Survivors and DV professionals describe domestic abuse and red flags (Don Hennessy series part 10)
Every survivor’s story can encourage and empower other survivors of abuse. Victims feel they are not so alone when they hear the raw, real accounts from other survivors.
Three survivors of domestic abuse told their stories to Ray D’Arcy who is an Irish radio show presenter. Ray D’Arcy then sought comment from Don Hennessy and other professionals who work in the field of domestic abuse.
The three accounts from survivors will resonate with you if you are a victim-survivor of domestic abuse, or a compassionate worker in the field.
I think Ray D’Arcy was outstanding in the way he responded to both the victims and the professionals he interviewed. The most heart-warming thing for me was the shock and outrage he showed about what male offenders do to the women they target. It is rare that a male radio host shows appropriate outrage at what abusive men do to their intimate female partners.
Here are some quotes from the show after the three victims had told their stories. Ray D’Arcy is speaking to Don Hennessy:
Ray Darcy: (53:45) So you’ve heard similar stories before, haven’t you?
Ray: And the themes and the patterns and the way of doing things?
Don: I think the first thing I would like to say is to really congratulate all the ladies who have spoken so far and their courage and their ability to talk.
And one of the things they that seem to indicate was that in some ways they were vulnerable young women at some point in their lives. But being in an abusive relationship has nothing to do with being a vulnerable woman. It can happen to any woman.
The only reason why it doesn’t happen to some women is that they have never been targeted by an abusive man.
The girls that are there in the studio with you are no different than the women who are living in non-abusive relationships.
So I would like to remind them that rather than thinking that there was something wrong with them, or that they were vulnerable or that they were naive, they had four very strong attributes which these guys spotted from a mile off.
The four attributes skilled offenders look for when selecting a target woman
Note from Barb: I mentioned these four attributes in part 3 of this series, but they are worth revisiting here.
Don: (54:50) The first thing is that all the women are very kind.
What I mean by that is they are the type of women who puts other people before themselves. They were minding their mothers, Nora’s a nurse – whatever the way they go about life they put themselves out for other people. If you’re that kind of a woman you are a target for these men.
The second thing is that in their relationship with these guys they were very loyal.
And even though we’ve heard horrific stories I would imagine that there are things that happened to these ladies that would never be spoken about. They’ve buried them in the secrets of their heart and they will keep them there.
The third thing they have is that they are dedicated.
In other words they are the people who have a word so if they say, “I’ll be there tomorrow,” or “I’ll do this next week” they do it. They’re not careless about it. They’re not people who say, “Oh, I couldn’t be bothered.” They would get up and do it.
And the fourth thing they have, which is a wonderful attribute, is that they are all very truthful.
And that’s one of the things that attracts these guys. And that’s one of the things that is their downfall, really, because when you are truthful – when you are trying to develop an intimate relationship – you begin to talk about what’s going on inside your own mind, inside your own spirit, and you give him access to the whole thing.
He becomes a controller of your mind, but he’s not very skilled. He just has to listen and most of the women that I meet at the beginning used to say to me, “Gee, Donny, he never listens to me. He’s miles away.”
The truth is he listens to everything. He stores all the information and uses it as ammunition when he feels like it and can recall it two years or twenty-two years later. So he never forgets anything that he can use against his partner.
Ray: (1:00:48) This has been a difficult listen for me so I imagine it has been for you at home, but it’s very important that these stories are heard. Don has been listening to these stories for over 25 years now. [Don, you said that the abuser’s] actions are premeditated?
Don: Absolutely. They have a plan and they have a goal and all their actions are intentional. Now it is beyond belief — as two of your ladies already said “we tried to make sense of things” – but you can’t make sense of it.
It is beyond ordinary human belief to think that a guy goes out to destroy the humanity of his partner.
He wants to dehumanize her so that she will be at his bidding. And it’s the only way he can do it. He does it deliberately.
He does it gradually, so she doesn’t realize. So she thinks this is all part of the game or whatever, and he will invade her spirit.
And what’s really wonderful is that because Women’s Aid and other groups are speaking out loud about it at every chance they get – it’s beginning to become apparent for most young women now that this situation is not appropriate in their lives. Nobody deserves to be abused at any level. But you can’t make sense of it.
Ray: The pattern is that they sort of strip their victims of self-esteem, of nearly personality.
Don: The way that I try to describe it: they actually quieten the person’s instinct.
BLAME SHIFTING: a red flag that a someone is an abuser
Don: (1:03:02) I have two teenage daughters – well, they were teenage quite some years ago – and when I started the work they asked “What’s the advice if you are dating someone?” And I said, “The only thing I’d say to you is if you’re being blamed for something that isn’t your fault, just run. Don’t try and explain it, and don’t try to justify it. Just run.”
Ray: That’s pretty basic. I suppose to a lot of people listening it seems like an over reaction, but you from your work know that that leads to other abuse, and worse abuse.
Don: The essential thing is that when the abuse happens, the abused person (99 times out of 100 it’s the woman) has to look inside her own head and say, “Oh, God, what did I do now to bring that on?” And once she’s thinking that way she’ll ignore his bad behavior.
Ray: (speaking to the victims) You all said that.
O let the evil of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous;
For the righteous God tries the hearts and minds.
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After that program was broadcast, Ray D’Arcy did a follow up where he talked with Margaret Martin from Women’s Aid Ireland about the the feedback from the first episode. You can listen to it here: Margaret Martin Women’s Aid
Here is a short transcript, starting at 15:13 —
Margaret Martin : People understand much more now about grooming in terms of children – how pedophiles get access to children. But the reality is that in those circumstances they’ve also been grooming all of the adults around that child. And they’re very skilled. And the same process of grooming is going on in domestic violence. It’s going on with the woman and it’s going on with all of the people around her.
Ray: And it’s a long game!
Margaret: It’s a very long game.
Ray: That’s what shocked me. Premeditated. Planning for the longterm.
Margaret: Absolutely. And very skilled. So that people can say, “But I’ve never seen that side of him!” And then people can think their judgement almost negates hers. And the reality is: he’s very careful about not letting other people see it.
Our Don Hennessy Digest lists all the posts in this series and gives biographical details of Don Hennessy.