(CNSNews.com) – Real-life “vampires” who consume small amounts of human or animal blood resist coming “out of the coffin” for fear that they will be labeled as “delusional, immature, unstable … perhaps wicked, and not competent to perform in typical social roles, such as parenting,” according to a new study in the latest issue of Critical Social Work, a peer-reviewed journal published by the University of Windsor.
The aim of the self-funded study, which was led by Idaho State University Director of Social Work D. J. Williams, was to examine the way that self-identified vampires were treated by social workers.
Researchers found that many vampires feel social workers simply do not understand them.
“Results suggest that nearly all participants were distrustful of social workers and helping professionals and preferred to ‘stay in the coffin’ for fear of being misunderstood, labeled, and potentially having to face severe repercussions to their lives,” the study authors found, noting that self-identified vampires are “ordinary human beings.”
“Despite the use of the word ‘vampire,’ people with such alternative identities do not seem to be psychologically and socially unstable. Even still, it is not surprising that vampires prefer to keep these alternative identities private … due to fears of being misunderstood and discriminated against,” they wrote.
“Real vampires seem to be ordinary human beings with common, everyday human issues, such as trying to be successful in relationships and careers, managing stress, coping with daily living tasks, and adjustments to transitions, to name a few,” they continued.
There is no sure way to diagnose a vampire, Dr. Williams explained to CNSNews.com.
“People don’t seem to be diagnosed as vampires, at least not the way that the vampires in our study use that term. The self-identified vampires that we have dealt with seem to recognize at some point in their lives that they chronically seem to need extra energy.
“Eventually, they learn that there are other people who seem to have this same need, and they find a community with an explanation that seems to make sense to them,” Williams said.
The study explains that vampires draw that extra energy “psychically” - through breathing techniques that take energy from the environment - or by drinking blood.
Vampires called “sanguinarians… seem to prefer feeding by consuming small amounts of human blood (or animal blood), which can be easily obtained, among other ways, by making a tiny incision (i.e., with a razor or scalpel) on the upper part of the donor’s chest and is then licked or sucked by the vampire,” according to the study.
However, the paper goes on to state that self-identified vampires are generally non-violent. “It is generally expected within the community that vampires should act ethically and responsibly in feeding practices.”
Eighty-two percent of the study participants reported their gender as female, with one “intersexed, female assigned individual” and one “postoperative, male-to-female transsexual.” One participant identified as male, and one as “gender-queer.”
Five said they were pagan; four were wiccan; one identified as “spiritual”; and one said they had no religious affiliation.
Williams said that the small sample wasn’t necessarily representative of the larger community, but that it provided the sort of data he was looking to obtain. “For a qualitative study that seeks rich, descriptive data, this sample size is adequate,” he told CNSNews.com.
“The study details how and why people in highly stigmatized minority groups may be distrustful, and rightly so, of clinicians.”
The study observed that people engaged in minority lifestyles, such as practicing vampires, often perceive social workers as “microaggressing” – which the authors described as “encounters that convey attitudes of dominance and superiority” over individuals with whom they cannot relate on the basis of “race and ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation or identity, socioeconomic status, disability status, or religious affiliation.”
Williams, who specializes in criminology, social work, sexuality, and “leisure science,” said that such judgmental attitudes on the part of social workers was part of what prompted him to conduct the study.
“There is research, including research cited in our study, which suggests that many clinicians have significant socio-cultural biases about these topics that can harm clients despite professional ethics,” he told CNSNews.com.
The study concluded that social workers should strive to do more to empathize with vampires who seek out their services.
“Helping professionals should strive, of course, to become more aware of their own social and cultural positioning so that these do not unintentionally harm clients whose backgrounds and beliefs differ,” it stated.
“By doing so, we may improve at practicing what we preach.”