A Cry For Justice

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

Offending and re-grooming: the skills men use to abuse their female partners (Don Hennessy series part 5)

The man who abuses his female partner is a skilled and very devious sexual offender who uses his psychephile skills to select a target woman, set her up, befriend her mind, and groom her.

As his grooming tactics are progressing successfully he starts to offend on her sexually. After offending, he re-grooms her…in order to offend against her again. This post is about the offending and re-grooming. The next post in this series will talk about the re-offending.

For it is not an enemy who taunts me – then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me – then I could hide from him.
But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend. (Ps 55: 12-13)

The skilled offender’s behavior is always intentional

It is vital to remember that abusers are intentional in what they do to gain and maintain power over their targets. Lundy Bancroft and Don Hennessy both concur on this. Lundy Bancroft gives this anecdotal example of how abusive men behaved in a perpetrator program — an anecdote which reveals how consciously intentional these skilled offenders are:

When two DV intervention workers, a male and a female, trial-workshopped a skit of a man abusing his wife to an audience of batterers in their Batterers Behavior Change Group, the men in the group got very excited and started telling the male worker what he should be doing to more effectively take control of the woman!

In their excitement to give feedback on the skit, the men were forgetting to portray themselves as not responsible for their actions.

In their enthusiasm to help the skit be more effective, the men dropped their masks and revealed how much they intentionally and consciously chose their tactics of abuse.
Lundy Bancroft Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men=55m4s on YouTube *

Don Henessy

Don Hennessy describes how the male intimate abuser achieves his goal of getting his sexual needs met without negotiation, and without having to shoulder any of the responsibilities that are entailed in having a respectful, righteous, ethical, committed intimate relationship.

Offending

Woe to those who scheme iniquity,
Who work out evil on their beds!
When morning comes, they do it,
For it is in the power of their hands. (Michah 2:1)

The skilled offender creates tension for the target woman in the relationship. He uses that tension to obtain his goal.

In his book How He Gets Into Her Head, Don Hennessy gives an example of how a certain offender did this – how he contrived to get his sexual needs met and at the same time misdirected everyone’s attention so they didn’t see what he was doing. 

The case Hennessy relates is of a skilled offender who convinced the local judge that his wife wasn’t meeting his standards because she wasn’t giving him his dinner on time.

In actuality, this man had no real interest in having his dinner on time; he frequently stayed late at work or went golfing before he came home. The wife was constantly trying to anticipate what time her husband would come home. She regularly had to cook two dinners to facilitate her family. (How He Gets Into Her Head, p 97)

In the example Hennessy relates, the offender had deliberately created tension over the timing of his evening meal. But it need not be the timing of the evening meal.

The skilled offender can use anything to create tension.

Evan Stark has pointed out that the abusive man often directs his attacks on the woman for failing to adhere to the expectations society has for her as a woman – her housekeeping, her cooking, her parenting abilities, her body shape and appearance, her nurturing qualities:

Coercive control shares general elements with other capture crimes or course-of-conduct crimes like kidnapping, stalking and harassment, including the fact that it is ongoing and its perpetrators use various means to hurt, humiliate, intimidate, exploit, isolate and dominate their victims. Like hostages, victims of coercive control are frequently deprived of money, food, access to communication or transportation, or other survival resources even as they are cut off from family, friends and other supports. But unlike other capture crimes, coercive control is personalized, extends through social space as well as over time, and is gendered in that it relies on its impact on women’s vulnerability as women due to sexual inequality.

Another difference is its aim. Men deploy coercive control to secure privileges that involve the use of time, control over material resources, access to sex, and personal service. Like assaults, coercive control undermines a victim’s physical and psychological integrity.

But the main means used to establish control is the microregulation of everyday behaviors associated with stereotypic female roles, such as how women dress, cook, clean, socialize, care for their children, or perform sexually.
(Coercive Control  [affiliate link*] p 5; italics in original, boldface added)

Journalist Tanya Sweeney interviewed Don Hennessy about his new book Steps to Freedom. Here is a a bit from her article:

Emotionally abusive men will often check on their partner’s whereabouts, and will slowly erode her confidence by making remarks about her appearance, her financial situation or her housework skills. “It’s all designed to demean her so she doesn’t feel like a woman, and therefore when she goes into the bedroom, she has no ground to stand on,” observes Hennessy. Red Flags of Coercive Control

In the example Don Hennessy gives in How He Gets Into Her Head, the skilled offender knew he had succeeded in getting his wife to constantly try to anticipate what time he would come home. He knew she regularly cooked two dinners to try to keep peace in the family. He knew he had got her to the point of blaming herself for “not getting it right”.

