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 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.
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
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.