Re-offending: the increasingly dangerous culminating phase in male intimate abuse (Don Hennessy series part 6)

The skilled offender becomes progressively more abusive the longer he maintains control over his target woman. This is a truth universally acknowledged by those who have professional or long-term personal experience in the dynamics of domestic abuse.

For their hearts are like an oven
As they approach their plotting;
Their anger smolders all night,
In the morning it burns like a flaming fire. (Hosea 7:6)

I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter;
And I did not know that they had devised plots against me (Jer. 11:19a)

… she is completely powerless as to the level of abuse she is receiving. He dictates, he measures… she has no control over that at all. Even if she went along with all of his wishes he could still be abusive the next day.
(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  –

The ability of the skilled offender to return the relationship to the status quo means that his demands increase without any limiting factors. As this cycle repeats itself the offender grows more confident in his ability to gain a response to his demands. He is reconfirmed in his belief that he will suffer little or no consequences for his behaviour. (111)

Some skilled offenders act out their controls in different ways. Some operate a system of intense monitoring. Others leave the target woman free until they have a need. But both types are violent if their demands are resisted. Both types can be lethal if their demands are regularly refused. Psychephiles may also become more dangerous if they feel that there is a possibility that they will be exposed. (111-112)

Any attempt [by the woman] to elicit support from her abuser will also lead to an increased risk of abuse and violence. (114)

Re-offending occurs when the target woman tries to establish her right to negotiate. Target women who no longer try to establish this right may no longer experience overt abuse. (112)

I encourage you to read the above two sentences over again. They express a truth which most well-known Christian teachers on marriage have failed to recognise.

Some of the people who are have failed to recognize this truth are Debi Pearl, Mary KassianNancy DeMoss-WolgemuthWayne GrudemStormie Omartian creators of “The Love Dare”John PiperDesiring God,  John MacArthurCBMWVoddie BauchamEmerson Eggerichs and Lori Alexander.

The majority of  ‘c’hristian teachers and preachers on marriage have abysmally failed to recognize or understand the tactics used by men who abuse their wives. Men who abuse their female intimate partners  — psychephiles — have succeeded in shaping and manipulating the ideas that most Bible-believing Christians have about marriage.

Most of the leaders in the “conservative evangelical church” who are teaching about marriage are teaching wives to voluntarily submit to their husbands. That teaching is fine…if the husband is not a psychephile, not an abuser. But if the husband is a psychephile, that teaching stymies the target woman whom the psychephile has targeted and groomed. It stymies her in a terrible dilemma of conscience. It compounds and prolongs the abuse she will suffer under her abusive husband. It enables the abusive husbands. It crushes the souls of the women who have been targeted by psychephiles.

Many of my clients are totally compliant and resist seeing themselves as battered or abused women. These women have had their instincts silenced and are living their lives under the baton of their abusers. (112)

But the target woman who tries to negotiate or resist will always find herself being put under some pressure and fear. If she continues to resist she may be assaulted. If she declines sexual intimacy she may be coerced or forcibly raped. (112)

In this chapter [on re-offending] and in the chapter on offending I have deliberately resisted going into detail about the physical assaults that reinforce the emotional and spiritual attacks. This is because abusers have concentrated on the issue of blows and kicks in a way which has allowed men to claim that women are equally violent. The issue of intimate male abuse is much more than physical assault. (122)

Most women keep secret the truly awful experiences of the bedroom

Hennessy describes a case of a husband and wife who were both involved in the Cork Domestic Violence Project. Initially the wife had come seeking help for her husband. He eventually came and enrolled for the men’s group. Both partners remained in regular contact with the project over the next two years. The wife (the client) was regularly interviewed alone by the project workers to establish her level of risk and the history of the relationship. It had been an extremely physically violent relationship. She also attended their women’s support group.

