A Cry For Justice

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

Survivors and DV professionals describe domestic abuse and red flags (Don Hennessy series part 10)

Every survivor’s story can encourage and empower other survivors of abuse. Victims feel they are not so alone when they hear the raw, real accounts from other survivors.

Three survivors of domestic abuse told their stories to Ray D’Arcy who is an Irish radio show presenter. Ray D’Arcy then sought comment from Don Hennessy and other professionals who work in the field of domestic abuse.

The Ray D’Arcy Show — Domestic Abuse Special

The three accounts from survivors will resonate with you if you are a victim-survivor of domestic abuse, or a compassionate worker in the field.

I think Ray D’Arcy was outstanding in the way he responded to both the victims and the professionals he interviewed. The most heart-warming thing for me was the shock and outrage he showed about what male offenders do to the women they target. It is rare that a male radio host shows appropriate outrage at what abusive men do to their intimate female partners.

Here are some quotes from the show after the three victims had told their stories. Ray D’Arcy is speaking to Don Hennessy:

Ray Darcy: (53:45)  So you’ve heard similar stories before, haven’t you?

Don: Yes.

Ray: And the themes and the patterns and the way of doing things?

Don: I think the first thing I would like to say is to really congratulate all the ladies who have spoken so far and their courage and their ability to talk.

And one of the things they that seem to indicate was that in some ways they were vulnerable young women at some point in their lives. But being in an abusive relationship has nothing to do with being a vulnerable woman. It can happen to any woman.

The only reason why it doesn’t happen to some women is that they have never been targeted by an abusive man.

The girls that are there in the studio with you are no different than the women who are living in non-abusive relationships.

So I would like to remind them that rather than thinking that there was something wrong with them, or that they were vulnerable or that they were naive, they had four very strong attributes which these guys spotted from a mile off. 

The four attributes skilled offenders look for when selecting a target woman

Note from Barb: I mentioned these four attributes in part 3 of this series, but they are worth revisiting here. 

Don: (54:50) The first thing is that all the women are very kind.
What I mean by that is they are the type of women who puts other people before themselves. They were minding their mothers, Nora’s a nurse – whatever the way they go about life they put themselves out for other people. If you’re that kind of a woman you are a target for these men.

The second thing is that in their relationship with these guys they were very loyal.
And even though we’ve heard horrific stories I would image that there are things that happened to these ladies that would never be spoken about. They’ve buried them in the secrets of their heart and they will keep them there.

The third thing they have is that they are dedicated.
In other words they are the people who have a word so if they say, “I’ll be there tomorrow,” or “I’ll do this next week” they do it. They’re not careless about it.  They’re not people who say, “Oh, I couldn’t be bothered.”  They would get up and do it.

And the fourth thing they have, which is a wonderful attribute, is that they are all very truthful.
And that’s one of the things that attracts these guys. And that’s one of the things that is their downfall, really, because when you are truthful – when you are trying to develop an intimate relationship – you begin to talk about what’s going on inside your own mind, inside your own spirit, and you give him access to the whole thing.

He becomes a controller of your mind, but he’s not very skilled. He just has to listen and most of the women that I meet at the beginning use to say to me, “Gee, Donny, he never listens to me. He’s miles away.”

The truth is he listens to everything. He stores all the information and uses it as ammunition when he feels like it and can recall it two years or twenty-two years later. So he never forgets anything that he can use against his partner.

(break)

Ray: (1:00:48) This has been a difficult listen for me so I imagine it has been for you at home, but it’s very important that these stories are heard. Don has been listening to these stories for over 25 years now. [Don, you said that the abuser’s] actions are premeditated?

Don:  Absolutely. They have a plan and they have a goal and all their actions are intentional.  Now it is beyond belief — as two of your ladies already said “we tried to make sense of things”– but you can’t make sense of it.

It is beyond ordinary human belief to think that a guy goes out to destroy the humanity of his partner.

He wants to dehumanize her so that she will be at his bidding. And it’s the only way he can do it. He does it deliberately.

He does it gradually, so she doesn’t realize. So she thinks this is all part of the game or whatever, and he will invade her spirit.

