see how the felony charge of choking plays out.

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.


Stanford Law Professor says, “Fair to Whom?”


Harriet —

In the same courtroom where Judge Persky sentenced Brock Turner to a lenient six months in county jail for three counts of sexual assault almost one year ago, another privileged perpetrator was given a lenient sentence.Neha Rastogi, a former Apple executive, suffered at the hands of her husband, Silicon Valley CEO Abhishek Gattani, for their entire relationship. He was first arrested in 2013, but the abuse only intensified. Recently Neha went back to the police for help and Gattani was charged with felony domestic violence.

But the prosecutor offered Gattani a plea deal to reduce the charge from felony domestic violence to accessory after the fact, with an accompanying misdemeanor of “offensive touching.” The deal includes a six-month jail term but Gattani will serve less than 2 weeks in jail and he will have the chance to expunge the felony from his record entirely. The prosecutor described this extremely lenient deal as a “fair outcome.”

Fair to whom? Certainly not Neha. She has described Gattani’s actions as terrorism — the plea deal lets him off the hook while his actions will stay with Neha for the rest of her life. Please sign our petition to #StandWithNeha and demand justice for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

With a previous domestic violence charge, recordings of Gattani’s abusive behavior, and pictures of her injuries, Neha thought her long nightmare was over — but the Santa Clara court system failed her. Neha prepared to object the lenient sentence in a harrowing victim impact statement — but in a further slap in the face, Judge Danner wasn’t even there. Danner had scheduled her vacation the same time as the sentencing.

Judge Rodney Stafford, a substitute judge who didn’t know anything about the case, was so moved by Neha’s statement that he has rescheduled the sentencing so Judge Danner must consider Neha’s statement before sentencing her batterer.

It seems fitting that a plea deal so lenient for a privileged defendant happened in the same courtroom that Judge Persky made his special exception for Brock Turner — a privileged Stanford athlete after sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster.

It is the judge’s job to make sure that justice is done — the judge has the ability and the obligation to refuse a plea deal if it is too lenient.

Please sign our petition to #StandWithNeha to urge Judge Danner to listen to Neha’s victim impact statement before Gattani is sentenced. With the recall of Judge Persky, we can send a message that violence against women must be taken seriously by the courts.

Thank you,
Michele Dauber
Chair, Committee to Recall Judge Persky




PAVE stands with courageous teen sexual assault survivor Chessy Prout! Last week, Owen Labrie was back in court seeking a new trial. Labrie, a former prep school student at St. Paul’s School, was convicted in 2015 of sexually assaulting his classmate as part of the “Senior Salute” where senior men competed with friends to see who could “slay” the greatest number of younger girls.
The media surrounding the trial has been filled with language that seems to place blame on the survivor, not the perpetrator. Language is powerful! #ChessyProut is a survivor, not an accuser. Journalists, don’t blame survivors for sexual assault. They deserve support not scrutiny.
Chessy launched #IHaveTheRightTo with PAVE – get involved and post on your social media!
PAVE Ambassador Delaney Henderson pictured above said, “Chessy is my hero. Sexual assault is the most under-reported crime in the country and when reporters use victim-blaming language, it keeps other survivors silent.”
Join Chessy’s grandma – please support Chessy and participate today!
1. Take a picture and/or a short video with #IHaveTheRightTo _________
2. Post to social media with the hashtag #IHaveTheRightTo
3. Invite your friends to participate
4. Sign up for updates CLICK HERE
5. Tweet/FB in support of this