A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Don Hennessy says domestic abusers are like pedophiles — and there’s not much proof they’re redeemable.

He’s your ideal man and your worst nightmare.

Men who abuse women tend to go through a subtle but ultimately dramatic transformation that leaves their partner desperately searching for the person he was at the start of their relationship and blaming herself for losing him along the way.

“They are extremely clever people,” says Don Hennessy, relationship counsellor and former director of the [Irish] National Domestic Violence Intervention Agency.

He means cleverness at its most cruel. Abusers, Hennessey says, are conmen and brainwashers who employ tactics no different from paedophiles. Those are strong words but Hennessy believes in straight-talking. …

Hennessy says abusers will go out of their way to find a woman they can take advantage of, and believes they operate the same way as paedophiles, grooming their victim.

They start from the day they meet the prospective partner. What they are really looking for is somebody who will put his needs before hers.

The woman will take responsibility for him being happy and the pattern is there right at the beginning. If he meets somebody who has more self-interest than concern for him or who doesn’t respond the way he wants, he tends to move on. Abusers look for kindness and they abuse that kindness.

“They are probably the biggest conmen I have come across in my life. They are very capable of presenting themselves in whatever way is attractive to the woman. If she tries to leave, he will pull her back. He will convince her that if she changes or improves, everything will be okay. She is constantly being re-groomed. The process is exactly the same as with a paedophile,” [says Hennessy]

As with the paedophile, he believes the primary sense of entitlement is sexual.

… Hennessy does not believe abusers are completely irredeemable — but he hasn’t seen much proof that they are.

Getting Inside Her Head  Irish Examiner, 2013 (boldface mine)

I recommend you click that link and read the whole article. If you are a survivor of domestic abuse it will ring many bells for you. If you are a church leader I think it will could help you understand why domestic abuse cases are so hard to deal with pastorally. Don Hennessy has such a lot of wisdom about domestic abuse.

Here are excerpts from another article about Don Hennessy titled Men who abuse women ‘use the same tactics as pedophiles and I’ve never met one who wanted to change’, says author of How He Gets in her Head (Laura Larkin, Irish News, 2017, boldface mine) —

Mr Hennessy believes that for men who abuse it is a ‘lifestyle choice’. “It’s founded on a sense of entitlement and a lack of what I call conscience. He thinks he is entitled to do certain things. He will not have a sense of the impact that those things will have on anybody else. He will just go through life taking what he can get from people and primarily that’s in his family life,” he said.

“He might be very different socially or in his workplace so that you might not be able to spot him but when he closes the front door he will be a very different person.

The thing that these people lack is a conscience and [we] haven’t discovered any psychiatric or psychological process that can give someone one of those.

“A conscience is the term I use to describe the difference between what is right and wrong and to choose what is right thing. … These people don’t seem to have that and if they have it they seem to ignore it.”

Mr Hennessy said that he has never encountered a man who wished to change his ways.


I only heard of Hennessy last year.

Not long before Jeff Crippen resigned from this blog he discovered Hennessy’s book How He Gets Into Her Head [*Affiliate link] and gave me a heads-up about it. Hennessy’s book was published in 2012 but this was the first we had heard of it. I have no idea why it is not a best seller in the domestic violence field. I think the book is superb. It is not written primarily for victims, but can easily be read by victims. We have put it on our Recommended Books list. And we have added it to our Gift Books Offer for victim-survivors who can’t afford to purchase it for themselves.

I believe that victim / survivors would find How He Gets Into Her Head as helpful as Lundy Bancroft’s book Why Does He Do That?. Hennessy’s book is much easier to read than another book we have recommended on this blog which is also aimed at professionals, Evan Stark’s Coercive Control [*Affiliate link].

I’ve been intending to introduce our readers to Don Hennessy’s work ever since Jeff Crippen told me about it. My apologies for not publicizing Hennessy’s work sooner.

This post is Part One in a series on Don Hennessy in which I will be summarizing Hennessy’s book and quoting from more media articles about his work. In addition the series will be sharing videos and radio shows that feature Hennessy. I suggest you dig deep into this material. It will open your eyes even more to the deviousness of domestic abusers. It has certainly opened my eyes more…. and I’ve been studying this field since 1999.