And what’s really wonderful is that because Women’s Aid and other groups are speaking out loud about it at every chance they get – it’s beginning to become apparent for most young women now that this situation is not appropriate in their lives. Nobody deserves to be abused at any level. But you can’t make sense of it.

Ray: The pattern is that they sort of strip their victims of self-esteem, of nearly personality.

Don: The way that I try to describe it: they actually quiten the person’s instinct.

BLAME SHIFTING: a red flag that a someone is an abuser

Don(1:03:02)  I have two teenage daughters – well, they were teenage quite some years ago – and when I started the work they asked “What’s the advice if you are dating someone?” And I said, “The only thing I’d say to you is if you’re being blamed for something that isn’t your fault, just run. Don’t try and explain it, and don’t try to justify it. Just run.”

Ray: That’s pretty basic.  I suppose to a lot of people listening it seems like an over reaction, but you from your work know that that leads to other abuse, and worse abuse.

Don: The essential thing is that when the abuse happens, the abused person (99 times out of 100 it’s the woman) has to look inside her own head and say, “Oh, God, what did I do now to bring that on?” And once she’s thinking that way she’ll ignore his bad behavior.

Ray: (speaking to the victims) You all said that.

Victims: Yes.

Psalm 7:9
O let the evil of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous;
For the righteous God tries the hearts and minds.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

After that program was broadcast, Ray D’Arcy did a follow up where he talked with Margaret Martin from Women’s Aid Ireland about the the feedback from the first episode. You can listen to it here:

Here is a short transcript, starting at 15:13 —

Margaret Martin : People understand much more now about grooming in terms of children – how pedophiles get access to children. But the reality is that in those circumstances they’ve also been grooming all of the adults around that child. And they’re very skilled. And the same process of grooming is going on in domestic violence. It’s going on with the woman and it’s going on with all of the people around her.

Ray: And it’s a long game!

Margaret: It’s a very long game. 

Ray: That’s what shocked me. Premeditated. Planning for the longterm. 

Margaret: Absolutely. And very skilled. So that people can say, “But I’ve never seen that side of him!”  And then people can think their judgement almost negates hers. And the reality is: he’s very careful about not letting other people see it.

*** 

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

 

24 Comments

  1. W

    God tells us we are to hate evil. God hates evil. We are not smarter than God so why is it so many of the Christian community pride themselves in being ‘nicey nice’ with the wicked and evildoers?! No. We are to hate evil, just as God does.

    I have yet to hear about, read about or know about any abuser who ceases being wicked and changes.

    In the Old Testament, for certain evils, the evildoers were to be taken out of the city and stoned.

    Abusers are predators. Abusers are evil. It’s time we stop playing ‘nicey nice’ with abusers in our ignorance, naivety, or confusion. Wise as serpents, people! Those are God’s Holy Words, “wise as serpents”!

    Again, wonderful website, Barbara! This Don Hennessey series is OUTSTANDING!!!!!

    • Thanks W.

      Writing this Don Hennessy series has been extraordinary for me. I am seeing things, getting ideas and making connections I had not seen before. I’m questioning some of the ‘givens’ I have believed for years about domestic abuse. Hennessy’s ideas seem to me to be a quantum leap ahead of many or all of the other experts in the DV sector.

      As we have often noted on this blog, secular DV professionals are well ahead of where Christian DV professionals usually are.
      And it seems to me that Don Hennessy is well ahead of other secular DV professionals.

      Most DV professionals says that the male abuser’s core motivation is power and control. Hennessy says the male abuser’s core motive is sexual — the goal of getting his sexual needs met without negotiation.

      I want to get all domestic abuse professionals to read his book! Since it was published in 2012 and doesn’t seem to have been read yet by many professionals outside Ireland (?) I am hoping that our Don Hennessy Digest will help more professionals to become interested in his work.

      We victim-survivors are at the bottom of the food chain (bad metaphor) in that most people don’t pay heed to what we say and most people don’t think they can learn from us. So our influence is still smallish. The #MeToo campaign has shifted that a bit, but only a bit.

      I encourage our readers to recommend the Don Hennessy Digest to counselors, DV professionals, victim-advocates and activist and church leaders.

