A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

How Miles Davis misrepresented his assault of his wife Frances: a case study in the language of abusers

Here is the account which jazz musician Miles Davis gives of the first time he assaulted his wife, Frances.

I loved Frances so much that for the first time in my life I found myself jealous. I remember I hit her once when she came home and told me some shit about Quincy Jones being handsome. Before I realized what had happened, I had knocked her down… I told her not to ever mention Quincy Jones’ name to me again, and she never did… Every time I hit her, I felt bad because a lot of it really wasn’t her fault but had to do with me being temperamental and jealous. I mean, I never thought I was jealous until I was with Frances. Before, I didn’t care what a woman did; it didn’t matter to me because I was so into my music. Now it did and it was something that was new for me, hard for me to understand.
Miles: The autobiography, by Miles Davis in collaboration with Quincy Troupe, 1990, p. 228)

Allan Wade and his colleague Linda Coates say there are four major ways in which language can be used to construct an account of violence which misrepresents the nature of the act, the actions of the perpetrator, the responsiblity of the perpetrator, and the actions of the victim. And the flip side — there are four major ways in which language can be used to construct an account of violence which accurately represents the nature of the act, the actions of perpetrator, the responsibility of the perpetrator, and the actions of the victim.

In the heading of the following table the word ‘discursive’ simply means ‘relating to discourse or modes of discourse.’ In other words, the ways people speak and write.

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 10.47.45 PM

Readers, let us analyse this account from Miles Davis. How does he construct his account to misrepresent the act, his actions, and the actions of Frances? Let us try to apply the idea of the four discursive operations of language to Miles Davis’s account.

  1. How does Davis conceal and misrepresent his violence against Frances?
  2. How does he mitigate and obfuscate his responsiblity?
  3. How does he conceal Frances’s resistance?
  4. How does he blame and implicity pathologize Frances?

* * * * *

With grateful acknowledgements to Allan Wade and Linda Coates, especially their article Language and Violence: Analysis of Four Discursive Operations. This link takes you to an online pdf of that article which was originally published in the Journal of Family Violence (2oo7) 22:511-522.

Readers: once you’ve had a go at analyzing Davis’s account, you might like to go to the article in that link and see how Coates and Wade analyzed it. Look for their analysis of Davis’s account on page four of the pdf.  

34 Comments

  1. Still Reforming

    Interesting assignment.

    In his opening Miles says, “I loved her so much that…” This sets a framework of his being a good guy. It was out of love he did everything that follows.

    Secondly, it was Frances who came home and said some “crap” – so …. She really was the cause of his anger. Not he.

    “Every time I hit her I felt bad.” This is supposed to make the reader feel sorry for him – poor guy. He didn’t WANT to hit Frances because every time he did he felt bad. Poor guy. Just couldn’t control himself. If only she hadn’t said those things.

    After all, he was “jealous” for her. All women want that, don’t they? And… for crying out loud, he’d never felt that before. It was “hard for him to understand,” so, who could blame him?

    No remorse. No repentance. No change.

    Except everyone can look at Frances and say, “Well, we’re sorry you were hit, but poor Miles. He couldn’t help himself; He just loved you so much. You shouldn’t have said what you did. Of course it doesn’t justify the hitting, but the poor guy. He really loves you. You should forgive him. He loves you so much.”

  2. Krikit

    He equates jelousy with love.
    His justifies his violence as a response to hearing something he didn”t like hearing.
    He claims lack of personal responsibility by saying he had no awareness of what he was doing.
    He feels entitled to make demands that he never again hear something he doesn’t like.
    He allows that some responsibility for his violence belongs to the target.
    He minimizes his violence by suggesting being tempermental and jealous is just part of his personality.
    He makes the target responsibile for his divided artistic focus.
    He abdicates responsibility for his own understanding.