All posts in the series will be listed in our Don Hennessy Digest which will be published tomorrow. As each subsequent posts in the series is published, we will add a link to it in the Digest. The Digest will also give Hennessy’s biographical details, showing the duration and depth of his experience in the field of domestic abuse.


If any of our readers have been wondering why ACFJ has been a bit light-on in content recently, the explanation is that I’ve been working on this Don Hennessy series. And I’ve also been working on the promised series about Chris Moles which will come out after the Hennessy series. I wanted to get the Hennessy series out first as I will be referring back to it in some of my posts about Chris Moles.

Update: I have just heard from Don Hennessy that his next book, Steps to Freedom, will be coming out in April 2018. It will be different from most ‘sympathy’ and ‘support’ books which rely on the target woman to protect herself. Instead it talks directly to the target woman while she is being controlled and hopes to give her the permission and the skills to protect her mind and her soul.  Additional information about this book is here.

*Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link. 


  1. Dale Ingraham @ Speaking Truth In Love Ministries
    • Annie

      Hmmm….that might explain why my NH would not help me go after the (friend-of-the-family) predator of my teenage daughter. I had to do it all alone — and then suffered terribly with family and friend alienation because of the actions I took. I’m not sorry, though. I’ll never know what might have happened if I had not taken the action that I did.

      They’re both alike. In fact, NH made excuses for someone (another friend of his) who was eventually incarcerated for sexually abusing his own daughter. OH MY!!! This is just now resonating with me and the torment I faced as I raised my young family with this NH. And thinking about the kind of friends he has / had — all so-called “C”hristians….both people, that everyone admired.

      • Dale Ingraham @ Speaking Truth In Love Ministries

        Annie, It is so sad how the church is failing those in need, especially abuse survivors.

  2. TuffEnuff

    Great article and I’m looking forward to more.

  3. romans818

    Barb, I can’t wait for the rest of this series. Thank you for all your work. I immediately ordered his book when you first recommended it, but I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet.

    Here’s someone who gets it! It makes me so angry church leaders don’t? won’t? open their eyes to just who he (the abuser) is.

    I especially related to this [Re: Grooming]:

    It’s done in a way which gets her to take responsibility and take the blame when things go wrong between them.

    Right from the very beginning if he is upset it is her fault, she hasn’t done something right…she will begin to examine her own behaviour rather than the behaviour of her abuser

    • Helovesme

      That last part struck me, too. The grooming technique. It’s as if she starts to believe that if I change, then he will too. If he doesn’t, I need to change some more, or change in different ways. Then he will behave better.

      This feels like a sort of self-idolatry on her part (bear with me, I’m not attacking her). What I mean is that it is dangerous, as Christians, to think we can change someone—if we simply change ourselves. I truly do understand the manipulative manner in which this happens (again, the grooming is quite subtle but powerful), so please understand I’m not blaming the victim. I would just like us to be on our guard against this as much as possible.

      I have done it plenty of times:

      she will begin to examine her own behaviour rather than the behaviour of her abuser

      I constantly thought there was something wrong with me. Well, actually there are PLENTY of things wrong with me! But my insecurities and shortcomings are not who I am. There’s much more to me.

      Even when I thought someone else might be partially responsible, I still thought I should change, not them. I still thought I was more at fault. I could never completely let myself off the hook.

      • AW

        It strikes me more as the over-conscientiousness that Dr. George Simon refers to as more ‘neurosis’ than any sort of self-idolatry. It’s the willingness to work on oneself to improve that abusers use against their targets.

        Now, when pastors and others tell the target they just have to suffer and be the means of salvation for their abuser, then yes, that absolutely is idolatry.

      • Innoscent

        AW, I so appreciate your discernement between neurosis and idolatry!

  4. Song of Joy

    I look forward to further posts on Don Hennessy, and I think I’ll order the book “How He Gets Into Her Head”. I actually ran across the book last year when searching Amazon, and I saved it in my wish list…but wasn’t sure if I wanted to purchase it. Now, with your endorsement and reading his words in these articles, I think I will order it.

