Manipulation, beliefs and media images: the petrie dish in which domestic abuse grows
Lundy Bancroft talks about the abuser’s manipulative skills:
The abuser tends to be a highly manipulative individual and some of them are better at it than others. I’m dealing with a guy right now, whose case I’m trying to advocate for a couple of women, whose marriages only seem to last four to six months so he’s probably not one of the really good manipulators. The bad abuser is a blessing, but unfortunately most abusers are really good at what they’re doing.
Abusers know how to make things appear the opposite of what they really are, and they’re almost never out of control. Unless they’ve got really, really serious — really serious — mental health problems, they’re not out of control. They make remarkably calculated decisions and you’ll see some examples of that as we look at some of these different pieces [in the video clips] about how they are manipulative and calculated. Again, that’s the opposite of the image we tend to have of these abusers — a tormented, out of control individual. The reality is he’s someone who has to have a lot of method to the madness, tends to know a lot about what he’s all about, and he’s got plans. He’s doing some thinking about how to make this all work.
The abuser’s beliefs about domestic abuse, and how they are shaped by the media & culture.
There was a study done about 15 years ago that looked at men’s beliefs about rape and then looked at what their own histories were based on their own self report of having committed rape and it found that men who accepted the key myths about rape were much more likely to have had histories of actually perpetuating rape. What people believe matters.
In all my years of work with abusers, who come in with their excuses and their justifications, we saw the reasons that they are giving and those reasons pointed to specific things.
- Well, that’s what my father did.
- That’s what it says in (whatever my religion’s key texts/religious scriptures are).
- This is the way it’s always been.
- That’s just the way it’s done.
At Emerge where I was a counsellor for years, we would notice specific acts of violence that would come through in waves. I can still remember the year when all our clients seemed to be throwing the toasters at the woman. Why did we keep getting these stories over and over? We started feeling like these batterers were like graduates of some “batterer academy” because of the way these behaviors would come in waves. And then eventually, and I remember this specifically, we tracked it down to the movie it came from, and we started to realize this was the media. When we got a specific behavior in waves it was from the media.
So abusers get energy from what other abusers do.
I read a diary of an abuser who did kill his wife and the victim’s relatives got their hands on his diary. And you could watch him teeter on his decision whether to kill or not. It was horrible. You don’t know what the next thing is that might put him over the edge.
Abusers get inspired by what other abusers do and they get inspired by media images — and more and more the behaviors come to be considered ‘not that bad.’ It’s another effect the media images have particularly when you see them over and over again — when you just get tons of them.
There are a lot of situations when co-workers and fellow students at school can tell that a woman is being abused: it becomes quite clear to them. They often don’t know what to say or do. But that’s when it’s going to be very important whether they believe in these kinds of myths — because it’s going to affect what they’re going to say.
There’s also times when co-workers and fellow students of the victim are completely missing it, and that’s often because the abuser is so charming.
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These above material has been transcribed with Lundy’s permission from his YouTube Domestic Violence in Popular Culture (Part 3). Lundy is the author of our most recommended secular book on domestic abuse Why Does He Do That?
***IMPORTANT NOTE: While we endorse Lundy’s writings about the dynamics of domestic abuse, we do not recommend anyone attend the ‘healing retreats’ Lundy Bancroft offers or become involved in his ‘Peak Living Network.’ See our post, ACFJ Does Not Recommend Lundy Bancroft’s Retreats or His New Peak Living Network for more about our concerns.