Understanding and ending domestic violence

We are on day 3 of Women’s Aid’s 16 days to highlight and end violence against women and children. The statistics of women dying at the hands of a current or former partner are chilling.
In an attempt to gain an insight, I was recommended Don Hennessy’s book “How He Gets into Her Head – The Mind of the Intimate Male Abuser.”
It’s not a light, enjoyable read.
But it did give me a history of the author’s work with the Cork Domestic Violence Project, established in 1991, to intervene and help families where intimate abuse was a pattern.
The author has no hesitation in branding the behaviour of the men he studied as “evil”; a word that is very seldom heard in mainstream discourse today.
He describes a process of brainwashing that leaves the woman doubting her sanity: “skilled offenders have a talent for slightly adjusting the memory of any incident to their advantage. Target women begin to accept their abusers’ recall of events and to question their own memory. Gradually this apparent loss of memory may convince the woman that she is losing her mind. This process is more frightening for a woman than any physical assault.” p.38
“He has a sense of entitlement before he meets the woman. His entitlement is based on his belief in male sexual priority… This woman must put his needs before her own.” p.26
“I have never met a group of people more adept at acting the victim than the skilled abusers who are about to be found out.” p.52
“Years of professional therapy have been used by some skilled offenders to generate more reasons why they are abusive rather than any reason why they need to stop.” p.53
“The goal of all his tactics is to have his sexual needs met without negotiation. We need to remind ourselves that all skilled offenders could kill.” p.102
“The skilled offender knows that a positive social image is an invaluable asset in helping to avoid ever being challenged for his evil behaviour.” p.176
“Our tolerance of male sexual priority is underpinned by our culture. Male abusers support all interventions that do not challenge this priority.” p.219

Probably the stupidest, least informed question we ask is:
“There is an old Irish prayer that wishes that the person may be dead for a few weeks before the devil finds out that they are sick. My prayer for my clients is that if they are going to leave, they will have found a new security before their partner knows they have gone. Sadly prayer alone will not keep a target woman safe.” p.236
“He will threaten suicide or murder… Some of my clients have been murdered while attempting to withdraw from the intimacy that was expected of them.” p.236
So let’s stop playing the boring old tune, “blame the victim”.
We can do better.
We can ask:
Why do men hurt their partners?
“Being unable to understand does not excuse us from trying to protect.” p.126


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