Her abuser knows all this and uses this information to make her feel as though she is the cause of the tension between them. This tension is then developed and intensified. When the mood changes, which can be on the same day or days later, my client [the target woman] feels responsible for making amends. This making amends will always end with having sex with her abuser. Her abuser knows the outcome before he begins the process.
(
How He Gets Into Her Head, p 97) 

Many of the abusers we work with tell us that they like to be left alone and they would like affection when they ask for it. For these men, affection means sex. (97)

For these target women, the inevitable outcome of the abuse is that they engage sexually with their partner not because they want to but because they feel obliged to. These women are not afraid to resist but rather they do not feel justified in resisting. (97-98) 

The imbalance at the heart of our thinking on conjugal rights makes it inevitable that most women suffer in silence. (98) 

While this sexual pressure is the lived experience of the target woman, we in the community end up discussing her ability to feed her abuser.  … We need to acknowledge that our clients, ourselves and the wider community have been hoodwinked into the wrong discussion. (98)

Hennessy advises victims to not take the blame any more:

The main pillar is not to take the blame any more.  If you can decide this is his agenda, this is what he is doing, it’s not my fault that he is upset, frustrated or giving out to the children. To begin to turn that around and understand that this is his agenda, he is orchestrating all of these tensions. It’s a purely thinking process. A woman can begin to do that without anybody really being aware of it. That’s the first step in beginning to change her position. Men who abuse women ‘use the same tactics as pedophiles and I’ve never met one who wanted to change’, says author of How He Gets in her Head

Re-Grooming

The purpose of the deliberate tactic of re-grooming is to return the relationship to the status quo. …to have the target woman ignore the abuse and to continue to live as if nothing had happened. This skill allows the offender to grow in confidence that he will suffer little or no consequences for his bad behaviour. (107)

This is vital point for church leaders to absorb. If Christians urge the woman to continue in the marriage as if nothing had happened, they are effectively colluding with the skilled offender. They are bolstering the offender’s confidence that he will suffer no consequences for his evil behavior.

As for a rogue, his weapons are evil;
He devises wicked schemes
To destroy the afflicted with slander,
Even though the needy one speaks what is right. (Isaiah 32:7)

He [the skilled offender] also learns the identity of the other people that he needs to groom. His target will inform him of who might support her because she will threaten to talk to them. … This information is useful to the offender as it allows him to get to these people before the target. He can then groom these people in such a way that the victim is compromised before she meets these supports. (111) 

Sadly everyone blames the victim and says if she only did this or didn’t do that her life would be better… Men who abuse women ‘use the same tactics as pedophiles and I’ve never met one who wanted to change’

This re-grooming is the primary reason why women stay or return to their abuser. (107)

Probably the most misunderstood phase of the whole process of establishing and maintaining control in and adult intimate relationship is the process of re-grooming. This process has often been referred to as the honeymoon phase. It has the appearance of sorrow and the veneer of making amends. It can be witnessed by the remorse, the promises, the expressions of love and affection, and the public displays of gifts. It is also the time when psychological fear of abandonment emerges as in the phrase ‘I cannot live without you’. (103) 

None of these tactics are designed to soothe the target woman. In most cases they are probably the very opposite of what she needs. They have the effect of further abusing her because she finds them challenging and difficult to accept. They are driven by an intention to make her feel ungrateful and the threat of exposing her ungratefulness. (103)

The skilled offender may also develop his ability to make her feel stupid for being to blame for the pain she suffered. He can go on and on about how she should know…that her behaviour dictates his reaction. Many women whose hearts are bleeding are challenged by remarks like ‘Look what you made me do’. (103)

Many of our readers will recall this kind of thing. My first husband would often tell me I was too sensitive so my hurt feelings were my own fault. Or he would simply tell me I was crazy… deranged… stupid.

Another long-term grooming tactic which is developed and refined as the control intensifies is the ability of the skilled offender to switch the reaction of the target woman from one of anger to one of pity. He will have learned from her whether to intimidate when she is angry or to seduce her. He will know from her how she explains to herself the effects of her childhood. He will know if she is challenged by the responsibilities of parenthood. He will have learned early on if she will accept drugs or alcohol as an excuse. He may use current stresses such as finance or his poor social skills. If job stress will work he will exaggerate it to whatever extent is effective. (103-4) 

We might legitimately call these tactics the honeymoon phase if the attempt to soothe and repair was genuine, but it never is. One of the really amazing findings of working with target women is that they are never consulted after an attack. The skilled offender will know from observation what he needs to do so that he will return the relationship to a place where his authority remains unchallenged. He will measure his next step not by whether it makes the abused woman feel better but by the possibility of enhancing his position. He has no interest in making amends. (104)

He is far more interested in improving his image or undermining her good nature. He gets further satisfaction if he can get her to feel ungrateful or spiteful because he knows that these feelings are anathema to her. (104)

