How society can prevent domestic abuse (Don Hennessy series part 11)
Don Hennessy says:
We need to find a way to challenge the tolerance of male sexual entitlement which is endemic in our society. This goal is the only one not supported by the skilled offender. (208*)
The issue that limits most of us is that the reality of intimate partner abuse is beyond our belief. (215)
After more than thirty years of energy and commitment our efforts have achieved very little. We have become tangled in a debate that is being orchestrated unwittingly on behalf of skilled offenders. I use the word unwittingly with caution because the power and the success of this distractive discussion may well be a highly efficient and well-hidden tactic of male sexual predators. (203)
The system designed and supported by the community has also been contaminated by the psychephile. (214)
We need to take the focus from the target woman and place it on the skilled offender. (215)
According to Hennessy, there are two levels of reform
- The first level is to change people’s behaviour. This is possible. Men can be given strong reasons for saying one cannot do this ever again. This may change their behaviour.
- However, to change their beliefs or attitudes…may take 1,000 years or so of hard work. Certainly, I will not see it in my lifetime in the sense that it is a long-term problem. (source)
Professionals who work in the domestic abuse field call that second level Primary Prevention.
Is gender equality the answer?
From what I (Barbara Roberts) have read, research indicates that societies with more gender equality tend to have lower rates of male violence against women. Professionals in the domestic abuse field are deducing from this that primary prevention must involve working towards gender equality.
However, Sweden is a country which has gender equality embedded in its social structures more than most other countries, yet despite its reputation for equal opportunity in the workplace Sweden has one of highest rates of domestic violence in Europe. See the article Gender neutrality but high domestic violence rate in Sweden says Rosie Batty. Rosie Batty is a survivor of domestic violence whose son, Luke, was murdered by his father. Rosie was made Australian of the Year in 2014 because of her outstanding advocacy for victims of domestic abuse. You can watch Rosie Batty’s report about her trip to Sweden here.
I know that some countries are intentionally working towards gender equality. But I also know there is another strong force working against the gains they might be making. I’m talking about the porn juggernaut. Pornography is empowering men who abuse their intimate female partners. One of the most popular genres of porn watched by males is the genre which shows women being raped.
Men’s Rights Associations (MRA’s) are also empowering abusive men. MRA’s are an echo chamber where skilled offenders encourage and teach young disaffected men to treat women like sexual objects and domestic slaves.
Even if a society has outwardly embedded gender equality into its laws and institutions, that may be far from sufficient to resist the lethal undertow of the porn juggernaut.
My sense is that while working towards gender equality in society may help, it will not be the whole answer.
In my observation the debate about gender equality is typically admixed with LGBQTI issues. That blending of issues tends to put off genuine Christians. They don’t want to be seen to endorse same-sex relationships and transgender moves because those things are prohibited by Scripture, so they are extremely reluctant to recognise (let alone address) assumptions of male privilege in the bedroom. And of course, there are male-privilege diehards in the visible church who obstinately do their best to control the narrative.
Don Hennessy says that the responsibility of men in the realm of sexual intimacy needs to be our specific focus
For our primary intervention to succeed we need to address the clear and dynamic tactics that young men bring to the task of getting their sexual needs met. We need to challenge the belief that underpins all of their tactics. This belief, of the dominance of their sexual entitlements, has been fostered by the history of, and the justification given to, all sexual predators. It will take courage and integrity to challenge this belief. (183)
The ultimate aim of all our efforts should be to develop a society where sexual integrity is a given for every person. … [Where] the right of a woman to say no will be overridden by the responsibility of the man to seek permission. (214)
When we can establish the need that a woman says yes, then we will make it the duty of the man to ask permission. This is the shift that all men resist. This is the change of language that is needed… (214)
The Bible confirms what Hennessy says.
In 1 Corinthians 7:4b it says that the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does (see my post Saying No to sex with one’s spouse).
And the most detailed list of prohibited sexual acts in the Bible (Leviticus 18) addresses all its prohibitions to men.
While the Bible does not condone the sexual sins of women, I think a good case could be made it gives more emphasis to the sexual sins of men.
Back to Don Hennessy:
Domestic violence work is fundamentally different from counseling. (227)
The hopelessness in dealing with uncontrolled sexual entitlement is very concisely dealt with in the biblical exchange (Matthew 18:6) where a question is asked about those who scandalize children. The reply is amazing in its clarity and brutality. The only way to stop these people is to drown them. Perhaps we are too civilised to consider such a barbaric act but the implications of the message are that we need to be very vigorous and very vigilant if we are to stop skilled offenders. (240) [Note from Barb: I have put four translations of Matthew 18:6 at the bottom of this post.]
