BECOMING A “COMPLIANT VICTIM”
Summarized by Nancy Davis, Ph.D.
1. The man selects a woman who has low self-esteem. Previous theory blamed the victim for picking an abuser, but research shows it is the abuser who focuses on someone that is easy to manipulate and has problems with confrontation and anger. Often the woman was abused in some way as a child, making them more vulnerable to manipulation. Usually this woman has had a major loss or crisis shortly before meeting the man, making her less ‘on guard’ to manipulation and more needy. In many cases, the man picks a woman who loves children and pets; because he can threaten to hurt the things she loves to control her. Some men pick women who are successful and of higher status than they are as a challenge, because they like to “bring them down”.
2. When the relationship starts, the man does the following things to seduce her and assure that she comes to believe he is wonderful:
3. The woman falls in love. The women these men pick are generally those who have had problems with trust. Now she trusts him and is extremely vulnerable to manipulation. During the courting period, others may warn her that he is cruel or abusive, but she will not believe this since she is only seeing his loving side, which he is showing her to win her over. Her unconscious often warns her in some way that the man is evil (through dreams or thoughts that come into her head that he is evil) but she ignores this.
4. He gives her clues as to his real personality, but she ignores them. He often is much nicer to her in front of other people than he is when they are alone. He typically shows the woman his sadistic, abusive side on one occasion, to see what she will do. She tells herself that he was drunk or tired or upset, and his real personality is the sweet and loving one he has let her see. When he sees that he can con her and manipulate her belief systems and perceptions, he says something like, "Do you know what you're getting into?" "I'm really a terrible person" "I'm really evil". She, of course, responds, "No you're not, you're wonderful, you're good." If she sees signs of his evil side, she tells herself, "This isn't the real him". He then justifies his behavior, "I warned her and she's getting just what she deserves".
5. Once the man is sure of the relationship or he marries the woman, he then shapes her behavior by the use of positive reinforcement (gratitude, compliments, or attention) and negative reinforcement (pouting, ignoring, or rejection). He begins to show explosive anger or disapproval. He may tell her he is leaving her home “Until you get it right”, treating her like a child who must get his approval. Since she has only seen him acting in a pleasant and positive way, she believes the problem is with her. She is afraid of his anger and of confrontation and changes to keep his approval. She keeps waiting for the “real him” to return, i.e., the loving side that he used to con her into the relationship.
6. He isolates her from friends, family and people who work with her. He does this by making fun of her friends, acting in an offensive manner when friends visit, and/or constantly harassing her. "I just gave up...it wasn't worth putting up with him to have friends or call my family. He would go on for hours and just wear me down". Many of these men get the women to quit their jobs so that they are totally isolated from anyone who can give them support. He pulls her into his reality so that she believes what he tells her to believe. "He made me believe what was right was wrong and what was wrong was right".
7. He begins to tear down her self-esteem in the way that he once built it up. He makes her feel that she is an "inferior" human being and it is her fault that his behavior has changed. The woman usually believes that his behavior is her fault, “I thought he did things to me because I made him do things to me. If I was better or nicer, I told myself, he would stop hitting me. It was all my fault.” He is usually verbally abusive, physically abusive and sexually abusive. He feels he owns her just like he owns his car; his goal is control. As such, he may control what she wears, and if she works. He may tell her that she has to stand in a certain way when they are with other people, as a way of showing that he totally controls her. ("Hold your hands above your waist") These men tell the woman that they will never be able to leave the relationship...the more abusive may threaten to kill her if she leaves him (and, of course, some do kill them). He does not care how she feels about him as long as he owns and controls her. She is an object to control. He tells her that no one else will ever love her and makes her believe this so she thinks that she has no choice but to stay with him. He may threaten to torture or gut loved pets or children in front of her, if she tries to leave him.