The skilled offender is able to design the follow-up to his bad behaviour. He has learned through the initial grooming phase what will be most effective in the current circumstance. He will frequently have prepared for this re-grooming even before he commences the abuse. (104-5)

The idea that her intimate partner could be so selfish is impossible to believe. (89)

It is difficult to believe that the skilled offender could be so calculating and so cunning. But the target woman knows he is, even though she is unable to describe it. When we work with clients who have been repeatedly re-groomed we hear extraordinary stories of the deviousness of these men. (105)

The re-grooming tactic of using the children as tools or pawns

One element of the re-grooming process that is not usually part of the initial grooming is the use of children. Even when one or both partners may have children from a previous relationship, there is reluctance to use them as ammunition in the drive to establish control. But when the couple have their own children, these young people can be used as further ammunition in the control and abuse of one of their parents. (106)

Abusive men tell the kids that their mother is crazy and bad. They convey this message to the kids with body language as well as with words:–

A worthless person, a wicked man,
Is the one who walks with a perverse mouth,
Who winks with his eyes, who signals with his feet,
Who points with his fingers;
Who with perversity in his heart continually devises evil,
Who spreads strife. (Proverbs 6:12-14)

*

*While I have quoted Lundy Bancroft in this post, I want to remind our readers that we do not recommend Lundy Bancroft’s healing retreats or his Peak Living Network.

Our Don Hennessy Digest lists all the posts in this series and gives biographical details of Don Hennessy.

Unless otherwise stated, all the 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.]  Emphasis in quotes has been added by me. We have added this book to our Gift Books Offer in which we offer to give certain books to cash-strapped victims.

Don Hennessy’s next book, Steps to Freedom, will be coming out in March 2018. It will be 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.

26 Comments

  1. freeing hope

    Another accurate post! Don Hennessey really gets it! The quotes in bold are especially eye-opening and true. This is exactly what I experienced.

    And your words here:

    This is vital point for church leaders to absorb. If Christians urge the woman to continue in the marriage as if nothing had happened, they are effectively colluding with the skilled offender. They are bolstering the offender’s confidence that he will suffer no consequences for his evil behavior.

    This is exactly why abusers have so much “success” with Christians. We want to please God. We have been fed lies about what pleases God. So then we end up caving in to the expectations of our abusers and those “in authority” in the church. It’s also a likely reason that abusers go shopping at church for their victims, playing the “man of God” just long enough to trap her.

  2. Un-Tangled

    These tactics work, and they are destructive.

    I haven’t suffered spousal or sexual abuse, but I have encountered emotional abuse from so many people, from family and friends, from abusers and their enablers, the majority of whom claim they are christians. Now I second-guess every decision and every emotion I have. I am not really sure who or what I am. I don’t think I am evil, controlling, bitter, and all the other accusations. But what if I am wrong? What if I just cannot smell my own stench? Am I being unloving etc when I don’t want to be yelled, at or cursed or when I want to protect my family from toxic relatives, or want to have my own opinions or make my own choices? Or am I just being selfish, overly dramatic, too sensitive, or unloving? I don’t know who or what I am.

    And because I don’t know, I struggle with God. In some ways, I know Him more. I know evil people exist, I know what evil looks like, and I know God opposes the wicked and loves and helps the needy. I know I love God, but because I don’t know what I’m, I’m not sure He loves or will help me.

    I wish I could recover from the damage of abuse.

    Sorry, I’m having a very low day today. I’m feeling very discouraged.

    • Momof3blessings

      Un-Tangled, you are recovering. Just by reading these blog posts, by posting here yourself, and by questioning the abusive scripts you’ve been handed and told you must follow. The fog is lifting and the truth of what’s being done to you is becoming more and more clear.

      This is all incredibly painful, but in my experience it’s also the only way to figure out who you really are, how you deserve to be treated, and how to react to those whose agenda is to control and hurt you. Then you really can start to get free!

  3. Seedwords

    Oh my gosh, Untangled. I am so there with you, questioning all my thoughts and motives. Wondering am I this or am I that. Wondering is it really me? Is it wrong to walk away from hate speech, physical threats, intimidation, angry outbursts? Is it selfish of me to remove myself and my children from that kind of atmosphere to protect us? Is that unkind and unloving? Am I to be blamed and called a family destroyer because I walked away from that sort of life? Is that evil and wicked? Am I hard hearted, bitter, and unforgiving? Or is this what any sane, reasonable, protective mother would do for her kids and for herself?

  4. Charis

    I received notification that the book has shipped and I am looking forward to reading it.

    Her abuser knows all this and uses this information to make her feel as though she is the cause of the tension between them. This tension is then developed and intensified. When the mood changes, which can be on the same day or days later, my client [the target woman] feels responsible for making amends. This making amends will always end with having sex with her abuser.