  3. a prodigal daughter returns

    He blames his violence on loving the woman so much that it caused him to be jealous. Miles is relabelling his violence “love”. He states he found himself jealous as if he had no personal choice in it therefore minimizing his responsibility. He calls his domestic violence something other than what it is, in his definition its a personality quirk of being ” temperamental and jealous”. He felt “bad” but kept on doing it. In real repentance feeling bad is accompanied by changed behavior. Apparently hitting Frances gave him more rewards than feeling bad about it.
    An honest statement might read “I momentarily felt bad about it, but I like the power of terrorizing a woman more. Additionally, feeling bad was just a mask to cover my true depravity of getting power and pleasure out of hurting someone and controlling them. Feeling bad gave me plausible deniability that I wasn’t getting something out of beating on someone”

    Ultimately he blames Frances I was never a jealous person before so its her fault. The line I love you so much you make me hit you because I’m jealous comes out of the abusers handbook, rule 3. I swear there is a handbook out there and they are all reading it and memorizing the instructions.

    • Anonymous

      I would piggy-back on ALL the above comments and add this: Typical of all abusers, they put the spotlight on the victim. They act as if you see the victims’ “sins” (she made him do it, she knew he was jealous, etc.), the abuser’s sins will be overlooked. Jesus never did / does overlook sin. He calls evil by name, evil. In fact it’s so wicked and evil it took HIS blood to atone.

  4. Natalia

    That link doesn’t take me to the pdf although according to the .pdf at the end it should, and I’m not sure how to get to it. It just shows their home page with a large subscribe box at the bottom. Perhaps you have to subscribe to be able to see it?

    • Hi Natalia,

      I fixed the link in the post, so it should be good now. And here is the link for your convenience:

      Language and Violence: Analysis of Four Discursive Operations.

      Thanks for letting us know 🙂

      • Natalia

        Thank you so much. I got a lot out of that article, in particular the specific analyses of those passages. I need those because I find it hard to see “through” things people say when they are as subtle as those. I can feel them and know something isn’t right but can’t take them apart. This really helps. Thank you for posting.

  5. surviving freedom

    Wow, this sounds very similar to one of my husband’s “non-confessions,” so much minimizing, subtle (and not so subtle) blame. Even finding ways to evoke sympathy in others, along with the acting like he just can’t help it. Wow, I can almost envision him having a convincing humble look of great sorrow on his face along with a touch of bewilderment.
    It’s funny, people buy these types of confessions though, “poor guy, he really is so sorry, and confused … he just can’t help himself,” some may even go as far to jump to the conclusion “he must have suffered some trauma, abuse, or abandonment when he was young,” or “he’s just so insecure about himself, she just needs to reassure him more.” I know I’m making assumptions here concerning this, but these assumptions are based on the things I’ve heard from others. People buy it.

    A good sign it all being just another tactic of manipulation or false repentance … if you end up listening to an abuser “admit” to the abusive things he does and end up
    (1) feeling sorry for him,
    (2) thinking that the wife has any kind of responsibility for it,
    (3) consoling him, or
    (4) making excuses for his behavior
    … that’s a RED FLAG that this person is not sorry for what he’s done, taking responsibility for it, and most likely will repeat the same thing again.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, and often times these are the same men that end up murdering their wives and people scratch their heads and say, “But he was such a nice guy” / “he had such a rough childhood” / “he had a little bit of a temper but I would have never thought he could do this” / “he did so much for the community and for others” / “poor guy” / “he was such a good athlete, pastor, musician, (fill in the blank).” And he could have been all these things; but she is still dead.

      • Still Reforming

        Anonymous,
        Indeed. I think this is why we don’t see in God’s Word any emphasis on being “nice.”

  6. Sharon

    Thank you so very much for sharing this. I thought I was crazy and evil,while married to my former spouse…until he abandoned us. This is exactly the way he talked.

    • Hi Sharon,
      Welcome to the blog! Abusers like us to think that we are the ones who are crazy and evil, don’t they? When, in fact, we aren’t!