When the two years’ work was complete we were reassured by both partners that violence had waned and our client was no longer afraid. We congratulated ourselves on our success. (113)

Some years later we invited our client to give some testimony about the influence of the project on her life. While she was living in greater freedom, she explained that what had most influenced her husband’s behaviour was the repeated threat by her three sons to expose him publicly if he was violent to her again. (113)

But as the interview developed it emerged that she was now prepared to talk about the sexual degradation and rape that was a constant part of her married life. Even though she had an intense and active connection with the project for two years, she had kept secret the truly awful experiences of her bedroom. (113)

… She described graphically the inhuman sexual activity that her husband forced on her. She spoke for more than ten minutes without interruption. She told us more in those ten minutes than in all the interviews and counseling sessions that she had attended. While reviewing this tape I began to realise that our clients could not speak of their sexual exploitation either while it was continuing or for some time after it had stopped. (113)

This encouraged me to re-interview some of my previous clients. These interviews confirmed that my clients had hidden their sexual history while working with the project. It also confirmed that my clients believed they should have a tolerance for sexual exploitation. This tolerance is supported by the communal attitude of ‘making your bed and lying in it’. (113)

Only very skilled counselors will even approach the extent of sexual coercion and rape that exists in these relationships. (115)

In such an intense and unequal relationship it becomes inevitable that the most intimate ideas and opinions that a woman has about her sexuality are not respected. (116)

Gradually, the woman begins to accept his interpretation of conjugal rights. She becomes convinced, as women have in every other generation, that male conjugal right have precedence over female conjugal rights. (116)

Biblical truth check:  The apostle Paul denounced the idea that male conjugal rights take precedence. In 1 Corinthians 7:4 he wrote that the wife has just as much authority as the husband in the marriage bed. (See my post Saying no to sex with one’s spouse)

Hennessy concludes his chapter on re-offending with an account of an abuser who was – wait for it – a pillar of his local church.

Paul was one of the most dangerous men I have met in my work to date. He was a successful business man, a community activist and a pillar of his local church. (122)

I don’t have space to relay the whole account; I can only encourage you to get Hennessy’s book and read it for yourself. The account Hennessy gives of this abuser Paul reminds me of Ps Jeff Crippen’s post Why the “Christian” Abuser is the Worst Kind.


Our Don Hennessy Digest lists all the posts in this series and gives biographical details of Don Hennessy.

All the indented quotes in this post are from Don Hennessy’s book How He Gets Into Her Head: The Mind of the Male Intimate Abuser [Affiliate link] Emphasis in quotes has been added by me. We have added this book to our Gift Books Offer in which we offer to give certain books to cash-strapped victims.

Don Hennessy’s next book, Steps to Freedom, will be coming out in March 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.


UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.

21 thoughts on “Re-offending: the increasingly dangerous culminating phase in male intimate abuse (Don Hennessy series part 6)”

  1. Re-offending occurs when the target woman tries to establish her right to negotiate. Target women who no longer try to establish this right may no longer experience overt abuse.

    In my personal experience, this is also true of abusive churches. Express any honest doubts, questions, or concerns, no matter how humbly, and you’ve marked yourself out as a troublemaker. Get with the program, and things are hunky-dory, at least outwardly. But the threat is always there.

    1. Similarly happens in abusive workplaces where the targeted employee is labeled a troublemaker and / or an eventual ‘disgruntled ex-employee’. Isn’t it something how much false spin is so commonly applied? If I had never personally been down the victim road as long as I have and suffered all sorts of victimization by all sorts of predators, I may have continued in earlier indoctrinated, privileged arrogance and ignorance, not realizing how the target is being victim-blamed, the predator and his allies are spinning lies, and smear campaigning…….and much of what we are told in life is but a lie, told to maintain those in power and let them do whatever they want, however they want, to whoever they want to abuse, use, con, exploit, harm, etc.

  2. I can vouch for the inability to discuss the sexual abuse while I was still experiencing it severely. Now that I have some distance it is clear that that was the crux of the abuse and control. But in the midst of it, I had no idea what to say or how to explain it. It was so bad and I was so thoroughly confused that my husband told me more than once to go to counseling to get help so I could be better at sex. He trusted his manipulation enough to demand that! I still shake my head over it. I wish I would have had the insight or vocabulary or whatever I needed to actually talk about it with someone because maybe I would have realized sooner.