    It was always my fault. I remember saying that to the Elder and thinking…he’s not going to believe me because in Scripture it’s never just one person’s fault “It takes two….” And that is precisely how the conversation unfolded. I beat myself up for years trying to untangle situations, errors, miscommunication – always willing to take the blame just to make peace. This is the “walking on eggshells” portion. How long do I have to keep this up? This guessing? This peace-making attempt to figure out “what’s wrong?” What did I do? What’s the matter and how to set it right? And yes…sex was usually the winner.

    For these target women, the inevitable outcome of the abuse is that they engage sexually with their partner not because they want to but because they feel obliged to. These women are not afraid to resist but rather they do not feel justified in resisting.

    Yes. A thousand times yes. The obligation. The lack of feeling justified in saying No. His ability to remove my objections and feel entitled. And the Christian culture embraces it all in their smug self-righteous ways. Books are written, chapter and verse. All of this and more. Just…Yes.

    It is also the time when psychological fear of abandonment emerges as in the phrase ‘I cannot live without you’.

    This phrase is all the more powerful when presented to you by a therapist. As in, “It wouldn’t be wise for you to separate right now, his fear of abandonment might cause him to commit suicide.” Thank you for that heaping scoop of guilt and self-loathing that wasn’t mine to own. And for entrapping me in an environment I knew I should have fled, at a time when I should have listened to my instinct, my gut, the Spirit. So wrong.

    Another long-term grooming tactic which is developed and refined as the control intensifies is the ability of the skilled offender to switch the reaction of the target woman from one of anger to one of pity.

    Pity is his wheelhouse. And from Martha Stout’s book it is the calling card of the sociopath. My exh certainly exercised this skill with expertise…with me and everyone he knew. It was pathetic, but then, that is what he was going for wasn’t it? Yep.

    He is far more interested in improving his image or undermining her good nature. He gets further satisfaction if he can get her to feel ungrateful or spiteful because he knows that these feelings are anathema to her.

    He was master of polishing his shiny exterior. That was ALL that mattered. As far as undermining my good nature…I helped. He knew how to dig at it just enough to get me started: the blame, the guilt, the eggshells–>I did the rest for him. It was a lose-lose situation (for me) and he knew it. It was win-win for him.

  5. M&M

    I know some victims stay due to feeling some form of love or dependence on the abuser, but I wonder how many stay due to how they judge themselves. For example, I wonder how many think, “I want to prove that I didn’t fail at being a wife/at choosing who to marry”.

    • Hi M&M, I have heard some survivors say they want to prove that they didn’t fail in being a wife/ choosing who to marry. If it is the survivor’s second or third marriage and all those husbands of hers were abusers, this feeling can be even stronger. The survivor may feel great shame for having ‘picked’ another abuser. And her family and friends often say things which add to that weight of shame she feels.

      I know when I left my second husband, one of my family members strongly implied to me that the must be something wrong with me that I kept having this happen to me. Or else that relative was implying that I wasn’t really a victim of domestic abuse from either of my husbands … I was just making it up or exaggerating it.

      It hurt a lot when that relative said that to me.

      • Christ is my Savior

        Abusers actually seek out abused women for this reason. How strong of an attack card to wield against someone with a conscience and a desire to serve God in their life if the abuser says, ‘it’s you, not me, look at who the common denominator is’

        Other targets, like targets of mobbing and workplace/institutional abuse, get further ‘judged’ as deserving it/being the common denominator/the troublemaker/one who just won’t get along/etc. with the whole 2nd, 3rd, 4th setup…… as in, the abused person is being abused from all sides, by all these people, both husbands, both places of employment, left a church, ……. it MUST be her, not them if she can’t seem to stay out of trouble (LIE)….

        Abusers in the workplace target victims of domestic violence because they know they have fewer options, limited resources, already stressed and oppressed, etc. and mobbing grows from there. \

        There is a downward spiral of vulnerability and victimization. If you are abused in multiple relationships, it’s still the abusers’ fault and responsibility. If you are abused in various settings (like the courts, the workplace, church), it’s still the abusers’ culpability and doing. They sniff out vulnerability and a pre-abused, pre-traumatized victim is like dessert for these abusers. The more you are victimized in life, the more vulnerable you become, which nearly guarantees further victimization and round and round it goes.

      • M&M

        True and so frustrating because the victim blaming goes beyond those who intend to abuse and includes who just don’t understand.

        “I wouldn’t pick him” except you would if he hid his true intentions.

        “He’d stop if you stood up for yourself” but that’s about as logical as standing up to a serial killer…… Psalm 10:8-9 is not exaggerating 😦 😦

      • NG

        It must be heartbreaking. While I thank God for not being married to an abusiver man (or anyone at the moment – not my choice, but it’s better to be alone than with a man who is unloving), I have been abused by many people – family members, school bullies, academic setting, by ‘friends’.