      We like to direct first-time commenters to our New Users Page. It gives tips for staying safe when commenting on the blog. I don’t know your situation and how safety plays into it for you, but after reading the tips you may want to consider changing your screen name. If so, feel free to contact me at twbtc.acfj@gmail.com. I can do that for you.

      Again, welcome!

  7. a prodigal daughter returns

    The article by Wade and Coates that you shared Barbara is an absolute gem and I hope every DV professional or supporter of survivors as, well as survivors, would read it! The authors do an uncanny job of exposing assumptions hidden in victim diminishing language that I hope and pray could start a revolution in professional understanding of DV It is in the language of academics, which takes some self-discipline to read, but, as I read it I understood so much of my discomfort with the way survivors are approached and treated by professionals.

    Deconstructing the language of academics and those with power over policy in all its pathologizing and victim blaming hidden meanings should be required of social work 101. Wade and Coates do this brilliantly. I recognize that a former favorite author of mine Judith Hermann of Trauma and Recovery, was also guilty of that language which pathologizes a victim. In plain terms “what about you invites abuse and keeps you there” as if the victim were a specimen or insect to be dissected to find their genetic flaws or how they “asked for it”. Believe me that unspoken attitude colors most of the assumptions of “dv professionals”

    That lens can be covered well in all sorts of high and mighty language sounding reasonable until code breakers like Wade and Coates show up. The lens is one of privilege something that its wearers rarely recognize they wear. They have not been a victim themselves, assume somewhere in the recesses of themselves that they are superior to victims because their privilege entitles them to a life of the power they have via access to education and wealth.

    Victims assuming benevolence (and not an inherent attitude of superiority in the “professional”) will buy the assessment of their lives the person in authority gives them while feeling strangely diminished by it nonetheless. Even those professionals that think they are aware of their lens of privilege cannot consistently recognize it any more than they could take their eyes out of their head.

    I love their take on resistance as well and how it manifests itself. I finally understand that I didn’t learn helplessness as I’ve been brainwashed to believe, in fact, I resisted in all sorts of soul-affirming ways. Perhaps having a “nervous breakdown” in the face of prolonged mental torture was my own way of resisting too. I resisted with a source of joy outside of the “non-husband” non-relationship. I resisted by loving beauty, I resisted when I sang and worshiped my Creator. My “helpers” called my bend toward God “religious delusions” something I resisted by thinking about them “you have not suffered enough to understand”

    • I love their take on resistance as well and how it manifests itself. I finally understand that I didn’t learn helplessness as I’ve been brainwashed to believe, in fact, I resisted in all sorts of soul-affirming ways. Perhaps having a “nervous breakdown” in the face of prolonged mental torture was my own way of resisting too. I resisted with a source of joy outside of the “non-husband” non-relationship. I resisted by loving beauty, I resisted when I sang and worshiped my Creator. My “helpers” called my bend toward God “religious delusions” something I resisted by thinking about them “you have not suffered enough to understand”

      AMEN! I love to hear our readers recognising how they resisted the abuse! It is so empowering to see all the ways we resisted.

      Allan Wade and Linda Coates say that when a person is abused or oppressed or a victim of violence, they always resist. Resistance is ubiquitious.

    • My “helpers” called my bend toward God “religious delusions” something I resisted by thinking about them “you have not suffered enough to understand”

      This illustrates how as victims we are abused and mislabelled and oppressed not only by our primary abuser, but by many other people — so called helpers — they may be professionals or family or friends or journalists or commmenters on social media who try to needle us and who keep spreading the myths which stigmatize victims by seeing them as defective in some way. And. . . we resist those negative professional and social responses, just like we resist the abuse from the primary abuser.