    On another count, this article (again..) speaks to exactly where I am in the journey out from abuse. At this point I am terrified of him reoffending. I have stood up for myself, confronted him time and again, refused his false repentance over and over. I know that I am in the most dangerous position. I am constantly on high alert no matter where I am. He doesn’t live with me anymore but I still startle at the sound of a pet, of a car driving past. When I walk into a room I have to thoroughly check it because I feel convinced that he’s waiting somewhere to harm me. I have dreams every night of walking unsuspectingly into a trap he’s laid, being unable to cry out for help. Okay. I am just venting now. But it’s really, truly frightening. I’ve done all that I can to be free and I still feel trapped in fear of him. I realize that I am so afraid for good reason and that it is keeping me safe to be so careful. But at some point I have to move on, right?

    1. Dear bluebird,
      Bless you for sharing where you are at. I am sure many of our readers including myself will relate to what you have said.

      It is about 5 years since I separated from my second husband, and about 17 years since I last saw my first husband. But I have vivid memories of the dreams I had when I separated from my first husband…dreams where I was in mortal fear he would come into my house and smash my skull with a heavy hammer. He had never raised a hammer against me, but the fear which those dreams embodied was very very real. It showed how on edge I was all the time. I remember being triggered by catching a glimpse of a man’s legs in jeans — he was standing near a table I was sitting at in a cafe while my daughter was having swimming lessons. When I looked up at him, it wasn’t my husband, but the mere sight of a man’s legs in Levi jeans triggered me into high fear.

      And I was recently triggered at a family event, worse than I have ever been triggered before in my life.

      I don’t think my capacity to be triggered will ever go completely away. But I do want to let you know that the intensity of fear and high-alert I felt after leaving my two husbands did gradually subside over time. It does get better. But I don’t think it helps if we tell ourselves “I have to move on at some point” — because telling ourselves we HAVE to move on is akin to what the abusers told us.

      Abusers tell you “you have to… you should… you must… DO such and such, FEEL such and such, RESPOND in such and such a way. They order us. They command us. In my experience if we give ourselves orders like that, it seldom helps us recover. More often, it just makes us feel more ashamed and more guilty.

      I encourage you to be gentle on yourself and to rebuke the voices that tell you that you “you have to” or “you should”. Whether those voices come from inside your own head, or from others.

      ((Hugs))) to you 🙂

      1. Thank you both for your words. They have blessed and encouraged me greatly. I have not been in the exact situations you have mentioned, but I understood the fear, the triggering, the wondering how long it will last….well you get the idea! It is good to know I am not alone, even better to know that I am not crazy! OR–I am not a “bad Christian” because I am still so frail in these areas. I have constantly “apologized” to the Lord for not being tougher, or tough “enough” and then I immediately repent, because I know that is not something I need to repent for. I just can’t seem to get it out of my head!

        I especially thank you Barbara for sharing your personal stories. You’re so professional and talented in how you run this blog, and it’s good to get to know you a bit more.

        I absorb so much from Hennessy, but this one stood out:

        Men who abuse their female intimate partners — psychephiles — have succeeded in shaping and manipulating the ideas that most Bible-believing Christians have about marriage.

        This is hard to believe, but it is so darn true. And it’s not always obvious, or stated as such (no one would directly sanction rape or sexual coercion in a marriage). But indirectly, it is either tolerated or not treated as heinous as it really is. Perhaps Christians cannot imagine any husband doing such a thing to his wife, someone he supposedly loves.

        Lately I have been afraid to read the Word. Words (or ideas) like “submit, obey, servant, suffering, unjust suffering” (just a few examples) are now getting hard to read without feeling jumpy and uneasy inside. I have been praying about this. I know the Lord will give me back a love for His precious Word, which is Life.

        Target women who no longer try to establish this right may no longer experience overt abuse.

        Someone FINALLY gets it. Be “good” and everything will be fine. But:

        Even if she went along with all of his wishes he could still be abusive the next day.

        So you’re still in danger! It’s never enough!