        The most heartbreaking is to be cursed and yelled at by somene who you once considered a safe, trustworthy person – a friend.
        Then it is easy to accept the thought, ‘oh it must be me’, and again, the abuse has been succesful in causing us to doubt our worth as human beings.

        I have noticed that a woman are easily blamed whatever she does: if she is wary and concerned about someone, she is easily labeled as having ‘trust issues’ she needs to work out in therapy.. if she does choose to trust, and the friendship / marriage does not turn out well, she is again blamed for it. ‘What is wrong with you? why did you end up with such men / friends again?’

        It’s not that she willingly ‘chose’ certain type. I know psychology is eager to offer that as a popular answer – ‘You get what you believe you are worthy of’, but I know many many cases, where that was not true. Sincere, loving women with healthy identity were abused as well. I have been disappointed with men so often I no longer can share about it and I have come to realize it’s not my problem – it is the general attitude problem with men. So many men claim to be Christian and still treat women with contempt. It’s not something we as women should be ashamed of, but expose, just like the MeToo campaign has exposed sexual assailants.

      • W

        Exactly, NG. We live in a woman-hating world and women are blamed, criticized, shamed, scapegoated, and guilted about anything and everything. I wonder if there couldn’t be a two-column collection of comments we women have heard over the years……

        If she is wary ….. She is labeled as having ‘trust issues’ and needing therapy…….

        I am a radical feminist and it has been my sanity to read fellow women’s writings about the woman-hating society in which we live. That women are victim-blamed is by no mistake. With any criticism, one must ask, ‘who has the power?’ ‘who is benefiting from this?’ If women are kept so mired in self-doubt that they cannot see how it is men who are causing their problems, benefiting from their harm, and so forth, then there is no threat to the system —- as in, nothing will challenge, let alone seek to change the game/system that is absolutely rigged against women.

        I think that’s why it is such a disappointment and shock to find out the [visible] church is almost always no different in that it is by men, for men, and women are held in contempt, or patronized in being seen as much like children needing to be forever bossed about by men….. Shouldn’t CHRISTIAN men be like Christ, not conformed to this world, seeing their wives and other women as fellow heirs of Christ, people who He died for…..

        But anyhow, I just love Barb, this site, and all you fellow women. God Bless! 🙂

      • Hi W, since this is your first comment on the blog, allow me to welcome you 🙂

        Please forgive me for taking a little while to publish your comment. I wanted to write a response to it when I published it, and yesterday I didn’t have the mental energy to do so.

        Labels are interesting things, eh? For example, the word ‘feminist’ can mean many different things to different people, and a lot of acrimony and misunderstanding can arise when people are discussing ‘feminism’ but have different concepts of what that label means. The same applies to the term ‘radical feminist’.

        I know you didn’t directly ask me about this, but in the interests of preventing some misunderstanding of my work, I want to make a personal a statement. I am happy to call myself a kind of feminist — one who does not approve of abortion on demand, gender bending or same sex marriage. I am a feminist in regards to challenging the assumptions of male privilege that lead to unfair oppression and mistreatment of women (socially, economically, sexually, physically, politically, legally).

        But for me, my Christian beliefs and my Christian worldview are more important than my feminist beliefs. That is why I cannot approve of such things as gender bending and abortion on demand.

        And because I am a Christian, I believe that sin is the primary cause of interpersonal abuse. Sin is the root cause. Sin of human beings. My beliefs about the injustices of male-privilege and the social acceptance of patriarchy which so often leads to male oppression of women, are secondary to that. I do not see patriarchy as the primary problem. Patriarchy is one of the chief ways sin plays out in societies, but I would never say that patriarchy is the root cause.

        As far as I am aware, most of those who call themselves radical feminists would say that patriarchy is the root cause of the problem of gender inequality and the oppression of women. Hence, I would not call myself a radical feminist.

        I think you are our first commenter who has described herself as a radical feminist. I am happy for you to interact on our blog, but I wanted to make my own position clear — to reduce the chance that others who watch this blog will have ammunition to slander me by calling me a ‘radical feminist’.

        I am glad you are enjoying our blog and thanks for your encouragement!

        You may already have looked at them but in case you haven’t, here are our New Users page and our FAQ page.

    • Charis

      And some victims stay because the idea of trying to make it on their own seems insurmountable. At least staying means they are not homeless, facing starvation, or having to hold down a full-time job whilst caring for small children some of whom may or may not be in school yet. Trying to make ends meet in all these ways (after having given up a career to be a wife/mother) is enormous and taxes one’s resources – especially when the abuser has isolated the victim from all other support systems. Staying seems much more amenable…until, perhaps, the children are grown.