      • W

        I have yet to read his books because the money isn’t there but from his press quotes and your blogging series I think Hennessy outdoes Bancroft by far. I don’t know what Australia does but in the U.S. it seems DV and SA [Sexual Assault] are two different camps with almost competition for funding. I think DV and SA go hand in hand and there’s a lot of blurring with the two. How many women really talk about what their ‘sexual lives’ are truly like? How many women are taught that if it is your husband, it cannot be rape and your body belongs to him, no matter what, as you vowed it to God? How many women live in deadly fear of their husbands?

        Phenomenal website, Barb, and I love reading all your stuff. Brava!

    • Dear W, a few times you’ve submitted comments asking us not to publish the comment but just sharing with myself and TWBTC info about the severity of your situation. And you’ve told us how easily you get triggered and how that effects what you say in some of your comments.

      We want to talk to you by email. Could you please email us (or email just Barb) using an address to which we can reply to you without risking your safety.

      If you don’t do this, the only way we have to speak to you is at the front of the blog. And we prefer not to do that.

      Hope you understand.

  2. Helovesme

    Barb thank you again for inserting those wonderful verses in there. Christians MUST understand that this is not “psycho-babble” or nonsense of some kind. It is real and it must be dealt with in a serious way.

    I also appreciate you putting in those four attributes that abusers look for, and for the reiteration that there is NOTHING wrong with the victims that made them a target. It was so refreshing to hear that again. The shame of being targeted is a real thing.

    Those characteristics listed describe women that are warm, loving, generous and faithful human beings. It saddens and angers me that the very things that Christ encourages us to be, are twisted and used for evil. I pray His wrath soon pours out on these abusers—evil to the depths of their soul and with no interest in repentance.

    I was abused as a child and I used to freely share my story with others—in order for them to get to know me and to see how amazing it is that God reached me. Now I believe that when I lowered my guard like that, it gave certain persons insight on how to take advantage of me.

    There’s no shame in being a victim, but there are consequences. Your dignity is stripped, dysfunction is your norm (the Lord can show you His “normal” but it takes time!), and you need support and encouragement to fight the daily trauma. You look for it, but all you find is more cruelty and abuse from professing Christians.

    “It is beyond ordinary human belief to think that a guy goes out to destroy the humanity of his partner.”

    This doesn’t just happen in intimate relationships (although that’s the most serious). It happens all the time in the church. I often felt guilty or manipulated into doing things that I wasn’t up for, and people knew that I had a hard time saying “no.”

    Also not being blamed is a huge refresher. I was struggling with that this morning. It is so hard it is to carry the burden of abuse, and THEN be loaded down even more by insinuations that it was your fault. It really does tear a person up inside, and tears them down as well.

    I can’t thank you enough for this blessing of sharing Hennessey’s work.

    • Anonymous Person

      “it gave certain persons insight on how to take advantage of me”

      This is very true. Abusers, criminals, and predatory people are very attentive in ‘gathering intel’ about the person they wish to victimize.

      Evildoers being their evil selves. I just look forward to God casting the wicked into the pit, never to be heard from again.

  3. Moving Forward

    Thank you for these articles. It’s been hard to read the content at times, but necessary if I am to move forward.

  4. W

    [We know from well documented police reports and court cases] that there are some serial killers/serial rapists who make sexual slaves out of their victims. [descriptions of such cases redacted by Eds, to prevent readers being triggered]

    I think of the core selves/characters involved with a sadistic, skilled abuser with polished and sophisticated tactics like mind control, brainwashing, fear induction, instrumental rage (break stuff right by her head, beat her unconscious, smother her unconscious, strangle her until she loses consciousness, etc.) and other things that the sophisticated abusers use to ensure complete and utter control, enforced subjugation, and so forth. I think there is similarity… it’s on a continuum.

    There was a book by an author with the last name of Johnson that talked about wifebeaters and sex offenders and it was a blending.

    Maybe my abuser was particularly extreme but I don’t see much difference between him and the headline-grabbing serial killers whose horrific crimes land them on death row or life imprisoned.

    Hennessey talks about the goal of dehumanizing his target is to get her to do his bidding.

