A Cry For Justice

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

Videos of Don Hennessy and other Irish DV professionals (Don Hennessy series part 9)

The real question is, “How do men get a woman to go back into an abusive relationship or to stay in an abusive relationship?”

Here are three documentary videos made by Gerard Lough (10 mins each) which feature Irish experts in domestic abuse. They were made in 2007.

The speakers:

  • Don Hennessy (Director, National Domestic Violence Intervention Agency)
  • Fiona Doherty (Manager, Donegal Domestic Violence Service)
  • Kate Hudis (Counselor)


After each link I will give some of the best sound-bite quotes from the speakers. 

The Long Term Effect part 1 of 3 

Don Hennessy:

Why does a woman stay?” is the wrong question. The real question is, “How do men get a woman to go back into an abusive relationship or to stay in an abusive relationship?”

Fiona Doherty:

It is the emotional/psychological abuse which is the most damaging to women, and they’re the hardest to prove.

Don Hennessy:

While we had an occasional phone call from men who said they were victims of violence and abuse in a relationship, I’ve actually only met one.

The Long Term Effect part 2 of 3

Don Hennessy:

Perpetrators are driven by two very powerful combined forces. One of them is a sense of entitlement. The other is a word which is probably a bit old fashioned but I call it lust. And when you combine those two together, there is very little that limits the energies they provide for guys.

Essentially what a man is looking for when he meets a partner, is a sexual partner. He’s not looking someone to make his bed or to make his dinner or anything else; essentially he’s looking for a sexual partner.

When and if that lust is in some way to be modified, the sexual entitlement that he has doesn’t allow him to modify that sense of lust. So his sexual desires and his sexual motivation become the driving force in everything that he does. 

Fiona Doherty:

We have had three women come through our program who have been abused by the same man. So obviously the pattern of abuse just continued.

Note 1: In this video Hennessy refers to how he was a car salesman earlier in his career, and that experience helped him to recognize the con-man tactics of men who abuse their female partners.

Note 2: This video refers to “anger management programs”. The abusive man’s anger is not the root of the problem. Many people have mistakenly believed that it is, and have prescribed anger management programs for men who abuse their intimate partners.  I am confident that Hennessy would agree that anger is not the core problem, because he says that the abusive man’s mentality of entitlement along with his lust is the core of the problem.

The Long Term Effect part 3 of 3

Don Hennessy:

It is pretty certain that about 20% of women who are in intimate relationships are being abused. And that is the standard in all western cultures.  

What the refuge movement is about is to give the victims space to think for themselves. Outside of the physical protection, if you can protect the victim’s mind from being got at by the perpetrator, then over a period of time – and it can happen quite quickly – the victim will recover her ability to think for herself and begin to see the world as she saw it when she was 18 or 20 before she ever got into this relationship, and begin to use her language again, as distinct from the language of the perpetrator. 


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


Wise as Serpents Digest

Pastor Jeff Crippen preached a sermon series called Wise as Serpents in which he focused on how we must be wise to evil and the ways of evildoers. We adapted each sermon into a post at this blog over 2015-16. Here is list of all those posts.

At the end of each post we give a link to where you can find the audio and full written version of the sermon, should you wish to do so. Jeff Crippen is the pastor of Christ Reformation Church Tillamook, Oregon, and was co-leader of this blog until he resigned from co-leadership in late 2017. He is still a full time pastor at CRC Tillamook.

We did not reproduce the entire written text of each sermon. Where we use some exact text from the sermon, it is in black. Where we summarize some of the sermon, or insert a comment that was not in the sermon, we made the text grey rather than black.

1 Wise as Serpents: Exposing Evil in its Practice 

2 Wise as Serpents: Evil Comes to Eden

3 Wise as Serpents: Light Comes into the World — and Evil Attacks

4 Wise as Serpents: Do You Want to be Healed? 

5 Wise as Serpents: Cain is Still With Us Today

6 Wise as Serpents:  Broadway is Evil

7 Wise as Serpents:  What Does Evil Look Like? 

8 Wise as Serpents: What Does the Holy Spirit Look Like?

9 Wise as Serpents: Evil is Among Us, Why are We Surprised?

10 Wise as Serpents: Innocent as Doves Does not Mean Ignorance of Evil 

11 Wise as Serpents: The Seductive Beauty of Evil

12 Wise as Serpents: Evil and the Road to Rome — Craving Power and Control

13 Wise as Serpents: The Consistent Motive of Evil is to Enslave

14 Wise as Serpents: Evil Always Distorts God’s Word

15 Wise as Serpents: Why Do We Keep Silent About Evil?

16 Wise as Serpents: Christ is Risen and Satan is Thrown out of Court

17 Wise as Serpents: “Keep it Secret, Keep it Safe” — Darkness and Secrecy are Part of the Very Essence of Evil

18 Wise as Serpents: Calling Evil Good, and Good Evil

19 Wise as Serpents — The Church’s Other Mission Field

20 Wise as Serpents: Increasing in the Wisdom and Knowledge of the Lord

21 Wise as Serpents: Grace is Not for Everyone

22 Wise as Serpents: Stop Being ‘Nice’

23 Wise as Serpents: Take the Lord’s Warnings About Evil Seriously

24 Wise as Serpents: Does the Christian Still Have an Evil Heart? 

25 Wise as Serpents: If the Word You are Hearing Does not Set You Free, it is not the Word of God

26 Wise as Serpents: The End of All Evil

For professionals who work in Domestic Abuse – (Don Hennessy series part 8)

