Portrait of Sandra Sandra L. Brown, MA

Sandra L. Brown, M.A., is CEO of The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction & Public Pathology Education. She holds a Masters degree in Counseling and is a program development specialist, lecturer and community educator on pathological love relationships and domestic violence, and is an award-winning author. Her books include the award winning Women Who Love Psychopaths: Inside the Relationships of Inevitable Harm with Psychopaths, Sociopaths & Narcissists as well as How to Spot a Dangerous Man Before You Get Involved, and Counseling Victims of Violence: A Handbook for Helping Professionals.

Sandra is recognized for her pioneering work on women’s issues related to relational harm with Cluster B/Axis II/Sociopathy/Pyschopathy disordered partners. She specializes in the development of Pathological Love Relationship training for professionals and survivor support services based on her books. Her books, CD’s, DVD’s, and other training materials have been used as curriculum in drug rehabs, women’s organizations and shelters, women’s jail and prison programs, school and college-based programs, inner city projects, and various psychology and sociology programs and distributed in almost every country of the world.

Read Sandra's Full Bio

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Caution: Relationship Lane Changes, Part 2

by Sandra L. Brown, MA

Posted Tuesday, October 25, 2016 at 1:00 pm


By Susan Murphy-Milano

Last week we began the story of Susan Powell, a married stockbroker and devoted mother to two young sons. Over time, Susan’s husband Josh became more and more controlling. Their marriage deteriorated. At this point in a relationship, many abusers begin to formulate a plan born of anger and desperation.

This plan remains in the abuser’s mind until they notice subtle signs of movement. Perhaps Josh walked into the room as Susan whispered into the phone. When she realized he was in the room, she quickly changed her tone or ended the phone call. Perhaps he learned Susan had set up a bank account, and decided she was hiding money so she and the kids could leave.

The signs of movement spark Josh, or any potential abuser, to think of the next level. They think to themselves, “OK, she is going to leave me. I will not let that happen”. He acts as though nothing is wrong. When she goes to sleep, however, Josh leaps into action. He may:

  • rummage through her car looking for evidence of her plan–a bank receipt or an unusual transaction or charge check
  • her cell phone for any unusual numbers he does not recognize
  • search her computer, checking to see which websites she visited

He finds something. Inwardly his anger skyrockets and his heart races. Outwardly, he remains calm and says nothing to Susan. A smile comes to his face. He “caught her,” and he figures in the future, she will pay one way or another.

Susan begins to email a trusted circle of friends about Josh’s abuse and threats. Maybe she keeps a detailed log containing dates and times of the incidents.

Next, Josh does what I label the “smell change.” Susan acts strangely. Josh, like most abusers, literally senses, or “smells” when his environment has shifted. Perhaps Susan verbalizes her unhappiness more often. Maybe she stands up for herself during a fight, where months before she would have backed down and gone to her room without incident.

Most abused women have difficulty hiding that “spark of empowerment” from a clever abuser. The abuser smells the spark, like a fox scents prey as he enters a coop full of chickens.

On December 7, 2009, Susan Powell of Utah disappeared. Law enforcement personnel consider her husband Josh a person of interest.

Susan Powell’s case appears no different from millions of cases of intimate partner violence we never hear about, until women disappear and someone finds their bodies. Often no “official documentation” of the abuse exists because the terrified women did not contact police or obtain a court order of protection. Why? Better than anyone, the victims know the court order of protection would not help. The court order of protection would only escalate the level of danger.

A Special Note from Susan…

Before you announce your thoughts about how unhappy you are or that the relationship simply is not working for you any longer, have a solid plan in place. Women often fail to plan ahead in leaving, underestimating what the abuser can and actually ends up doing.

October, 2015 update on the Susan Powell case:

  • Susan Powell, from West Valley City, was last seen in December 2009
  • Authorities focused on husband Josh who was suspected of murdering her
  • In 2012, in the middle of the investigation, Josh blew up his house while he and his two sons were locked inside
  • Susan’s sister-in-law says she believes her brother Josh and her father Steven were both involved in Susan’s death
    • She also believes her other brother Michael, who committed suicide, knew about the murder
    • With two brothers and two nephews dead, she hopes her father – who was released from jail in 2014 after servicing a sentence for possession of child porn – will come forward with the truth

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3291154/Sister-law-Susan-Powell-breaks-silence-Utah-mother-s-disappearance-says-pedophile-father-brother-involved-death.html#ixzz3tHML1K52

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know. The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about Pathological Love Relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more information.)

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Gender Disclaimer: The issues The Institute writes about are mental health issues. They are not gender issues. Both females and males have the types of Cluster B disorders we often refer to in our articles. Our readership is approximately 90% female therefore we write for those most likely to seek out our materials. We highly support male victims and encourage others who want to provide support to male victims to encompass the issues we discuss only from a female perpetrator/male-victim standpoint. Cluster B Education is a mental health issue applicable to both genders.


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This year The Institute is running two support groups - one on Pathological Love Relationships, held several times this year, and one on Adult Children of Pathological Parents, held for only one month. Support groups run for 4 weeks. To learn more visit this webpage.