      And we resist judiciously, creatively, and strategically. Our resistance may be in the privacy of our own minds, but it is very powerful none the less. By resisting the negative labels and responses of others, we are always seeking to maintain safety zones for ourselves: safety zones of personal dignity. 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • KayE

      “Victims assuming benevolence (and not an inherent attitude of superiority in the “professional”) will buy the assessment of their lives the person in authority gives them while feeling strangely diminished by it nonetheless.”
      This has happened to me countless times over the years. It’s very hard to resist the devaluation and invalidation that comes from “helpers” who sit in a position of enormous power and mislabel what’s really happening.
      Nowadays I simply stop talking to those who do this, no matter who they are.
      I have complete confidence that I see things clearly and that my perspective is based on truth.

    • Valerie

      In light of what I’ve learned about myself and abuse in the last few years I can’t help but wonder how much of what has been labeled “co-dependency” would dissipate through awareness of abuse. How many “co-dependent” behaviors would victims find victory over through the sheer knowledge of what abuse is and how an abuser operates? I know in my case that when I had a framework for abuse this alone catapulted an extensive cleaning house project in my thought processes now that I had a new filing drawer for behavior and motivation. It is easier to reject abusive behavior at the onset when you are able to categorize it as abuse and not some other manifestation. This is a rudimentary example but before cigarettes were known to be as harmful, people could view smoking as a lifestyle choice, a benign decision. But once we became aware of the dangers and what was really involved this sparked a mind-shift. In light of the awareness of the consequence I would assume that more people are choosing not to smoke for the first time- purely motivated by their awareness. Not to imply whatsoever that becoming a victim of abuse is a conscious choice like smoking but that when we understand abuse we can call it abuse and that in itself can help people flee from it. Hope that makes sense.

      • Valerie,

        I can’t help but wonder how much of what has been labeled “co-dependency” would dissipate through awareness of abuse.


        You may find this post of interest: Are Abuse Victims Codependent?

      • we also have a tag for codependency. https://cryingoutforjustice.com/tag/codependency/

      • Yes it makes sense! And you may be interested to hear, Valerie, that Ken Lay, the (now retired) former Chief Inspector of Victoria Police, spoke a few days ago in Melbourne, on International Women’s Day. He has been a champion for change in how both the police and the community at large deal with domestic abuse and family violence. We victim-advocates all love him!

        In his speech, which I’ll be sharing on this blog as soon as it gets onto YouTube, he talked about how we CAN change community attitudes about domestic abuse and family violence, just like we have changed attitudes about cigarette smoking. And another example he gave is the change we have wrought in Australia on the road toll, by mandating the wearing of seat belts. Social change in community attitudes CAN be achieved. It takes time and hard work. The key is to bring the general community on board. Domestic Violence is EVERYONE’S business!

        We have been so blessed in Australia to have Rosie Batty as Australian of the Year.

  8. surviving freedom

    I agree that this should be a required learning for all DV professionals, but it also needs to be a part of all people who enter into the counseling field, as well as pastors.
    When I had been seeing a counselor who works specifically counseling abuse victims (I was still living with the abuser at the time), she kept wanting to focus on “my co-dependency,” “my emotional dependency issues,” “my feelings of worthlessness and victim mentality,” why I “allowed” the abuse go on for so long. After a year of that, I finally quit going to see her as, I spent that year carrying even more guilt and self-blame for the abuse I had experienced.
    I think that a lot of people buy into the labels given to targets of abuse, as well as the excuses made for reasons that abusers abuse. It helps them attempt to tie it up in a neat little package of “understanding.” As a client, if you attempt to voice something other than their neat little package, then they further label you.

    • As a client, if you attempt to voice something other than their neat little package, then they further label you.

      Yup. I’ve experienced that many times. 😦

    • a prodigal daughter returns

      Exactly SF and it is wonderful that you resisted the message of pathology and victim blaming by quitting this “non-counselor”. Shame mongering by reinforcing with labels and assumptions of pathology that “there is something wrong with you” on the head of someone that an abuser tried to destroy with that same message isn’t counseling. It isn’t help, it isn’t therapy, it is its own form of abuse. And it is far, far too often what people in distress and pain encounter from the counseling profession rather than the hope, love and faith that would lift their hearts.