It is difficult to imagine what it must be like living with a partner who wants to abuse you. (131*)

A client [of a counselor or helping professional] who is being abused is different from a non-abused client. She [usually] presents herself in the language of the abuser. She sees herself as inadequate and responsible. We will want to accept her explanation because it will make us feel useful. (156)

We need to recognise that ‘her analysis’ is his analysis. (102)

We do a huge disservice to these clients if we pathologize their persona and see them as unwell. (155)

Abused women were not different from non-abused women before the abuse started. To survive they try to forget and forgive. They want their relationship to work. They become both mother and slave to their abuser. (156)

I find it helpful to remind myself that my client is returning to a prisoner-of-war camp where she is being brainwashed into submission. (142)

She may not be able to think in terms of ‘choices’. (156)

Cover photo from Don Hennessy’s book “How He Gets Into Her Head”. The woman is in her bathrobe. The shadow on the wall is the man standing over her.

When we meet a woman who is being controlled by a psychephile we need to react in the same way as we would if we encountered a child being abused by a pedophile. We need to take charge of her safety. We are being less than helpful if we send her back to him with options and suggestions which are beyond her power to consider. (155)

The constant access to her inner world allows the abuser to invade her psyche. Once inside, the skilled offender will begin to dismantle her own emotional defences. He will identify and destroy whatever it is that the woman uses to shield her own emotional life. (131)

He will then infect her inner world with his own virus. This virus is implanted in secret. It is similar to other viruses in that it removes her ability to protect herself from being infected by him.
Because she does not know what he is doing she is constantly trying to deal with the effects of this virus without knowing she has it.
It is impossible to explain what it is like to have emotional immune deficiency when you don’t know what has caused it and how the virus entered your system. This deficiency removes her capacity to protect her own emotions and allows the psychephile to invade her inner life. (131-2)

By invading her thought process he can manipulate her strengths to keep her controlled. (132)

This reminds me (Barb) of what Evan Stark wrote in his book Coercive Control :  “If abusive relationships were filmed in slow motion, they would resemble a grotesque dance whereby victims create moments of autonomy and perpetrators ‘search and destroy’ them.”

The target woman ends up feeling like her head is cabbaged with the abuser’s contradictory messages and demands

Dear readers: if any of you have graphic design skills and want to create a graphic/diagram of a brain crammed with the messages that skilled offenders tell target women, I would appreciate it! Years ago I saw a graphic like that somewhere, but I’ve searched and searched and can’t find it. The image above is the best image I could find, but it’s not an image of a brain.

The psychephile’s ability to seduce her into believing that she can influence her experience is what keeps her in a constant state of alert. (132)

We may be contaminated by her fear. (156)

Every abused woman needs to find her own path to personal integrity. (156)

The idea that an hour of talk therapy will counteract the ongoing effects of brainwashing is misguided, even when our clients seem to want to try. (129) 

…many of the skilled offenders relish the idea of their partner seeking help for her problem. They can use this information to emphasise that she is the one with the problem. They can increase their criticism of her because she remains inadequate in spite of the best efforts of the counselor. (129) 

Talk therapy will not counter ongoing brainwashing. We must first find a way to protect her mind. She has been invaded by a ‘virus’ that has destroyed her emotional boundaries. (156)

The use of a brainwashing scale may indicate to the woman the extent of his tactics. … She may be relieved to realise that she is not going mad. (156)
[At the end of
How He Gets Into Her Head, Hennessy has given the brainwashing scale he created.]

“The most important thing you do is not condemn her,” says Hennessy. “You don’t make it her problem. Talking to her about her isn’t a good idea; rather, you talk to her about him. I’d approach it as, ‘you’re a great girl to be able to cope with a man like that. As far as I’m concerned, this is what he is doing’.”  independent.ie article by Irish journalist Tanya Sweeny

Advise the target woman not to reveal her inner life and emotions to the abuser

What can be really useful for our client is if she can develop the practice of not revealing [to her abuser] her inner life and the emotions that are evoked by the abuser. (148)

Proverbs 23:9 gives similar counsel: Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of your words. 

When King Saul was smouldering with resentment against young David and had already attempted to kill him at least twice, David knew it was wise to keep his real thoughts and feelings hidden from Saul (1 Samuel 20). 