      I have had friends say as much to me: “I’ll leave after the youngest graduates.”

      The other reason I have heard are victims who stay because the risk of leaving is too great – abusers who have directly threatened bodily harm. “I’ll kill you (or the child) if you ever leave.”

  6. Marilyn

    How accurately part of this describes my experience. He would go on and on about any issue. Wearing bathers, learning to swim, riding a pushbike, buying boat we never had money for, not appearing to enjoy sex, never comforting me when I needed it, only physical handling as he wanted of me, telling me my problems weren’t so bad, and asking me why I kept going on about things, telling me to keep away from him at church as he had people to see, usually flirting with younger women, telling me I should lose weight so my breasts wouldn’t sag as I got older, never giving me a real compliment though I heard that him give compliments to others, belittling my family, telling me I needed a psychologist, throwing fearsome tantrums, look happy, then stare at me as though I was mad for reacting.

    I’m awake to him now. The last time I asked him to sit with me after a horrible experience, it was palpable he did not want to. That did it. I felt myself just disconnect from him, and feel dignified and self sufficient and look at him as less than my equal! He tries to play games, I don’t respond, keep my own thoughts and go out when he is at work with my friends. Thank God I have some real couples as friends where the male is happy to be like a loving brother, and my female friends understand.

    He can’t get me now, I just look at him quietly with pity and think that he will never behave like a true adult. Feels wonderful to be free, don’t want his advances anymore, don’t respond much either, but I love my life still and after abuse from my childhood added to his, I understand how I ended up with a handsome, winsome outwardly, baby of a man. Go women of God you can recover when you love yourself and respect yourself, even in a household with a tantrum throwing manipulative sad sick individual.

  7. Helovesme

    I can’t thank you enough for posting this, AND again for the verses you included! I especially liked: “Even though the needy one speaks what is right. (Isaiah 32:7)” Also, you included verse that make it CLEAR that abusers are intentionally this way. It’s no accident. It’s planned, calculated and executed with great charm—intending real harm.

    So even when the abused speaks up, and they are right—-it still may not go well with them. The Bible is truly amazing and extraordinary in how it understands things that ironically, most Christians will not acknowledge or believe. Even though the Bible clearly states it!

    So many things stood to me. I think the subtle ways to exert control, the blaming of the victim for the “tension,” and the terrible but effective ways the abuser plays on her feelings (and her love for him, plus her kindness and desire to work things out) stand out.

    What hurts the most, is to read how the more she confides in him (as we all do in our relationships!), the more he knows how to hurt her!

    I have been reading a blog about pedophiles, and the one thing that is stressed time and time again—is their desire to control others around them (not just their victims. People around the victims but also society in general). There is a thrill and a sick pleasure from the control, as much as (or more than) the actual sexual act. This seems true in the private bedrooms—the more sex becomes an obligation, designed to please him only (her needs aren’t valid or considered even), and the more he dehumanizes her: the better he feels.

    She is not a person. She’s an object. And I see through this post that that is how she begins to feel over time. She’s not human, because her feelings don’t matter and her needs don’t count. She’s so imperfect and has so many flaws that she is not worthy to be treated with full human dignity and worth.(always being put down for one thing or another).

    Her “womanhood” is torn down (note: women care deeply about how [they are] being women. Our gender should not be our full identity, but it is a big part of us. When that is torn down, you feel not only less than human, but a failure as a woman to boot. That is abuse heaped on abuse.)

    When I read about being made to feel “stupid” I wanted to cry. I’ve been there so many times. I still look in the mirror and see a “stupid” person. I’m working on it, but I felt a bit better understanding that I’m not alone.

    Any relationship that is not uplifting to you, not encouraging and is not fully freedom-based is unhealthy in major ways. I cringed when I realized how these women are not afraid to resist, but do not feel justified in doing so. I understand that. I’ve been afraid to say “no” (not just in sexual areas) but in general, because I was such a people pleaser. And when you say “no” there are consequences that come with it. People will lash out in active or passive ways when they don’t get what they want. When they can’t control you, or get their needs met (to them, that’s ALL they care about). T

    There’s so much fear and confusion—not to mention feeling unloved and not only that: not worthy to be loved. All you are good for is rejection. All you are good for is meeting the needs of others, but don’t expect anyone to do the same for you (remember—you’re not good enough and until you “improve yourself” in all these ways, you won’t be. Note: no mater how much you change, or try to change—they will always be some way you fall short still. They will never love you, because they don’t want to, not because you’re not worthy.)

    I believe God can give us discernment — if not to avoid such abusers at first, to learn from such horrible experiences.

    I try to surround myself with people I can trust. I try to do that, now, as best I can (with His help).