    Enslave her. Most men are keen enough on the criminal laws and realize if you bring guns, knives, and actual chains into the picture, your criminal butt is very likely going to prison for decades. Abusers want to stay out of jail and the really smart ones will make sure to not involve overt, easily identified atrocities like chains around captive women’s legs/ankles, but are no less monstrous. Having actual chains to show as proof of a monster’s atrociousness would be a blessing to the woman victim as people seem to care then. No baloney ‘he said/she said’ quandary when actual chains can be dragged out as ‘proof’. Men pay attention to such things. Abusers are crafty.

    I realize I may be radical in comparison to most readers but I think my abuser deserved to die for what he all did. But he didn’t spend a day in jail, much less have any handcuffs ever put on him. It was just the opposite. He was celebrated for being a predator and respected for being a thug monster and the adulation-fest seems to continue without end.

    I’m just glad this website exists as knowing there are others who aren’t predatory criminals, who fear God, who try to do good, who want to serve God with their lives, who have been victimized, violated, raped, beaten, abused, stalked, mobbed, harassed, etc. as well….. it’s about the only comfort I have aside from God’s Holy Word.

  5. Anonymous Person

    This is off-topic but I am curious:

    How many other readers have had abusers try and induce their suicide?

    My abuser was often deadset on this and I wonder if others haven’t gone through the same thing. Bullies do this to their targets. I think it is the same core evil and abusers, bullies, and other predators are but children of the devil.

    Supporters of my abuser encouraged this and tried to induce such in me and I am just struggling because the evildoers are so, so, SO SLICK and it is just overwhelming.

    What does anyone else do to keep themselves alive? Cruelty, especially concerted efforts at further destroying someone — that’s the devil’s work, right there, being carried out by wicked, abusive people.

    • Actually I don’t think your question is very off topic. Didn’t one of the Irish women who Ray D’Arcy interviewed say she felt suicidal at certain points during the abuse?

      • Anonymous Person

        She attempted, failed, and while hospitalized she began her escape but her abuser allowed her an ambulance and medical care.

        My abuser and others are like, ‘why arent you dead yet? Whars taking so long? Hurry up and take care of business already!’

        But when she talks about feeling invisible and looking behind her to see if the guy in the grocery store was actually talking to her…… i know that experience all too well. I really wondered and seriously doubted that I was human anymore. I was FLOORED when people interacted with me as though I was a fellow human being. It was surreal.

        Plus, even though my abuser was an extreme monster, I, too, thought there had to be more-deserving women and children who were being shot at and thereby deserved the shelter spaces more than me, because my monster had yet to shoot me.

        Hell is going to be full of these guys. These abusers. These wicked, tyrannical, monsters.

    • AW

      I’ve read several examples of this (abuser actively encouraging suicide or intentionally driving their target towards it) on blogs for Adult Children of Narcissists (ACONs). I don’t know if it’s more specific to narcissistic abusers vs. abusers in general, but it definitely happens, and yes, it’s evil… soul-murder and homicide by proxy.

  6. Momof3blessings

    I cannot overstate the importance of Hennessy’s book and the posts in the Hennessy Digest here on ACFJ in advancing my understanding of how the abuser’s mind works.

    *****Recognizing and depicting the sexual abuse aspect as an integral, central, planned cornerstone of the abuser’s strategy of control is the piece of the puzzle that’s been missing in most similar books. Sexual abuse is not just another means of abuse; it’s the primary goal of the abuse since it most satisfyingly proves his power over his mate.*****

    The book and these digest posts that flesh it out even further are gut-wrenchingly accurate in portraying the dynamics and mindset of our abusers, and unflinchingly describe the abuser as intrinsically sexually motivated, even when outright sexual abuse isn’t frequent or obvious.

    This is startlingly new. I’ve read widely on abuse and worked as a clinician in the domestic violence field for over 20 years, so I’m familiar with the literature and research regarding intimate partner abuse and violence. However, none have brought this perspective forth with the clarity or focus that Hennessy’s has.