      We need survivors as counselors, not those whose access to privilege let them get educations and left them blindly unquestioning of systems of power that reinforce the status quo that they deserve their privilege and abused people somehow ask for their abuse because they are “co-dependent “.

  9. Layla1111

    I remember I hit her once when she came home and told me some shit about Quincy Jones being handsome.

    He tries to minimize by saying “I remember I hit her once” and then goes on to say he hit her multiple times when he sneaks in the phrase “every time I hit her” — but he tries to get the reader off balance and focused on him “hit(ting) her once”.

    told me some shit about Quincy Jones being handsome

    He fabricates what the woman said by not accurately recounting it. If she had actually said Quincy Jones was “handsome” he would just say that, rather he says “she told me some shit” which is used to conceal what she actually told him. She probably did not in fact say how handsome he was, rather she probably just said she saw him or talked to him or ran into him. Not that if she had said that he was handsome that would be in any way wrong, but his lie just shows that she probably did not even say that. These guys I feel use women as punching bags and will distort anything to excuse it to themselves.

    Before I realized what had happened, I had knocked her down

    “Before I realized what had happened” is storytelling. He is leaving a lot out of what he actually did to her while removing any responsibility for what he actually did even though he is not telling us what exactly he did. It was probably a more involved assault than pushing her down. It shows a big need to conceal which means his violence was probably quite brutal.

    Now it did and it was something that was new for me, hard for me to understand.

    Self-centeredness: he does not focus on the effects [harms, damage, injuries, trauma] of his multiple assaults upon Frances, rather he returns the center of focus directly onto himself and his emotions and how hard his jealousy was for him and even invites the reader to sympathize with how hard it was for his intellect to understand his feelings of jealousy.

  10. Valerie

    Thank you for this exercise. I think it is so beneficial for healing and discernment to learn how to process interactions. I didn’t want to “cheat” and read others comments yet in order to have unbiased observations and see what I missed.

    1 He says he loved F so much…in light of his actions I see this as the Magician’s Trick of abusers (which is a category I don’t see listed?). It is a way of concealing motivations by beginning an account with what he wants the listener to focus on.

    2 He “found himself” jealous? Like Aaron said they gave him the gold and out came this calf?? (obfuscate responsibility). [Exodus 32:24]

    3 His profane description of events obfuscates responsibility and victim blaming.

    4 “Before he realized what happened he knocked her down…” obfuscates responsibility.

    5 Told her to never mention his name again- victim blaming (if she will do X she won’t be abused but if she does do X then she has it coming).

    6 Says wife never mentioned him again yet he says “every time he hit her” which seems to me he continued the abuse for reasons he couldn’t even justify in his convoluted mind.

    7 Says he felt bad (every time) when he hit her. I see that as the Magician’s trick again.

    8 A lot of it wasn’t her fault?! Victim blaming, Magician’s trick (partial confession to appear genuine and sincere), obfuscate responsibility (some was her fault)

    9 Had to do with him being temperamental and jealous- conceal abuse through minimization.

    10 Never thought he was jealous until F- victim blaming (he wasn’t this way before so she must have brought it out of him by what she was doing). Also Magician’s trick (what happened was isolated incident and not really “him”).

    The last few sentences gave me chills because it reminds me of how my ex talked…talking about abusive or hurtful behavior in such a detached way as well as being so self-focused. The goal in life is to figure out how life is all about him. I just find it really creepy…the way he describes it all sounds like the kind of bizarre, detached position similar to how serial killers have described their crime.

    • THANK YOU Valerie — excellent analysis. And I really like this:

      Magician’s Trick — a way of concealing motivations by beginning an account with what he wants the listener to focus on.

      • Valerie

        I began to see what I came to call a “Magician’s Trick” with my ex. I started to see a pattern whereby he would effectively divert my attention (or others attention if setting the stage) away from the topic at hand or the abuse itself by his strategic framing.