        But the target woman who tries to negotiate or resist will always find herself being put under some pressure and fear…These women have had their instincts silenced and are living their lives under the baton of their abusers.

        You try to get your dignity back, and things get worse. You let him have total control, thinking that’s “best,” but then he could choose to be abusive. Living and breathing that kind of dilemma and constant fear, confusion and misery is something I cannot fully put into words.

      2. Thank you for your reply. Is it possible to send you an email? I am really struggling as this fear keeps growing and somehow – I have no idea how! – it’s morphing into this desire to go back to him. I know that that’s dangerous but I have myself convinced that if I was just with him then at least I’d know what’s going on. If that makes any sense. I read through the posts tagged fear last night and that was helpful, but I have some questions still that I don’t want to post.

      3. Hi bluebird,
        My email address is

        It is also given on this page which is under our ABOUT tab:
        About us

        I commend you for exploring our blog via our tags. I sometimes wonder if many of our readers use that method of searching for things that interest them. So it encourages me to hear you have done that. 🙂

        Side note:
        We know that our blog is not easy to navigate on a phone; it is much easier to navigate on a laptop or tablet. On a laptop or tablet, the viewer can see our tags in the top menu and for when you click on some of those tabs a drop-down menu appears with multiple options. All that is much harder to access on a phone, not impossible to access but more difficult to access. We know this is a problem, but we have not yet had time to work out a way to mitigate it…and there may be no way to completely mitigate it, given the options that are offered on

        Here are some more posts which you may find helpful.

        When You Leave Egypt You Will be Tempted to go Back

        I just hate feeling like I am back at square one when some of these triggers come

        What to do When the Going Gets Reaaallly Hard

  3. Helovesme, it is so hard to put these thoughts and feelings into words but you did a beautiful job. I think it must be hard for those who have not lived this to really understand what Don is saying. For those of us who have, it is too familiar. It helps to read the comments of others as well as the articles. Thanks for providing this safe and helpful place, Barb! May the Lord continue to bless and use your efforts.

  4. I’m just glad this website exists. Abusers are evil. Abusers are soul murderers. Someday God will throw them into the pit, but until then they roam freely about on this earth and do their devil father’s bidding, which is to steal, kill, deceive, and destroy.

    For Bluebird, I don’t think fear is a bad thing but rather a gift. “Move on”? Not really. People who say that don’t know what they are talking about and would be better off not saying such drivel. Some women end up dead. You know your situation best and the Good LORD gave you your fear instincts, a brain, emotions, and I think it is smart for every woman to sweep a room and check out her surroundings.

    Sweep those rooms. Better safe than sorry. We live in an evil world and that’s truth. [Some] people cannot be trusted and those hunky-dory ideals of many conservative Christians who live sheltered, privileged lives about ”everyone is basically good” are foolish nonsense. Being vigilant, prepared, wary, and expecting the abuser in your life to do you harm seems very sensible to me.

    1. W, I’m the only one telling me to move on! I will agree that I don’t know what I’m talking about though. 😦

      Thank you for the encouragement to continue to be cautious. I think part of my struggle is learning to accept and trust my instincts again after a long time of hiding and ignoring them for fear of retaliation.

      1. Oh, no! I misunderstood. I thought some people were making comments like “move on” and “get over it already” and harmful similar directives and criticisms. You know what you are talking about…… Please know that I apologize and I was just trying to be encouraging of you, Bluebird, and dismissive of what I thought were others’ insensitive, critical, unhelpful comments of “move on” and the like.

        You articulate so many things so well. I’m sure there are plenty of readers who are (or were) (or will be) experiencing the very same things and stages. I wish you the very, very best, Bluebird. 🙂

      2. Also, the temptation to go back or be in contact with your abuser is very common because of the reason you pointed out — the illusion of at least knowing what is going on…… I say ‘illusion’ because no abuser is predictable, honest, trustworthy, forthright, and communicative of all their evil plans for you….. Even though you’ll have more information by being in contact with him, that’s a false sense of comfort / security and worse yet, he’ll be back in contact with you and be able to do you harm again, with ease.