From working with male intimate abusers it is clear that these offenders are more skilful and more devious than the sex offender who confines his abuse to children. The offender who can develop and sustain a long-term adult abusive relationship with his intimate partner is extremely skilful and determined. (240)
He also has the advantage of the tolerant attitude of the community. Child abuse is no longer misunderstood or accepted. In the last fifty years we as a society have come to accept the appalling effects that pedophiles have on the lives of their targets. Perhaps in the next fifty years we will begin to document and report the effects that adult intimate abusers, the psychephiles, have on the target women. When we can expose what these men do and the effect it has on the women they target, we may be able to eliminate the tolerance that inhibits our response. (241)
Hopefully we will learn from our response to paedophilia and transfer our experience to working with adult intimate abusers. We must take the issue seriously. More importantly, we can no longer allow the skilled offenders to influence what we do. (241)
We need to acknowledge the evil
Above all else we need to acknowledge that the force we are trying to manage, the evil we are trying to stop, will not yield easily. (215)
Clergy may want to mediate because they wish to avoid the reality of the evil that is at work. (213)
Even with courage and integrity we will find that society will resist the challenge. (183)
In 2014 Don Hennessy spoke to a parliamentary committee in the Republic of Ireland (full transcript here). He and other DV specialists had been invited to speak to the parliamentarians about domestic abuse. Here is some of what Hennessy said:
I thank the committee for inviting me to speak. A couple of words that I want to introduce early are “crime” and “evil”. I have heard one but not the other. Male intimate abuse is the most widespread form of crime in this country, but it is also the most evil form of behaviour that I have ever encountered. All of our efforts to deal with this crime have failed because of our ignorance, our tolerance and our desire to be fair.
Our ignorance is founded on our reliance on the victim to explain her experience while she is unaware of the covert tactics of targeting, setting up and grooming that are used by all psychephiles to establish and maintain mind control. This is why I call them “psychephiles”.
Our tolerance is founded on our ambivalence about male sexual priority, which is rife throughout the country.
Our desire to be fair causes us to misdiagnose the perpetrator and to fail to recognise his psychopathic terrorism and his sociopathic lying. It leads us to blame the victim and collude with the psychephile. It will lead us to be groomed by the psychephile and will inevitably cause us to wilt under his persistence. It will allow us to resist putting human rights legislation into our law and to claim constitutional support for putting property rights before victim safety rights. It will give the word of a sociopathic liar equal status with that of the victim. It will allow the psychephiles, who account for one in four of all men in relationships, to dictate our response. It will eventually lead to us doing nothing to solve the problem.
[Hennessy then describes how a 1997 Task Force on Violence Against women made lots of recommendations, but in 2012 a review showed that very few of those recommendations had been put into effect – and those which were being implemented were only at an early stage.]
A solution to the problem is to stop talking, to read what we promised to do in 1997 and to make a start there.
Psalm 82:1-4, 8
God takes His stand in His own congregation;
He judges in the midst of the rulers.
How long will you judge unjustly
And show partiality to the wicked?
Vindicate the weak and fatherless;
Do justice to the afflicted and destitute.
Rescue the weak and needy;
Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.
Arise, O God, judge the earth!
For it is You who possesses all the nations.
Whoever causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe in Me – it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea! (HCSB)
Whoever shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. (American King James Version)
Whoever misleads one of these little ones who believe in Me, it would be better for him to have a millstone hung about his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea (Modern English Version)
Everyone who commits an offense against one of these little ones who believe in me, it were profitable for him that a donkey’s millstone would be hung around his neck and he be sunk in the depths of the sea. (Aramaic Bible in Plain English)
Whoever kidnaps a person must be put to death, whether he sells him or the person is found in his possession. (Christian Standard Bible)
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Unless otherwise indicated, all indented quotes in this post are from Don Hennessy’s book How He Gets Into Her Head: The Mind of the Male Intimate Abuser [*Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.] We have added this book to our Gift Books Offer in which we offer to give certain books to cash-strapped victims.
Emphasis in all quotes has been added by me.
Steps to Freedom: Escaping Intimate Control, Don Hennessy’s new book, can be purchased direct from the Irish publisher libertiespress.com/shop/steps-to-freedom
Hennessy says that Steps to Freedom is 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.
Amazon UK and Amazon Canada have listed it as available April 30.
As is common with newly published books, the US distributor has a separate release schedule from the British Commonwealth distributor. Amazon US have listed it as available May 14.
Abuse and Pre-Marriage Counseling: We Must Change Our Approach – by Ps Jeff Crippen