When Nehemiah and the Jews were rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem and Sanballat was trying to stop them, Nehemiah refused to speak to Sanballat and his allies. (Nehemiah 6 )

Just like Nehemiah, the target woman can prudently and shrewdly not reveal her real thoughts to her abuser. The more she adopts that approach, the more she will be able to build the wall against his virus. 

We can encourage our clients to desist from revealing the effects on them of any particular behaviour by the offender. We can encourage our clients to see the effects as planned. This planning is a consequence of the stored information that has been gleaned from the target woman. … We [counselors] can never trivialise the behaviour unless we are sure that its effects are trivial. (148)

The practice of ‘keeping one’s cards close to one’s chest’ … begins to change the monologue that goes on in the mind of the target woman. She stops analysing how he might react to any opinion she might have about her life or her relationship. She can gradually restore her ability to examine these thoughts and ideas against her own criteria and value system. She can allow the voice of her instincts, quietened for so long by her abuser, to be heard again inside her head. (149)

When she begins to diminish the power of his voice in her head she will develop the capacity to make decisions that are unique to her. (151)

I have told many of my clients not to talk to or listen to their abusive partners. This instruction is anathema to most counselors and especially to couples therapists. (151)

The Bible confirms that Don Hennessy is right to advise victims of intimate partner abuse to not talk to or listen to their abuser.

Here is what the Bible says:

But understand this: In the last days terrible times will come. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, without love of good, traitorous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. Turn away from such as these!

They are the kind who worm their way into households and captivate vulnerable women who are weighed down with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men oppose the truth. They are depraved in mind and disqualified from the faith. But they will not advance much further. For just like Jannes and Jambres, their folly will be plain to everyone.
(2 Timothy 3:1-9, Berean Study Bible)

Who were Jannes and Jambres? Exodus 7:1-13 narrates how Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh saying, “God says: let my people go!” and Pharaoh’s sorcerers resisted Moses. We know from the above passage in 2 Timothy that those sorcerers were called Jannes and Jambres. Using their magic arts, the two Egyptian magicians counterfeited some of the miracles which Moses and Aaron did before Pharaoh. The magicians had no respect for the true and living God, but they were well practiced in the magic of deception.

And just like those Egyptian magicians, skilled sexual offenders down the ages have skilfully manipulated society – including counselors and clergy – to accept part if not all of their explanation of what is going on. Whether they be intimate partner abusers (psychephiles), or pedophiles, or are perpetrators of both of those sins, they have skillfully manipulated society to accept their explanations.

And going by what I have heard from our readers at this blog and from other victim-survivors and advocates, many of these men are abusing their wives as well as viewing child porn, if not also committing skin-to-skin sexual crimes against children.

Christian counselors and clergy should know better! The Bible instructs Christians in no uncertain terms: turn away from the kind of men described in 2 Timothy 3. Avoid themHave nothing to do with them!

Many of the clients I have worked with have become expert in hiding their thoughts from most people and revealing them only to those who can respect them. Some of my clients who have had a series of abusive partners have been slow to discern the difference. (152)

I dearly hope Leslie Vernick reads Don Hennessy’s book. Leslie is a christian counselor who encourages wives in destructive marriages to work on building their “C.O.R.E.” [her acronym] so they can “give direct and specific feedback to that their attitudes and behaviors are hurtful, sinful and destructive.” (The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, p 156)In my opinion, this counsel from Leslie Vernick can put abused women into greater danger.

UPDATE (March 5, 2018).  I want to slightly amend the last two sentences I wrote. Here is the amended version. It is indented from the left margin.  The changes and additions are shown in purple.

Leslie is a christian counselor who encourages wives in destructive marriages to work on building their “C.O.R.E.” [her acronym] so they can confront their husbands and give “direct and specific feedback that their attitudes and behaviors are hurtful, sinful and destructive.” (The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, p 156)In my opinion, this counsel from Leslie Vernick can put abused women into greater danger.

Leslie does tell her readers: 

If your husband has physically abused you or has threatened to hurt you or your children, it is not safe to confront him without another person present. It may be dangerous for you to confront him at all. Please consult with an expert in safety planning  from one of the resources I have given you in appendix A or your local domestic-violence shelter … you may find that the next step is filing for a protection from abuse order and separating, not confronting.” (148)

However, in my view Leslie’s caveat is not strong enough. Research shows that some victims are killed by their abuser when there has not been ONE previous incident of physical violence before the lethal assault. 

I also know women who were physically assaulted by their husbands but had blocked it out of their memory; such women they would read Leslie’s caveat and think it didn’t apply to them.  

And Leslie’s caveat did not mention sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is one of the high-risk indicators for the dangerousness of the abuser in domestic abuse cases. 

Furthermore, most victims are very reluctant to seek help from a secular service shelter or the DV professionals who work in Women’s Centres. In my observation, many victims underestimate their level of danger in the early to middle stages of coming out of the fog. Leslie’s advice for them to get safety planning advice from a professional is probably not going to be taken up by many of the women who read her book looking for solutions to what they think of as their ‘marriage problem’.