        I said a prayer for you Bluebird. You are in the driver’s seat of your life. You’ll do what you feel is best for yourself, given your limited options and constrained choices, etc.

  5. Thanks W! I know you meant no harm in what you said. I appreciate your prayers as well as the reminder that this not knowing isn’t really new…it just feels different because I’m far away from what had become so familiar.

  6. Tempted. Tempted to not come out from among them and be separate. Tempted to stay and hope and try to be satisfied with the food and shelter and slavery of Egypt, to stay and never walk by faith, never feel my heart pounding as I cross the Red Sea, never drink water pouring from the Rock and be fed by the bread from heaven.

    That’s what love-bombing is. That’s what re-grooming is supposed to accomplish. More than just compliance and physically staying in slavery though, he wants all, including my heart and soul.

    I was reading in Luke and realized the temptations offered are the same as Jesus in the desert tempted by Satan, same strategies.

    First temptation:
    I am hungry, starving even for affection, love, and a peaceful family life.

    Over the weeks since he’s suspected I may eventually leave, he’s kissed me tenderly for the first time in years, suggested another baby, telling me what a good mother I am and that his heart has always been for an amazing family.

    That stone cannot be made into bread that will satisfy. It is a trick, a temptation, a lie.

    Deuteronomy 8:3
    So he humbled you, and allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you knew not, neither did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD does man live.

    Second temptation:
    Like Satan, he offered me luxury and a life of leisure, which he does have in his power to grant. Come with me when I travel, he says. Buy sexy clothes, go to the gym, try that lifestyle. Don’t get a career or job. Stay home, take naps when kids are in school so you have energy for me for evenings and weekends.

    I worship the Lord God only, and Him alone will I serve with my whole heart.

    I’ve been there in the past, where my whole being and every thought has him (husband) in it, and it’s not healthy or right. It is idolatrous. I’m still not free of it entirely, but I’m aware, and I don’t want to voluntarily return to that state. Luxury is being offered in exchange for that. I say “no”.

    Third Temptation:
    This is actually a really hard one.

    Luke 4:9-11
    Then he (Satan) brought Him (Jesus) to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. For it is written: “He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you,” and, “In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.”

    Sacrifice yourself. Play the martyr. Sacrifice for your husband and children, try harder, pour yourself out like a drink offering. Forgive, forget, stop thinking about the hurts of the years. God will give you strength to continue and persevere.

    I believed that and tried it, and God did sustain me in my ignorance, but still, my faith suffered, my health suffered, all of us suffered.

    God, sustain me, give me strength, and set me free. And all these other ladies too. Help our children too. Be real to them, reveal yourself to them. Please.

    1. Although it comes from hardship and evil that I wish you didn’t have to endure, your comment brings clarity and peace and speaks important truths. Thank you for what you shared. I pray that the strength and wisdom that inform these thoughts will guide you to a place of safety and hope. Take comfort in knowing that after being tempted, the Lord Jesus was attended to by angels (Matthew) and was full of the power of the Spirit (Luke).

  7. (Light airbrushing…)

    …Target women who no longer try to establish this right may no longer experience overt abuse. (112)

    There was never any re-offending or overt abuse in my “marriage”. The damage had already been done by my family of origin.

    There were no “bedroom horror stories” in my “marriage”. That damage was done to me when I was a child, done by my family of origin.

    The more I read, the more I wonder…

    1) Based on what I have read, would Lundy Bancroft or Don Hennessy have picked apart all the threads woven into the fabric of my life? (No insult intended. I am honestly curious…the only “label” I fit to any large extent is abused / victim-survivor.)

    2) Relatively speaking (pun unhappily intended), my family of origin groomed me for my anti-x. Did this give my anti-x a cakewalk?

    3) Is their approach too “targeted” for a person like me? (Again, no insult intended. I am honestly curious.)

    Many people, professional or otherwise, might have identified me as abused. Would anyone have asked all the questions needed to elicit the full story, especially when I did not consciously have the information myself?

    Much bigger questions: How many others are “misfits” like me? How many others fall through the cracks? How many others need information from multiple sources?

    I know I am not alone….and it would take more than one book to find us.

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