    One of the greatest myths sold to abused people (spouses, children, etc.) is the idea that there is hope for change in the character and behavior of the abuser. The myth that somewhere deep down in the slimy, dark recesses of their soul is a tiny spark of repentance that wants to get out. It keeps the loving, kind person in a hopeless and dangerous situation…extending mercy, forgiveness, effort, appeasement to their hideously disturbed and cruel abuser.

    What abused people need is the knowledge and permission (approval!) to get out of the relationship. I held on to hope for my extremely cruel and manipulative father for far too long. He was incorrigible and delighted in all his machinations…and I wish I had come to that conclusion a lot earlier in life.

    • BeingMindful

      I think I will order this book. I find that when I back off from reading domestic abuse articles and books, I start to “slip” in my mind, and then become vulnerable to getting sucked back into a relationship again with my abuser.

      • twbtc

        Hello BeingMindful,

        Welcome to the Blog! You will noticed that I changed your screen name as it may have given some identifying information.

        Thank you for your comment. And we like to encourage new commenters to read our New Users’ page as it gives tips for staying safe when commenting on the blog.

        And you may find our FAQ page helpful.

        Again Welcome!!

    • MoodyMom

      One of the greatest myths sold to abused people (spouses, children, etc.) is the idea that there is hope for change in the character and behavior of the abuser. The myth that somewhere deep down in the slimy, dark recesses of their soul is a tiny spark of repentance that wants to get out. It keeps the loving, kind person in a hopeless and dangerous situation… extending mercy, forgiveness, effort, appeasement to their hideously disturbed and cruel abuser.

      Yes SOJ! That myth that “deep down” they are redeemable (through our efforts), that they are somehow retrievable, is SO binding and SO crippling. And it is sold right, left, and sideways in churches and in the ‘C’hristan counseling that so many of us have endured.

      But, it is also sold thick and fast by Hollywood. “One more reach out to the bad guy will make him see… One more hand to pull up the bad guy as they face the doom that their consequences… Then they’ll reform… Then they’ll see… ‘The Grinch’s heart grew three sized that day…'” It’s sold in rom-coms as well in action movies. That’s why my family has started calling it the “Vader Principle” (a la Star Wars). The idea that after six movies of crappy behavior, right at the last moments, Darth Vader will see what he’s been doing… He’ll be redeemed! Bad guys will turn! They’ll become good guys! Violins swell, lighting changes, actors’ faces relax and beam with joy, a poignant moment is shared, parties are thrown.

      So when we see that crazy, sometimes sappy myth being sold by Hollywood, we nod to each other… “The Vader Principle.”

      • Innoscent

        MoodyMom, that’s it..! Hollywood and abusers, it’s all the same: they act on behalf of Satan to hypnotise their victims. How? He puts his demons in them the same way he did with the serpent talking through him to Eve. Hellywood on earth started there!
        I know for a fact that all the movies I watched (before conversion to Christ) groomed me to expect the charming prince and fall prey to him, just like Eve…

  5. Suzanne

    The truth of plain words is often shocking. But that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be spoken.

  6. Sara

    Barb, I look forward to your posts. You recommended this book to me a few months ago–thank you! It was a life changer. Bancroft’s book opened my eyes to abuse, but Hennessey’s book explained the why and the how.

    I began following your blog a couple of years ago and you once wrote that there are no good times in an abusive relationship. My reaction was that you were wrong, but today, I fully understand those words and everything that I suffered. Living with an abuser means there are no good times! It has taken me this long to “get him out of my head.” I see now how he groomed me in order to abuse me, and I no longer take any of the blame for it.

    I work as a victim advocate with a local police department and now when I meet with DV victims I explain how they were targeted, groomed, and abused. I can see the light bulb go on in their eyes and they no longer want to try to save the marriage. Thank you for the work you do on the blog.

    • Sounds like you are doing excellent work as a victim-advocate, Sara. 🙂

      Bless you heaps!

    • Innoscent

      Sara, that’s wonderful! These things take time to sink in because the grooming has gone so deep, and has got profoundly entrenched in our psyche.
      I’d love to help DV victims the way you do, how do you go about that? Does the police department ask for any credentials, degree, etc?