Back to Don Hennessy —

 I don’t believe that any skilled offender I have met is helpless when it comes to his bad behaviour. (161)

I have met some violent men who are psychiatrically ill or who carry some neurobiological injury but their partners do not suffer the initial brainwashing tactics. The women who are in relationship with these men are able to make clear and definite decisions about whether to stay or to leave. (161)

But when I work with psychephiles I have believed from the outset of my work that every abuser who is capable of setting up and maintaining an abusive relationship is equally capable of immediately stopping his abuse. (161)

The Bible says a man of violence entices his neighbor, and leads him in a way that is not good. (Proverbs 16:29)

Sometimes I get tricked into believing that the skilled offender will accept my agenda and will work diligently at my behest to remain non-abusive. What I have come to learn slowly and painfully is that my efforts have little or no impact on the attitudes and beliefs of the skilled offenders I have met. (161) 

I do not know of any current perpetrator program that challenges the tactics of targeting, setting-up and grooming that all skilled offenders use to establish and maintain sexual dominance over their partner. (164)

Some unskilled offenders who have not developed the ability to target, set-up and groom may be persuaded to find a more respectful way to develop a relationship. These are men whose entitlement is not expanded by the repetition of indulgence. (172)

But the skilled offender, the psychephile, operates at a different level and has remained hidden from most of the literature. … Until we are ready to see beyond the explanation of power and control we will continue to miss the force of his entitled lust. This force, which can sometimes be dismissed as passion, is not related to another human being but is totally absorbed in the ego of the skilled offender. This force can best be described as evil. (173)

Anyone who has tried to work with a group of these skilled offenders will have felt the force of this evil. Every target woman knows that the seduction that cloaks this evil is the pretence of affection and appreciation. (173)

His speech was smoother than butter,
But his heart was war;
His words were softer than oil,
Yet they were drawn swords. (Psalm 55:21)

In his role as clinical director of the Irish National Domestic Violence Intervention Agency, Don Hennessy addressed an Irish parliamentary joint committee on domestic and sexual violence in 2013. (link)  Here are some of the things he said in his submission:

 After many years of working with offenders [in the Cork Domestic Violence Project]…we failed to meet one offender who really wanted to become non-violent.

We met plenty of men who wanted to avoid the consequences of their actions, who did not want their relationship to break down and who did not want their crime to become known outside the family.

We also met a few men who had been exposed to the sanction of a court order and wanted to use our service to avoid further sanction, but not one of the offenders in question ever came to us and admitted what they had done.

Not one of them explained their behaviour in a way that did not offer an excuse.

…in our 15 years’ experience [I think Hennessy is referring here to the Cork Relationship Counselling Centre] the intensity and severity of the violence have increased.

[In our work at the Irish National Domestic Violence Intervention Agency] what we have discovered is that at every level of engagement, the offender pressures the system into minimising its response.

Because each element of the system operates independently, this pressure will expose some weakness in the chain of response and the offender will escape through this weak point.

The result of such an escape is to confirm in the mind of the offender the belief he is entitled to do what he does and that he will suffer no great consequence, even when some of his behaviour is exposed. This escape will confirm in the mind of the victim that the system is unable to prioritise her safety. It will also confirm in the minds of other victims the futility of approaching the system in the first place.

This heightened risk is unrecognised in the system. In human terms, each person in an agency will want to believe what he or she does is helpful or neutral.

We have learnt from judges, call-takers, social workers and refuge workers the extraordinary power of the offender to manipulate the system. A clear understanding has also emerged that we are dealing with serious crime. We now regard our work as homicide prevention.

I hope Chris Moles reads this post, and I hope he also reads Don Hennessy’s book. In my opinion, Chris is teaching a much more biblical and balanced understanding of complementarianism than most complementarian teachers have displayed. But I have concerns about some other things which Chris is teaching the christian counselling community regarding how to work with men who are domestic abusers.


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

*Unless otherwise indicated, all 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 book Steps to Freedom has just come out! That link goes to the publisher, Liberties Press, Dublin.  It may take a few days before it shows on other book retailer sites. Don says this book 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.

For further study:

Two articles which canvass how not to reveal one’s real thoughts or feelings to one’s abuser:

Stop Being ‘Nice’ which is part of Ps Jeff Crippen’s Wise as Serpents series.

The Gray Rock Method (or, the Grey Rock Method)

The Levite’s Concubine – my video which examines the story from the Bible which illustrates how a male intimate abuser recruits male allies in society so he can avoid being sanctioned.

Respecting and Listening to Victims of Violence: A Handbook for those who are supporting those who have been abused by an intimate partner – by Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter

Honouring Resistance: How Women Resist Abuse in Intimate Relationships – by Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter.

Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals about our Everyday Deceptions, by Stephen L. Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde (Henry Holt and Company, 2010). This book is recommended by Pastor Jimmy Hinton.
Jimmy’s father, John Hinton, was a pastor and active pedophile for decades and like all serial pedophiles was adept at selecting and targeting both his child victims and the adults whom he would select and groom and enlist to be either his unwitting enablers — adults he could put under his spell so they didn’t have the confidence to voice their discomfort with his behavior. In 2011, Jimmy and his mother Clara Hinton reported Jimmy’s father to the police for child molestation. Jimmy’s father is now serving a very long prison sentence for crimes against children.


Society has been hoodwinked by men who abuse their female intimate partners (Don Hennessy series part 7)

The psychephiles who befriend women in order to abuse them in long-term relationships have hoodwinked us all.

Skilled offenders are clever enough to be ahead of all of us and to be able to orchestrate our responses at every turn.  (How He Gets Into Her Head by Don Hennessy, p 100 [affiliate link*] ) 

The Bible talks about this very same thing —

The instruments of the rogue are evil;
he devises wicked schemes
to destroy the poor with lying words,
even when the needy speaks right. (Isaiah 32:7)

They [the wicked rogues] speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage. (Jude 1:16b)

Don Hennessy says:

We [counselors and other professionals] have all failed our clients to the extent that we have failed to understand what is really going on. (How He Gets Into Her Head, 83)

The process of being groomed by a skilled offender will begin as soon as we meet him or take a phone call from him. (157) 

As a society we have already been groomed into an attitude of tolerance and this tolerance is used by the abuser to justify his continued abuse. … His experience of us is such that he believes he can manipulate any agency or individual into accepting his position. (120) 

He knows above all else that we as a community will accept part if not all of his explanation. (158)

One of the most powerful and commonly used tactics of skilled offenders is to get us to focus on what he describes as the difficult tactics of his partner. By doing so he hopes that we can find ourselves feeling sorry for anyone who would have to put up with such behaviours from a spouse.
If his listener is male or female he will emphasise the points he feels will most impress his audience. If his audience is high up on the hierarchy of power he may use our sense of rights and entitlements. If he is talking to a social worker or counselor he may emphasise his childhood experiences. As a man I have often been invited to acknowledge that I would probably do the same if I was married to his wife. He is expert at seeking sympathy from the listener. He will relate how all of these issues are used by the target woman to deprive him of the peace and contentment he both desires and deserves. (158-9)

While listening to these conversations we need to remind ourselves that all abusers lie a lot. They will always minimise and deny past behaviours. They will exaggerate or concoct appropriate childhood experiences. They will emphasise their partner’s weaknesses. They will create scenarios which are totally inaccurate. (159)

The Bible confirms what Hennessy says about these skilled offenders:

The mouth of the wicked conceals violence (Proverbs 10:11b)

They pour forth words, they speak arrogantly;
All who do wickedness vaunt themselves. (Psalm 94:4)

Hennessy says that even when women’s agencies receive funding to support female victims of domestic abuse, the skilled male offenders are relatively okay with that … because it keeps everyone’s eyes off what they are actually doing.

It is really in the best interests of the psychephile to promote and fund any response which avoids identifying his hidden tactics. It is also in his best interest to encourage us to develop responses to his crime that avoid holding him accountable. (100)

The skilled offender will distract us from his offending. He will not reveal his mind control tactics. (101)

He will encourage all of us to expend our energies in trying to understand him. Like all other sex offenders, the psychephile, the skilled offender, will deny his ultimate goal. This goal is the facility to have his sexual needs met without negotiation. (98)

While we are talking his language and playing his game he will continue to win. (100) 

We need to acknowledge that our clients, ourselves and the wider community have been hoodwinked into the wrong discussion. (98)

Society’s response to the domestic abuser is inadequate

The majority of Christians know that one of the sins of Sodom was rapacious homosexuality. But far fewer Christians know that the city of Sodom was condemned for other sins as well:

This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. (Ezekiel 16:49)

The way our societies have responded to victims of domestic abuse is a powerful example of how our communities has replicated that sin of Sodom – the failure to help the poor and needy, especially the victims of intimate partner abuse.

It was more than likely that it was an abuser who first said it was only a slap. It was the system that decided that only a slap didn’t require an intervention. The people who wanted to help the woman tried to record the slap as part of a greater problem. It was the response of the support sector to document and present the repeated nature of these slaps in order to move the system from a position of indifference to one of action.
The whole community began to debate the physical aspects of the abuser’s behaviour. The debate became one of reciprocal physical violence. The language of violence, the description of its extent, the response of the target and the minimising of its effects informed our overall response.
This response was the one that was intended by the skilled offenders. As soon as they had distracted us, as soon as they had invited us onto their pitch, they knew that by and large they could beat us at their own game. (84)

Our judicial system has frequently excused the most abusive of behaviours because they were presented as the response to legitimate requests that were not met. (136)

Here are a few of the old mantras and ‘legitimate requests’ that are often used by men who abuse their wives to justify very abusive behaviors. Some of the mantras are particularly used by so-called Christians.