    • NG

      Helovesme, so much truth in here. Indeed, it is about control – and to pull down her personhood. I have experienced it with several ‘Christian’ men, who apparently were so annoyed and threatened by my very existence in their ‘territory’ – a deep hatred and desire to annihilate. It is scary – also for their sakes (I know God is more than able to protect me from those enemies) who live with that kind of hatred in their hearts.

      You wrote brilliantly: “Any relationship that is not uplifting to you, not encouraging and is not fully freedom-based is unhealthy in major ways.” Bingo! I think that sums it up. No need for such ‘friends’, not even for ‘witness’ purposes: witnessing to someone does not equate getting into intimate terms with them.

      • NG

        And, amen to your last sentence. That is my hearts’ cry as well. Lord, help me to find and stay surrounded with safe people.

  8. J

    I am so thankful to have come across this article. I understand it is part of a series – would you please tell me how to access the other articles in this series?

    I can identify so closely with most everything here. I have been married for over two decades to a man who has emotionally, verbally, and financially abused me. The signs were there before we married but I overlooked them. On our honeymoon I experienced the first of what would become regular periods of anger and silence.

    I grew up [denomination redacted] and was taught the importance of wives submitting to their husbands in everything. So I did. Outwardly at least. I thought if only I lived the way I should, if only I prayed just right, I wouldn’t have these problems.

    Finally, several years ago, a friend told me about Lundy Bancroft’s book Why Does He Do That? My eyes were opened as I recognized that my husband was a classic case. That knowledge gave me courage to stand up for myself.

    But what was much harder to stand up to was the very frequent put downs and being raked over the coals for my housework, etc.

    I have prayed and pleaded with God for direction over the years, not seeing how I could endure such a life for the rest of my years, yet wanting above all else to do what was right for our children. He loves them dearly but [at some point as they are growing up] they also get his verbal and emotional attacks. But a not so good dad is better than no dad, right? Anyway, I prayed and prayed. I nearly left several times.

    He escalated his abuse of me greatly. I was praying and pleading with God to show me the way. If I was to leave I had to know for certain, no tiny doubt, that it was the right decision. His abuse escalate even more. … I knew that God was showing me my answer. I knew it was time to leave and that i now had to follow through since God had answered my prayer.

    …And I can tell you that for me it took much more courage to leave than it did to stay.

    The days after I left him were chaotic and stress filled and yet I had a peace in my heart and knew I was doing the right thing. There were many things that happened that I knew that God was in this and leading me. …

    I had suspected my husband would follow me to the location I had fled to but he was able to save face at our church by lying to people about why I left – giving ‘plausible’ explanations that had nothing to do with his behavior. The pastor and a few close friends know the full story.

    After I left he electronically messaged me a lot – saying various things [all of which were designed to manipulate her into give him another chance, make her feel sorry for him and lay false guilt her for the effect her decision might have on the kids – Eds]. But never once did he bring up that awful escalation of abuse he did before I left, or any of the other issues we had.

    A friend posted a link to this article. It was again confirmation that I wasn’t crazy. This has been my life. Thank you for your work and your support.

    • Dear sister

      you are not alone. Thank you for sharing and welcome to the blog. 🙂

      You can find all the posts in our Don Hennessy series at our Don Hennessy Digest.

      I had to edit your comment a lot to disidentify it in order to protect your safety.

      I strongly suggest you read our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

      And after reading the New Users’ Info page, I suggest you look at our FAQ page. There are many things there which I think will help you in your current situation.

      I also changed your screen name to Anonymnous as a precaution. If you want us to change it to something else, just email TWBTC (The Woman Behind The Curtain) Her address is twbtc.acfj@gmail.com.

      • J

        Thank you. I know I will often find myself here reading and learning and healing.

  9. TWBTC has found a recent news article in which journalist Tanya Sweeney interviewed Don Hennessy about his new book Steps to Freedom. Here is a bit from the article: 

    Emotionally abusive men will often check on their partner’s whereabouts, and will slowly erode her confidence by making remarks about her appearance, her financial situation or her housework skills. “It’s all designed to demean her so she doesn’t feel like a woman, and therefore when she goes into the bedroom, she has no ground to stand on,” observes Hennessy. Red Flags of Coercive Control

    [boldface mine]

  10. Valkyrie

    Interesting what he says about abusers equating affection and sex is a lot like what John Gray (Mars Venus goofball) says about it. He says men experience love THROUGH sex, and the book accounts instances in which he pushes his wife to perform sexual acts, and throws a bunch of tantrums and other “distraction” behaviors mentioned in this post. He also at least mildly fits Lundy Bancroft’s definition of a batterer.

  11. Finding Answers

    (Light airbrushing….)