  7. Herjourney

    Ordered the book.
    Thanks for the recommendation.

  8. healinginhim

    I just noticed this post via your FB page. I look forward to the series and will definitely be ordering Don Hennessy’s book.
    So much of this post has spoken to me as crazy-making by ‘him’ and family continue to play with my emotions.
    Thank you, Lord, for a few faithful friends and ministries like ACFJ who work tirelessly to encourage and bring hope to so many shattered lives.

  9. Paula

    Thank you Barbara for the heads up about Don Hennessy. I’m really excited because I live in Ireland! I’ve been surviving thriving healing and hoping via your blog and website for the last 4 years. I’m just super thrilled now to know someone in my own country has got a clue about the horrendous stuff that goes on. I cannot thank you enough for this website and it’s content. It has literally saved my life and sanity. God bless you and thank you again!

    • Hi Paula, sorry for my delay in welcoming you to the blog. I am so chuffed to hear we have a reader in Ireland!

      Today I attended a public discussion about family violence and perpetrator accountability which was held in Melbourne, Australia (my home town). It was titled Keeping perpetrators of family violence in view: how do we see the ‘Web of Accountability’?

      It featured a panel of three international experts who reported on the latest policy work in policing, legislation, and other family violence responses from the United Kingdom. The panellists also discussed the cultural and policy shifts in the area of domestic and family violence, as well as the progress of government and community responses, the work still to be done, and the challenges ahead.

      The panellists were Professor Amanda Robinson (Cardiff University), Professor Sandra Walklate (University of Liverpool and Monash University), and Professor Nicole Westmarland (Durham University).

      After the event, during the refreshments time, I spoke to each of the panellists one by one. I asked them if they were familiar with Don Hennessy’s work. Two said they were not; the third said she had heard of him, and he was ‘on her list to read’. I briefly explained Hennessy’s work to each of them and told them I was writing this series about Hennessy in which I was summarizing the key points of his book. I think I interested at least two of them enough to get them to email me so I can send them a link to our Don Hennessy Digest.

      🙂 🙂 🙂

    • And Paula, if you want us to change your user name, just email TWBTC (The Woman Behind The Curtain). Her address is twbtc.acfj@gmail.com

      And if you have not already done so, please check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog. And here is our FAQ page. 🙂

  10. free2follow

    It’s amazing to me, and so very helpful, that you’re publishing this info from Jimmy Hinton and Don Hennessy right now, describing similarities between domestic abusers and pedophiles. When I clicked through from the Jimmy Hinton post to listen to his interview, I also saw that his mom Clara has a blog about being the (unsuspecting) wife of a pedophile, at Finding A Healing Place [Internet Archive link]. I visited her blog and began reading her story from the start. Post after post, I realized: Even though my own ex showed no red flags of being a pedophile, there are eerie similarities between the way he treated me and the way John Hinton treated his wife. Truly eerie.

    Also, when I saw photos of Larry Nassar, the Gymnastics USA pedophile, in the courtroom, looking like a whipped puppy, I saw the exact same expression my ex has displayed in public, ever since I separated from him and filed for divorce. Like Nassar and John Hinton, my ex has spent his life cultivating a spit-shined Good Guy image. Now, add the hangdog look and people believe he is the victim of me.

    If you just saw Nassar’s face and didn’t know the story, you would take him for a victim too. But because he hurt so many girls, and because so many of his victims have spoken up, it’s now very obvious that he is, in fact, the predator.

    Pedophiles are the ultimate covert abusers. I need to recognize how my ex is like them because I only have my own experience to testify to the abuse. And the Good Guy illusion is so strong that, even after fleeing for my health and sanity and life, it’s still hard for me to see my ex as cunning and intentional in what he did, and what he is still working tirelessly to try to do to me. Thank you for bringing all this to our attention.