    For example, as incredibly helpful and freeing as his works are, (and I’ve read and re-read and listened to all of them many times) I feel like Bancroft never quite understood this piece of the puzzle. I’ve talked with him in person about it at one of his retreats, and while he sees sexual abuse as horribly wounding to women, he also sees it as simply another means in which the abuser can exert his power and control over his victim, like financial abuse or verbal abuse or physical abuse or spiritual abuse. He does not view the sexual abuse as necessarily a goal of the abuser or even a facet of many abused women’s experiences.

    Hennessy, however, gets that the sexual abuse *is* the actual goal of the abuser, not for sexual gratification per se but as the ultimate means of debasing her while indisputably proving his power over her. Sexual abuse is not just another weapon in his arsenal, it’s his primary means of ego gratification, like a pedophile’s abuse of a child is.

    It’s a whole difference in focus makes all of the difference, for me at least, in putting what I went through into perspective. It’s very validating and healing for me to finally understand this concept, despite it being so painful. It explains why I’m so deeply wounded despite making such progress in the years I’ve been free.

    These posts and Hennessy’s book are helping me face and consciously deal with this painful, fundamental reality of what my life with my ex was like all those years, and see how and why it has so profoundly wounded me that it’s taken all these years after he left to even be able to consciously think about it. 

    The daily life experience of those of us who were in long-term abusive marriages truly is a special hell on earth. It’s incredibly damaging to us, horrifically painful, and can ultimately annihilate the person we are inside. I almost ended my own life believing I was such a burden on my loved ones that they’d be better off without me. The pain of those years is indescribable.

    And what makes it so much worse is that no one else in our daily lives can comprehend what it is we are going through, because none of them have ever lived in it. It’s not part of their daily experiences, ever, and they cannot comprehend that it really does occur or how bad it truly is or how deeply it wounds us. Especially the sexual abuse, which underlies the debasement and devaluation in such an intimately personal way that it can rob us of our voice to even think about it, much less ever talk to anyone about it.

    But Hennessy gives us a voice. He recognizes the sexual abuse as the abuser’s primary means to make himself feel powerful and in control, understands that this is an integral and deliberately sought-after part of his domination over her.

    It’s not about lust as we commonly use the term, in the sense of overwhelming physical desire for sexual release, but about lust in terms of sexual abuse being the one, final, most intimate, powerful way a man can fully show his ultimate domination over his mate.

    Having this recognized allows us as victims/survivors to gain perspective on what has happened to us, understand better why he is/was doing it, and validate why it has wounded us so profoundly. Because once we can consciously think about it, and write about it, and then maybe even talk about it to a few supportive people in real life, we can start to heal from it.

    We are not alone. What happened to us has a name, it has reasons why it happened, and it explains the depths of the damage we are trying so hard to move beyond. I cannot thank Barbara and ACFJ enough for telling us about this pivotal book and for these digest posts that have enhanced it so well.

    • Thank you, Momof3blessings. 🙂

      With your experience as both a survivor and a clinician in domestic abuse for many years, I hope your comment will be read my many other clinicians.

    • Stronger Now

      This comment articulates my experience perfectly (except that I am not a clinician).

      I have been separated from my abuser for over a decade and yet still can’t seem to fully heal. I wondered why. Hennessey’s book and these digest posts have made the reason crystal clear.

      The depth to which the daily, pervasive, incessant sexual abuse wounds a person is incomprehensible to anyone who has not experienced it. I have rarely disclosed that abuse, probably because repeating the verbal abuse evokes an understanding response from people. Revealing the reality of being raped and molested on a daily basis is met with blank looks. People cannot wrap their brains around that level of evil.

      Now that I no longer have minor children, I can finally cut off contact with my abuser. Hennessey’s book helped me understand how necessary that is. By the grace of God, maybe I will be able to make more progress in healing.

      • Anonymous Person

        You’re not alone, Stronger Now. Thanks for sharing your comment. Sexual abuse is so intensely wounding, there is nothing like it. It takes something of you and turns it into a weapon to destroy you from the inside out. People take murder seriously and there’s no statute of limitations on murder, but [in juridictions where there is a statute of limitations on sexual offences] the soul and spiritual murder of rape and sexual abuse isn’t seen as that great of an evil.