  • “A man’s home is his castle.”
  • “A man deserves his dinner on time.”
  • “A wife should keep a clean and tidy house for her husband.”
  • “A red-blooded man has the right to regular sex from his wife.”
  • “Every child needs a father.”
  • “A father has the right to see his kids.”
  • “All sinners are the same. All of us are just as guilty as an abuser.”
  •  “Clergymen know how to interpret scripture correctly; clergymen’s wives and the other folks in the pews are not so good at interpreting scripture.”
  • “The husband is priest in the home – a mediator of God to his wife and children.”
  • “The Bible says a man is to ‘possess’ his wife, so a wife has no right to say no to sex.”
  • “God hates divorce.”
  • “Marriage displays God’s covenant-keeping love to the church. If a Christian seeks divorce, they are giving a bad witness to the world because they are not ‘displaying the gospel’.”

Under the banner of family values, abusive men have lobbied governments to make laws that lead to shared parenting as the usual outcome in divorce. At the same time, abusive men have worked very hard to distract society from paying attention to how unfair it is on the children for these men to abuse the children’s mothers.

Men who specialize in abusing their intimate female partners always sabotage the mother’s attempts to protect her kids and raise them as human beings of good character. Abusive men have sometimes been successful in getting full custody of their kids after divorce by convincing the courts to deem the protective mother as mentally unstable and thus an unfit parent. Particularly in the USA, the skilled offenders have managed to get family court and allied professionals to believe the junk science concept of “Parental Alienation Syndrome” (PAS). See here and here for more info on PAS.

Abusive men have spread many myths about domestic abuse to distract society from the obvious moral truth that men who repeatedly and intentionally abuse their wives and children have forfeited their right to continue to claim their rights as husbands and fathers.

Those who seek my life lay snares for me;
And those who seek to injure me have threatened destruction,
And they devise treachery all day long. (Psalm 38:12)

The psychephile is not afraid of our judicial system. He believes that he can establish a hierarchy of rights within the courts which will protect his sexual entitlement. (136)

The idea that Rape Crisis Centres and Domestic Violence Services serve a different population of women is one that is promoted by abusive men. (136)

The distinction between stranger rape and intimate rape serves the interests of the skilled offender. He will always want to separate himself from other abusers and he will never see himself as a rapist. (137)

I once presented a scenario to a group of judges at a seminar.
In the imaginary scene a woman was before the court looking for a barring order. She told the court that her husband had threatened to kill her every night before she went to sleep. What he had actually said was that she would end up floating in a canal just like a friend of hers who had drowned the previous year.
The woman was terrified.
The judges, based on their long experience of listening to skilled offenders, declined her application on the grounds that the offender probably didn’t mean what he said.
Their conclusion accurately reflected the explanation given by all skilled offenders when confronted with such a challenge. [e.g. “Your Honour, I don’t remember telling her she would end up with her dead body floating in the canal, but even I if I did say that to her, I didn’t really mean it.”]
Regrettably, the skilled offender almost always means what he says. He is so aware of the terror he can generate that he is always aiming his remarks at aspects of her life that cause her anxiety. (95)

Skilled offenders have infiltrated all our agencies and institutions

Do not take my soul away along with sinners,
Nor my life with men of bloodshed,
In whose hands is a wicked scheme,
And whose right hand is full of bribes. (Psalm 26:9-10)

Skilled offenders have infiltrated all our agencies and institutions. They are in governments and churches. They are among our legislators and civil servants. They are appointed as judges and senior policemen. They exploit their roles so that the idea that they might be psychephiles would be difficult to accept. These apparently good men are seldom sanctioned by the community. … As a society we need to accept that all the external good works are wasted if they come at the expense of the integrity of another person. (175)

The real achievement of skilled offenders is that they have managed to adapt their tactics to fit the culture of the society that we live in. Hierarchical institutions, both lay and clerical, profess a strong desire to treat men and women equally. Yet at every level of western society we find gender-based anomalies which guarantee that women as a class will always be treated as inferior. This guarantee is essential for the skilled offender as it reassures him that, even if he is occasionally challenged, the likelihood of him being sanctioned is extremely remote. It further reassures him that even if he is sanctioned, he can renew his abuse either with his current partner or a new partner. (101) 

The possibility of the same skilled abuser being sanctioned twice is extremely remote. (101) 

Because their agenda is to be in charge, if they are sanctioned once, they become ever more cautious about being exposed. Their desire to avoid exposure or sanction can make leaving a relationship with one of these men a time of high risk for the woman. An indication that the target woman might not be sexually available has led some of these men to murder the woman. (101) 

We need to remind ourselves that all skilled offenders could kill. (102

Even though there is a lot of money being spent the problem isn’t improving for women as a class. … There is no point in building refuges and support services and not sanctioning the man. … It’s very difficult because these men are often extremely accomplished actors and when you bring them before the services they actually groom the people in the services as well and they come out getting their own way. (source)