    • Anonymous Woman

      Yes, the whipped puppy look. And when the abused express righteous anger they are seen to be the victimizing party. A Nassar note to the judge included the ‘hell hath no wrath like a scorned woman’ line (something like that) and that baloney fell flat, most especially as these were little girls he abused, but how many hear their abusers say the same lie about them? And people believe it and tell the victims they are bitter or whatever other nonsense criticisms women get as a standard horrible response in our woman-hating, pro-abuse, pro-rape general culture. Thankfully the victims had not yet turned 18 so they were less ‘fair game’ in public opinion.

    • Dear readers, Clara Hinton just published this terrific article:

      Why Was It So Hard to Believe My Husband Molested Children? [Internet Archive link]

  11. Stronger Now

    Thank you for recommending this book. I’m into the 3rd chapter and it is really eye-opening! I definitely needed this right now.

  12. I have just heard from Don Hennessy that his next book, Steps to Freedom, will be coming out in June 2018.

    It will be different from most ‘sympathy’ and ‘support’ books which rely on the target woman to protect herself. Instead it talks directly to the target woman while she is being controlled and hopes to give her the permission and the skills to protect her mind and her soul.

  13. Marcia

    This looks good and does ring true. As a former victim myself and a current PhD candidate in forensic psychology at ___ University, I can tell you that the male abuser has a similar mindset to a serial killer. He is cold and calculating and objectifies his victim. He is relentless in his purpose and I have yet to meet a truly repentant or reformed abuser. He uses any children as pawns attempting to give them only two choices, indoctrination with servitude to him or destruction. He manipulates, coerces, and fools professionals and church people alike and yes, he is usually a boyscout in public. A lovable form in the community makes her the target of public dislike when she as victim tells the truth and attempts to break free.

    What can we do to help? Always believe the victim. Her story will be detailed and horrific. Do not turn away but listen and then help her escape. Watch as he becomes undone. He will accuse her of abuse and cheating but remember, she is running away from him sometimes with her children, seeking only safety, peace, and freedom. Shelter her and try to get him to take some responsibility. When he won’t, you know who the real culprit is.

    • Thanks Marcia, and welcome to the blog! 🙂

      I altered your screen name a bit, just to be on the safe side. I am guessing you are not at risk now from your abusive ex, since you are ploughing ahead with high-level study. If you want us to modify your name as it shows in your comment, just email my assistant TWBTC (The Woman Behind The Curtain). Her address is twbtc.acfj@gmail.com

      I wish you well with the PhD.

      And I hope you pass on info about Don Hennessy to your supervisors and fellow students. My impression is that Don Hennessy’s work is under-recognised by professionals in the domestic abuse / family violence sector. I think that what Hennessy says is very important and needs to be given more attention. I think he has nailed some things about domestic abusers which few if any other professionals have.

      I think Hennessy is at the cutting edge, but he’s been given too little oxygen as yet…perhaps because he comes from Ireland and because he is in his 70s and doesn’t use social media.

      By the way, we like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

      And after reading the New Users’ Info page, you might like to look at our FAQ page.

  14. Finding Answers

    From the original post:

    He means cleverness at its most cruel. Abusers, Hennessey says, are conmen and brainwashers who employ tactics no different from paedophiles. Those are strong words but Hennessy believes in straight-talking….

    For all the light bulbs that have glowed to life, for all I have left breadcrumbs throughout the ACFJ website, I still have difficulty connecting to the word “cruel”.


    I have read books (fiction, non-fiction), watched documentaries and movies…..many containing incidences that would be termed cruel (or worse).

    I had to be led by the Holy Spirit to that word, shown a great, gaping hole that contained….nothing. If I was a dictionary, the word “cruel” would be missing.

    Maybe that’s part of the reason it took so long for the first light bulb to come to life. I just don’t seem to connect anything to the word.

    This really, really puzzles me.

    • Finding Answers

      Adding on to my comment…..

      The word was “missing” because the abuse started while I was a baby…before I was infected with an almost deadly childhood illness. I guess you could say I became “infected” before I became infected….


      1) willfully or knowingly causing pain or distress to others.
      2) enjoying the pain or distress of others:
      3) causing or marked by great pain or distress:
      4) rigid; stern; strict; unrelentingly severe.

      Of the four definitions, I can connect with the last one – very common in an authoritarian / patriarchal-style household.

      Now I have a place to begin….

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