Relationship Abuse: the Short Story
Male abuse is based on sexual entitlement, says relationship counselor Don Hennessy, and every abused woman senses this. We must take focus from the woman and put it onto the abuser, challenging his attitudes on sex. It is his responsibility to seek permission, not hers to refuse (or allow). The Bible itself condemns men’s sexual sins more than women’s.
Male abusers, Hennessy says, are more devious and cunning than pedophiles, almost never change, and are fully aware of what they do and how it affects their targeted victims. We fail to wipe out this crime because we do not call it such. Abusers are con men who use brainwashing tactics to fool women.
Victims are no different than non-abused kind people and they have no “pathology” driving them to be targets. The only thing that can be said about most/all victims is that they are ethical, are unaware of whatever tactics the particular abuser wants to use on them, and either knowingly or unknowingly will give up their own needs to benefit others: all traits society encourages at large, but especially in women. Hence the irony and betrayal when targeted persons are criticized for putting up with the treatment.
An abuser operates like this:
First Step: He selects a kind, honest woman who puts others first and doesn’t yet recognize signs of a toxic person. He uses grooming, like a child molester would, on the target to ensure she will do anything for him and not figure out what’s going on. He chooses whichever tactics the particular woman is susceptible to, or grooms her to be susceptible to some, if need be.
From day one, therefore, the abuse begins as he gets into her head.
He gets her to take blame for couple problems; she examines her behavior and thinks if she changes he’ll stop being nasty. Victims don’t see the treatment as abuse because it looks different in the context the abuser creates. Example: he may blame outbursts on his mental health, “triggers”, or PTSD, calling it “accidental.” He acts differently in public to keep up an image, so no one believes her if she tries to expose him. He says he loves her but what he “loves” is her service, which is why he fears a breakup.
Second Step: He skillfully sets her up by using various methods. When he asks her questions and listens to her intently, he isn’t being polite; he’s gathering information to use against her later (her fears, weaknesses, wishes, attitudes, knowledge- or lack thereof, susceptibility to certain con tactics). He fakes a persona or worldview that makes him desirable to whichever target he chooses. If he is unable to, he may try to change her wishes or worldviews.
He presents himself as needing to be understood so she’ll pity and help him. Remember that it is often hard for even savvy people to distinguish between an unethical person and a person with mental or other issues whose behavior may sometimes be undesirable. Sometimes even behaviors themselves are hard to determine as “undesirable” or not depending on the context they are in.
He tries to appear different than other abusers or authority figures his target dislikes (he may say, “I don’t yel like your father,” or, “It’s different when I do it. You’re just assuming something bad because guys you didn’t like did that to you.”) He invents life stories to excuse his behavior, after learning what justifications she is likely to believe; or, he’ll blame her. He fakes apologies to get off the hook, or is overly loving after being mean.
Third Step. He then sets up terms and conditions of being “his woman.” Sometimes the woman is already groomed by her family or society, as in misogynistic households, anti-female religions, or cult environments, and his work is done for him. This doesn’t make him any less guilty- he is merely a vulture rather than a lion. If her gut tells her something is wrong with this setup, especially if it is about him or his actions, he gets her to ignore it. He may call her “crazy,” tell her she “overanalyzes” him whenever she starts putting the pieces together, or tell her she “overreacts” if she’s angry, etc. He only lets up temporarily when she obeys, and he only gets worse in the long run. Even when he’s “nice”, she fears him, and the situation as a whole is abusive even if his behavior at the time is not.
Fourth Step. Sexual abuse is the batterer’s ace in the hole. The abuser carries out sexual and other abuse while pretending to be in love. The bed is his battleground. He must break down any resistance to his sexual authority, whether by intimidation, whining, guilt tripping, or claiming that “men have certain needs.” He experiences God-like power through sexual oppression of her. Porn may shape or reinforce his attitudes and sexual desires. Target women often resist by leaving the marriage bed, but this is sometimes dangerous as he may retaliate.
Oftentimes the target doesn’t even realize the issue is about sexual domination. For example, after an attack he launches on an unrelated issue to distract her, such as how dirty the kitchen is, the victim feels she must offer sex to pacify him. He gets his sex and also gets to keep her thinking she must mistrust her own abilities and thinking, which allows him to manipulate her even more. Victims hide, or sometimes don’t realize, the level of sexual selfishness and abuse. A few abusers withhold sex as punishment, or to confuse the target.
The fact that our society already blatantly promotes the idea of male sexual entitlement means that all women, from birth, are being groomed for this type of abuse, from all angles and at all depths. Coming out of this Matrix-like system is like climbing a mountain for some women. Those who do are often so shocked at how widespread, insidious, and just plain evil this societal setup is, and are heartbroken and confused to discover their beloved husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, nephews, uncles, cousins, public figures (including religious figures) and celebrities are culpable in both using it and helping structure it.
Fifth Step. The abuser also starts offending against whatever else makes her feel human. He doesn’t need his standards met because he’s insecure, had OCD, or really hates a messy kitchen, but so he can make her doubt and hate herself so he has more control. More complaints mean more pacifying him, more obedience, and more trying to jump through his hoops. She tries to explain why she hates what he does, but he stores her complaints in his head so he can use them against her, because he now knows how it is affecting her. No matter how gently she brings it up, he gets angry or changes the subject. When he acts “nice”, it’s to re-groom her so he can offend again. Her first step to freedom is learning not to feel guilty for his actions.
Sixth Step. He destroys her relationship with the outside world. This is purposely done to isolate her so she can’t expose him or get the strength to leave. He finds out who is closest to her and grooms them to support him or think she is crazy or lying. Abusers often use children to attack the victim, and fight for custody. They may accuse her of being “spiteful,” “vindictive,” a bad mother who tries to poison the kids against him. They may spoil the children when their visitation occurs so the children will gravitate towards them, or may abuse (or even kill) the children to punish their partner. Abusers are not insane and choose to do everything they do, especially this type of abuse.
Seventh Step. Abusers only change their behavior (and it’s nearly always a temporary change) when they want to escape a consequence. Many kill their wives if they try to leave, even if they had not displayed one symptom of violence before. They want their victims to come back not because of love but because they benefit from the relationship at the target’s expense, much like a slave owner wants his slaves back if they run away.
There is nothing wrong with a woman who was targeted by an abusive man.
Abusers target whoever they want. Abused women are not abused because they have borderline, bipolar, are “difficult,” depressed, or “strong willed.” Abused women are abused because an abuser chose to abuse them, just as shooting victims are shot because a shooter chose to shoot them. The only pattern that may be true of abuse is that these men choose women who are kind and who are unfamiliar with the tactics, motivations, and warning signs of abusers. Even then, abusers may still choose to target a more educated or sassy woman, for a challenge.
“If you’re being blamed for something that’s not your fault, run,” says Hennessy. Don’t analyze what you did wrong, because it’s most likely nothing.
And even if you have done something wrong, abuse is unacceptable no matter your behavior.
This article was written by one of our readers; many thanks to her for putting it together! We encourage you to print the PDF and give it out to other people, post it at bus stops, etc.
Don Hennessy Series – 13 posts which showcase the work of Don Hennessy