We need to explore ways to redefine the problem. It may be far more effective to diagnose the issue if we can establish how the skilled offender operates. It may be of greater relevance if we can measure the problem in terms of its effects. It will be of invaluable service if we begin to talk about the real intention of the skilled abuser. If we are to begin to measure the effects of his behaviour, we will need to expand our research to help explain how a decent and capable young woman becomes a confused, frightened or angry woman. When we are close to accurately explaining this process we will be in a better position to talk to the next generation about how to avoid being in an abusive relationship.  (99-100) 

The idea of male sexual entitlement is shrouded in the myths of secular and religious thought about the survival of the species. Men have always put forward the fundamental position that their lust is justified in the noble task of generating offspring. [But]…the propagation of the species is a cooperative venture and must be shared by both male and female. … Sadly, many men behave in ways around their sexual entitlement that would not be acceptable in the animal kingdom. (120)

This sense of male superiority that permeates all our institutions is the breeding ground for much of the male entitlement that emerges in an abusive intimate relationship. (121)

We are no nearer achieving sexual justice for a large number of women in our communities than we were fifty years ago. We are no nearer holding skilled offenders to account than we were twenty years ago. We are no nearer challenging the priority of male sexual rights than we were a thousand years ago. (121)

The Bible confirms that this priority of male sexual rights has prevailed since time immemorial. The story of The Levite’s Concubine in the Bible illustrates how a male intimate abuser in ancient Israel recruited 400,000 male allies so he could avoid being sanctioned.

Sexual equality is the right of every woman in an intimate relationship. If we ignore or dismiss this right we ignore the soul of that woman. (121)

I will end this post by reminding us of some words of wisdom from the prophet Isaiah:

They trust in confusion and speak lies;
They conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity.
They hatch adders’ eggs and weave the spider’s web;
He who eats of their eggs dies,
And from that which is crushed a snake breaks forth.
Their webs will not become clothing,
Nor will they cover themselves with their works;
Their works are works of iniquity,
And an act of violence is in their hands.
Their feet run to evil,
And they hasten to shed innocent blood;
Their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity,
Devastation and destruction are in their highways.
They do not know the way of peace,
And there is no justice in their tracks;
They have made their paths crooked,
Whoever treads on them does not know peace.
Therefore justice is far from us, 
And righteousness does not overtake us;
We hope for light, but behold, darkness,
For brightness, but we walk in gloom.
We grope along the wall like blind men,
We grope like those who have no eyes;
We stumble at midday as in the twilight,
Among those who are vigorous we are like dead men.
(Isaiah 59:4-10)


If you are an atheist or agnostic reading this post, you may think you know all about Christianity and have rejected it all as a load of garbage. But there is strong likelihood that you have formed a view of Christianity from what pseudo-Christians have said and done. Some of the things pseudo-Christians have said and done have been lousy, and some have been absolutely horrendous and evil! I commend you for rejecting the false versions of Christianity. And I would like to invite you to examine what the Bible, God and Jesus have actually said. I encourage you to watch Religion is for fools — these YouTube videos are very easy to watch, I promise you.

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

Unless otherwise indicated, all 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 published very soon – on March the 1st, 2018. The publisher is Liberties Press, Dublin.  Don says this book 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.

Related articles:

God hates divorce? Not always.

Traditions of Men Have Largely Consumed the Evangelical Church and are Causing Widespread Suffering


Tend the Sheep — sermon by Ps Sam Powell

Tend the Sheep
1 Peter 5: 1-4 NKJV
by Ps Sam Powell

The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed:  Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly;  nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock;  and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.

You can listen to the sermon by clicking on the link above.


Further Reading

The Scattering of the Lord’s Sheep by False Shepherds

False Shepherds Discourage the Righteous and Encourage the Wicked

When Our Shepherds Go Wrong, We are in Big Trouble


Re-offending: the increasingly dangerous culminating phase in male intimate abuse (Don Hennessy series part 6)

The skilled offender becomes progressively more abusive the longer he maintains control over his target woman. This is a truth universally acknowledged by those who have professional or long-term personal experience in the dynamics of domestic abuse.

For their hearts are like an oven
As they approach their plotting;
Their anger smolders all night,
In the morning it burns like a flaming fire. (Hosea 7:6)

I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter;
And I did not know that they had devised plots against me (Jer. 11:19a) 

… she is completely powerless as to the level of abuse she is receiving. He dictates, he measures… she has no control over that at all. Even if she went along with all of his wishes he could still be abusive the next day.
Men who abuse women ‘use the same tactics as pedophiles and I’ve never met one who wanted to change’

The ability of the skilled offender to return the relationship to the status quo means that his demands increase without any limiting factors. As this cycle repeats itself the offender grows more confident in his ability to gain a response to his demands. He is reconfirmed in his belief that he will suffer little or no consequences for his behaviour. (111)

Some skilled offenders act out their controls in different ways. Some operate a system of intense monitoring. Others leave the target woman free until they have a need. But both types are violent if their demands are resisted. Both types can be lethal if their demands are regularly refused. Psychephiles may also become more dangerous if they feel that there is a possibility that they will be exposed. (111-112)

Any attempt [by the woman] to elicit support from her abuser will also lead to an increased risk of abuse and violence. (114)

Re-offending occurs when the target woman tries to establish her right to negotiate. Target women who no longer try to establish this right may no longer experience overt abuse. (112)

I encourage you to read the above two sentences over again. They express a truth which most well-known Christian teachers on marriage have failed to recognise.

