Discerning the difference between a victim and a liar: lessons from “Pride and Prejudice”

Most abusers claim to be victims. This is one of the reasons why genuine victims are often disbelieved when they disclose the abuse.

When both spouses are claiming to be victims, church leaders often find it hard to tell who is lying. It’s a dilemma for the church leaders, and it’s devastating for the genuine victim.

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, has a wonderful example of an abuser claiming to be a victim. In the story, Mr Wickham cunningly deceives the main character Lizzy (Miss Elizabeth Bennett) by telling her a distorted account of his dealings with Mr Darcy. Wickham employs many of the tactics that intimate partner abusers use to target, groom and brainwash their victims.

I have long wanted to write a post analysing Mr Wickham’s tactics, but I have not found the time. So I was thrilled recently to find that someone had already done it!

The lying abusers who pose as victims: lessons from Mr Wickham by Christine Woolgar. Her blog is Light in grey places.

Here is the introduction to motivate you to read Christine’s whole post:

Having recently grown in admiration for Jane Austen as an author, my husband and I are rewatching the BBC’s 1995 six-hour adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. That’s the one where Colin Firth plays Mr Darcy. *swoon*

Anyway, we watched the scene where Mr Wickham (who later turns out to be the villain of the piece) introduces himself to Lizzy (the heroine).

… We’re in a world where abuse victims are routinely disbelieved and it’s far too easy to say, ‘What about false accusations?’ What we have with Wickham though is an illustration of how an abuser can lie and claim to be a victim.

Christine Woolgar analyses Mr Wickham’s first conversation with Lizzy. She then uses it to help us answer these questions:

  • How can we discern the difference between a victim and a liar?
  • What can we do to spot the lie?

I encourage you to read The lying abusers who pose as victims: lessons from Mr Wickham.


Note: I have not looked at all the material on Christine Woolgar’s blog, so I cannot say whether I endorse all her theology and beliefs.

Further reading

When we want to see good in everyone — a lesson from Pride and Prejudice

Lizzy blindly walked right into an evil intrigue without having a clue — a comment at ACFJ  by Under The Waterfall

How to spot an abuser who claims to be a victim

How the male intimate abuser selects, sets-up & grooms a target woman (Don Hennessy series part 3)

2 thoughts on “Discerning the difference between a victim and a liar: lessons from “Pride and Prejudice””

  1. Dear Barbara,

    What a fine analysis.

    It has been awhile that I read “Pride and Prejudice” which is why I do not remember too many details.

    However I do remember being triggered (then) by recognizing some of the confusing behaviour of the character.

    So you confirm my impression, and thus, you confirm my discernment.

    Thank you for your post on this classic piece of literature – or the movie.

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