She emerged out of the dark void, a wounded soul, her face gaunt, her figure so terribly thin. The fall had been voluntary for it was safe in the darkness. Safe from the pain, safe from destructive and humiliating thoughts, safe from the barrage of guilt which constantly bombarded her mind with the harsh reality of her utter naiveté and lack of strength. She remembered occasionally seeing blue skies, but they had been fleeting, lasting only for moments. She remembered echoing voices calling to her and she remembered a legend that ran in a never-ending loop, a legend of an old lady living with a white wolf in a cave in the Badlands of South Dakota. Who told her this legend? Where had she heard it? She could not recall but she remembered that the old woman sewed beads made from porcupine quills in intricate designs on a soft buffalo-skin robe. The white wolf visited frequently to encourage her. He told her, “If the old woman completes the design on the robe, your life will cease to exist. But it will not be completed. You will return to your loved ones until your time has come. Do not be dismayed. The battle is yours to win. The manipulator will not go unpunished.”


        He hadn’t legally raped her, but yet he had. It began with whispered words and feigned, accidental caresses that grew bolder in time. She fought against his seduction and yet he overcame her barriers. This wasn’t the way she was raised and she inherently knew it was wrong. Yet he persevered. She wished for a transfer. He objected. It was not part of his agenda. He lied and cajoled until she gave in. His manipulation was persuasive, polished, and she was ensnared before she understood what was happening. It was their secret, he said. She could not tell a single person. And she did not, not until the shattering truth of his deception became known to her. 


        His playground was not the playground where children played. His playground was the classroom. His prey the teachers, the female staff members, not the children. The narcissist knew how to read them. He targeted the vulnerable ones, the trusting, the gullible looking for love. Confident women were not left out of his warped game. Quite the contrary, he viewed them as a greater challenge and he knew that with the greater challenge came the possibility of sweeter gratification. His high was the chase, the win, the exploitation, and the tossing aside when his conquest was complete and his desires fulfilled. But he couldn’t just let them go. He was the epitome of egotistical. At first, he dangled the hope of love coming at a later time. He made excuses when his calls and texts grew dim. He would always care for them, he cherished their friendship, he just needed time, he had a daughter to consider. With words like that, he neutralized their doubts. But the master manipulator’s words were false. When a new challenge became his obsession, the narcissist could not completely relinquish his hold on those he was already discarding. He reveled in the power he held over them. It fed his arrogance, and for a while, the superior feeling allowed him to set aside his own lifelong insecurities and  inadequacies. He never considered his own daughter when  engaged in his despicable escapades. Will karma pay her a visit because of him? Will a man disrespect her, like the way her father disrespected and shattered the lives of the women he used for his own gratification?


     His cold, toxic history is not an isolated truth. The ugly playgrounds are fluid, the ugly playgrounds are widespread. The self-absorbed behavior is unchanging, as is the psychological damage many victims–women and men– endure in their struggle to overcome the abuse and demoralization inflicted upon them. Do some victims end up choosing death over the long, gut-wrenching psychological battle?