Some of the people who are have failed to recognize this truth are Debi Pearl, Mary KassianNancy DeMoss-WolgemuthWayne GrudemStormie Omartian creators of “The Love Dare”John PiperDesiring God,  John MacArthurCBMWVoddie BauchamEmerson Eggerichs and Lori Alexander.

The majority of  ‘c’hristian teachers and preachers on marriage have abysmally failed to recognize or understand the tactics used by men who abuse their wives. Men who abuse their female intimate partners  — psychephiles — have succeeded in shaping and manipulating the ideas that most bible-believing Christians have about marriage.

Most of the leaders in the “conservative evangelical church” who are teaching about marriage are teaching wives to voluntarily submit to their husbands. That teaching is fine…if the husband is not a psychephile, not an abuser. But if the husband is a psychephile, that teaching stymies the target woman whom the psychephile has targeted and groomed. It stymies her in a terrible dilemma of conscience. It compounds and prolongs the abuse she will suffer under her abusive husband. It enables the abusive husbands. It crushes the souls of the women who have been targeted by psychephiles.

Many of my clients are totally compliant and resist seeing themselves as battered or abused women. These women have had their instincts silenced and are living their lives under the baton of their abusers. (112)

But the target woman who tries to negotiate or resist will always find herself being put under some pressure and fear. If she continues to resist she may be assaulted. If she declines sexual intimacy she may be coerced or forcibly raped. (112) 

In this chapter [on re-offending] and in the chapter on offending I have deliberately resisted going into detail about the physical assaults that reinforce the emotional and spiritual attacks. This is because abusers have concentrated on the issue of blows and kicks in a way which has allowed men to claim that women are equally violent. The issue of intimate male abuse is much more than physical assault. (122)

Most women keep secret the truly awful experiences of the bedroom

Hennessy describes a case of a husband and wife who were both involved in the Cork Domestic Violence Project. Initially the wife had come seeking help for her husband. He eventually came and enrolled for the men’s group. Both partners remained in regular contact with the project over the next two years. The wife (the client) was regularly interviewed alone by the project workers to establish her level of risk and the history of the relationship. It had been an extremely physically violent relationship. She also attended their women’s support group.

When the two years’ work was complete we were reassured by both partners that violence had waned and our client was no longer afraid. We congratulated ourselves on our success. (113)

Some years later we invited our client to give some testimony about the influence of the project on her life. While she was living in greater freedom, she explained that what had most influenced her husband’s behaviour was the repeated threat by her three sons to expose him publicly if he was violent to her again. (113)

But as the interview developed it emerged that she was now prepared to talk about the sexual degradation and rape that was a constant part of her married life. Even though she had an intense and active connection with the project for two years, she had kept secret the truly awful experiences of her bedroom. (113)

… She described graphically the inhuman sexual activity that her husband forced on her. She spoke for more than ten minutes without interruption. She told us more in those ten minutes than in all the interviews and counseling sessions that she had attended. While reviewing this tape I began to realise that our clients could not speak of their sexual exploitation either while it was continuing or for some time after it had stopped. (113)

This encouraged me to re-interview some of my previous clients. These interviews confirmed that my clients had hidden their sexual history while working with the project. It also confirmed that my clients believed they should have a tolerance for sexual exploitation. This tolerance is supported by the communal attitude of ‘making your bed and lying in it’. (113)

Only very skilled counselors will even approach the extent of sexual coercion and rape that exists in these relationships. (115)

In such an intense and unequal relationship it becomes inevitable that the most intimate ideas and opinions that a woman has about her sexuality are not respected. (116)

Gradually, the woman begins to accept his interpretation of conjugal rights. She becomes convinced, as women have in every other generation, that male conjugal right have precedence over female conjugal rights. (116)

Biblical truth check:  The apostle Paul denounced the idea that male conjugal rights take precedence. In 1 Corinthians 7:4 he wrote that the wife has just as much authority as the husband in the marriage bed. (See my article Saying no to sex with one’s spouse)

Hennessy concludes his chapter on re-offending with an account of an abuser who was – wait for it – a pillar of his local church.

Paul was one of the most dangerous men I have met in my work to date. He was a successful business man, a community activist and a pillar of his local church. (122)

I don’t have space to relay the whole account; I can only encourage you to get Hennessy’s book and read it for yourself. The account Hennessy gives of this abuser Paul reminds me of Ps Jeff Crippen’s article Why the “Christian” Abuser is the Worst Kind.


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

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.