        I often saw this played out through the use of truisms:

        “I think its important for us to be honest with each other.” (followed by a hurtful statement)

        “People should look to scripture for how to run their life.” (Statement made out of nowhere followed by a hurtful or ridiculous assertion.

        He wanted me to focus on what he purported as his goal – following scripture- so that whatever followed would be filtered through that lens) “I think that you are seeing me as you saw ____.” (name of former abuser; it might be true so I wrestled with that validity rather than his abusive behavior)

    • Valerie, I’m curious to know — if you now go and read the article by Wade and Coates, after having done your own analysis, does it shine light on things you hadn’t yet seen?

      • Valerie

        Thanks Barb for those great links- very insightful, useful information. I read the Wade article. I noticed the statements Miles made about not understanding out of my peripheral vision but didn’t articulate or focus on them. That they entered my peripheries but I didn’t address them was a valuable lesson.

        I missed the importance of Miles denying the extent of the abuse through his word choice (knocked her down, hit her). I disagree with their assessment that Miles’ showed a degree of remorse in saying that he felt bad…we know all too well that a perp/predator/manipulator will use reflective words in describing events as part of the Magician’s trick. I find it a hasty conclusion founded on a baseless claim to say that he felt remorse by using the words “he felt bad”.

        I didn’t consider how Frances not mentioning Q again was a form of resistance in the sense that it could be seen as evidentiary. When I first read the account it seemed blatantly obvious (as an abuse survivor) that she would not bring up Q again after Miles’ response but I now consider that fact as evidence of the abuse. She knew enough to not mention him, which indicated her prediction of future violence and the fact that Miles notes her obedience seems to indicate that he also viewed this as an act of obedience (which he deemed logical and necessary).

        The article’s assessment of Miles’ love being somehow conflated with jealousy I found to be somewhat speculative. Maybe I am jaded but while Miles’ actions may have indeed been fueled by a convoluted sense of love, they also may have had no deeper reasoning than he simply desired control and found satisfaction in his abuse. What I mean is that Miles’ use of words such as “jealous” and “love” may have been used strategically rather than reflectively. I also just noticed that he used the word “jealous” three times in that short paragraph. If used reflectively and not strategically this would also seem to indicate his competitive nature, which is often characteristic of abusers. Jealousy at its core is selfish and reminiscent of a sense of ownership.

    • Speaking of magic — read this! I just found it today, via The Aquila Report.

      I’m learning that gaining access to children and fooling adults is more about technique than it is about addictive behaviors. Neurobiologists Stephen Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde in their book, Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals About Our Everyday Deceptions, say, “We’ve given some answers as to why you (and we) are so gullible: our brains create sensory afterimages, our memories are fallible, we make predictions that can be violated, and so on. But as we reflect on the reasons, we are drawn to one that stands above all others in explaining the neurobiology of magic—the spotlight of attention.” World renowned pickpocket Apollo Robbins agrees. “In three minutes I’m going to be wearing your watch. Try to keep up,” he tells people. Within three minutes, not only is he wearing their watch, but he has successfully cleaned out every pocket without their knowing it. Robbins says that the spotlight of attention is about the size of a thumb nail. If he can steal that spotlight through many friendly techniques, he can “dance in the shadows” and get whatever he wants.
      from the article Sex offenders in the pews: Let’s not be deceived written by Ps Jimmy Hinton as a guest post on Boz Tjividjian’s blog

      • And here is a post from Jimmy Hinton’s own blog on the Child Protect website.
        How Abusers Go Undetected

        It contains a TED talk video of Apollo Robins doing his slight of hand. amazing.

        Jimmy Hinton’s blog is going to be worth paying attention to, I think!

  11. Stillblessed

    Jimmy HInton’s mother also has a blog, “Finding a Healing Place”, where she writes of her life married to a pedophile, and she also details how abusive he was to her, although she didn’t recognize it as abuse at the time. Very interesting detailed accounts of his actions towards her, and of how she didn’t see it for what it was. Even though she’s writing to expose pedophiles, her accounts show the mode of operation of many abusers.

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