    There was never an offending – re-grooming cycle with my anti-x. I can understand what Barb combined in writing the original post, but none of those phases happened. There were – as far as I can tell – no dots to connect.

    I did, however, connect to two comments in this post, rather than the original post itself.

    Barb commented And because I am a Christian, I believe that sin is the primary cause of interpersonal abuse. Sin is the root cause. Sin of human beings. My beliefs about the injustices of male-privilege and the social acceptance of patriarchy which so often leads to male oppression of women, are secondary to that. I do not see patriarchy as the primary problem. Patriarchy is one of the chief ways sin plays out in societies, but I would never say that patriarchy is the root cause.

    When I read this part of Barb’s comment, the first words through my head were “I am sin.” In my family of origin, I always felt dirty. The sexual abuse started when I was a baby, starting with my “dad” and progressing to siblings. And as a young child, my “mother” had me pose nude for her art class drawings and apply body lotion to her after her shower.

    I felt like the Gadarene possessed by unclean spirits.

    Helovesme commented She is not a person. She’s an object. And I see through this post that that is how she begins to feel over time. She’s not human, because her feelings don’t matter and her needs don’t count. She’s so imperfect and has so many flaws that she is not worthy to be treated with full human dignity and worth.(always being put down for one thing or another).

    Umm. ^^^^That.

    I never told my anti-x about the sexual abuse. Somehow, he grasped the contents of the comments by Barb and Helovesme. He didn’t have to work hard for me to jump through the hoops – I did the work myself.

    Thank you, Barb and Helovesme, for your comments. The time you took to add these comments has been a blessing to me.

  12. Taking Steps

    I can’t believe what I am reading…it’s only been a week since I’ve had this veil lifted over my eyes….after yeqrs of marriage!

    A few years after we were married I started feeling like I didn’t know this person…this person that professes such adoration and love to me even when I tell him I don’t think this is working…even when I tell him I am not in love anymore…..he convinced me that he saw such a bright future for us If I could only hold on…..this was a low point….I had to trust him to give in to him.

    I couldn’t handle his physical touch much and even though he knew how I felt, he insisted on sexual acts….made me feel like I was leaving him in agony because he needed sex – I refused to kiss him anymore….but the insisting of sex continued….. I tried even harder, ending the relationship every so often – he would often moan and groan and just walk out making out like he had the moral high ground and I was the one who wasn’t doing the right thing. He had been completely believing that he loved me so much that if I wanted to end the relationship I would be breaking his heart and he would be a broken mess – I would break up the family.

    I started pulling back even more – the meanness in him was more obvious. I was then told we needed to have another child. My head was screaming – I was screaming ‘how the hell do you want to bring another child into this twisted situation!’ He kept up the pressure until I said yes. Very soon I was pregnant. The next years were a blur because the kids had serious health problems that took a lot of attention – I put most thoughts of ‘this isn’t right’ out of my head.

    But then I started getting strong, doing a regular exercise program, trying to get strong in and out. This was when I also tried very hard to cut all sexual contact … I was starting now to question this undying love. I had always thought, If he loves me so much how can I break his heart, after all, I did just want to be loved through and through. …

    I had childhood trauma…and he reckoned I needed therapy as that part of my life was ruining our relationship. After a few sessions….my therapist said she feels couples counselling was necessary……he agreed. We had several months of sessions where my tears and anguish were almost enjoyed by him. I knew I was starting to hate him…this man whose words made no sense anymore. The counsellor asked him to have empathy while I talked…….I said what can I say that I haven’t before?? She said to try anything. So, I googled things I never have before and how it felt like a blast of truth! All the mean things he would say to me, … how thankful I am for the stories of other women…..how thankful I am that a man like Don Hennessy (who I just found online now) actually exists!

    I have been having panic attacks and anxiety since this all unfolded – but I am taking the next steps – even though I know there will be probably dangerous ramifications…[details redacted] – I am now horrified that I have been so blind, so drowned in this fake love and lies that I even have children with this man.

    I am scared, I know some of my friends still see him as the sweet sweet man. He will never be that to me ever. This horrible person that thought nothing of me nothing of my feelings or happiness, just his. This person that had somehow made my self-worth just completely vanish.

    • I’m so glad you have found us, and welcome to the blog! 🙂

      You will notice that I changed your screen name to Taking Steps and edited out some of the details of your comment to protect you from being identified. In your situation, it’s not a good idea to use your real name on this blog.

      Don Hennessy has so much insight, doesn’t he. It really helps when someone understands

      We like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

      And after reading the New Users’ Info page, you might like to look at our And after reading the New Users’ Info page, you might like to look at our FAQ page.

Trackbacks

  1. Offending and re-grooming: the skills men use to abuse their female partners (Don Hennessy series part 5) | Speakingtruthinlove's Blog

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