        [People often think] rapists, pedophiles, and other sex offenders are easily identified by a certain appearance, and so as long as the evildoers don’t look like the boogeyman, then people doubt they are really are evildoers….

        And people don’t seem to understand what life with a terrorist is like and how it is to live with a person who makes everything into a ‘do or die’ setup…..and even if you’re being raped, you better act like you like it or it will be worse or there will be other hell to pay for not being a great actress.

        I don’t know. I’m just thankful this website exists, that you ladies exist, and that God will repay and He is my Avenger.

    • AW

      I have no doubt the sexual entitlement is the driving motivation for abusive men specifically in targeting their partners, but would add the caveat that their entitlement extends far beyond that into the more ‘general’ underlying motivation of power and control that Bancroft discusses.

      Hennessy’s emphasis is quite accurate with regards to my dad targeting my mom, and I’m sure the damage he did is beyond my ability to fully comprehend given the context of an intimate relationship. However, I was the family member he most often targeted, for ongoing, unrelenting, no-win verbal, emotional, and physical abuse — the family scapegoat. And that had nothing to do with sexual entitlement specifically, but the general, all-encompassing entitlement that felt like he wasn’t being sufficiently kow-towed to, grovelled before, served, unquestioned.

      Sexual entitlement doesn’t explain my malignant narcissist male employer’s abuse either, so I think it’s far more accurate to say entitlement is the general underlying motivation in abusive men, and it primarily takes the form of sexual entitlement within the specific context of partner and intimate relationship abuse.

      • Thanks for articulating this so well, AW.

      • Another thing to consider is culture.

        It is possible that different countries/cultures tend to produce different degrees of sexual entitlement in men. Perhaps Ireland (where Hennessy comes from) is one of the cultures which tends to give men a more extreme version of sexual entitlement.

  7. Hi to all readers, I want to make a quick note here about the content of comments.

    On this site we do not want to publish anything which advocates for the use of guns or in some other way discusses the gun debate. We know that in the USA there is a massive controversy about the use of guns. We have readers from all over the world and we prefer to stay out of that debate.

    We also prefer that rather than describe abusers as ‘monsters’ they be described in term that have a more biblical resonance. The bible uses words like the wicked, evildoers, sons of Belial, children of the devil, etc.

    The difficulty with using the word ‘monster’ is that it gives the people in the church we are trying to educate (e.g. pastors, Christian counselors) a quick reason to dismiss us as “man-hating angry feminists”. But if we use biblical terms to describe abusers, they can’t quite so easily dismiss us with excuse.

    Another problem with the word ‘monster’ is this. The general public tends to have the mistaken idea that when a man hits the headlines for being a serial killer and/or serial rapistm, that man must be a monster and must look like a monster. The myth that such men look like monsters need to be rebutted. Such men only show their real colours to their targets. They seldom or never show their real colours to the rest of the public or to counselors of professionals who work in the justice system.

    As Don Hennessy said to Ray D’Arcy, these skilled offenders come across as really nice charming people.

  8. J

    Just picking up on what Barbara has said about culture playing a part in abuse: I agree with this.

    I am a sex worker, and there are patterns of behaviour amongst clients from different backgrounds. Obviously stereotyping is not great, and there are exceptions, but the fact that my colleagues and I consistently have the same stories about the same types of clients to a point where many of us avoid certain men, it is somewhat instructional.

    I wholeheartedly agree with Don Hennessy’s analysis based on my work experience – that abuse is wrapped up in male sexual entitlement. I am the coalface of this every day; I see a direct link.

    The men that cause the most problems are those who come from cultures where women are treated badly (this those with a history of white supremacy; women as second class citizens; patriarchal places). Don Hennessy did his studies in Ireland, a country with an appalling track record with regards to women. Just consider their denial of women’s reproductive rights. I appreciate that this is a site with a religious persuasion, but regardless of your personal views on abortion, the lack of these rights provides insight into the level of control a society feels they have the right to assert over women, which in turn feeds into the psyche of men. The more this control exists, the more men see women as their property.

    • Thank you J. Welcome to the blog 🙂

      And thank you for being sensitive to the fact that this is a Christian site. 🙂

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