Being a perpetrator of abuse is hard work. Despite having a reputation for not being able to control their violence, the opposite is actually true; perpetrators exercise extreme control. That’s their M.O. So, they plan; they make conscious choices to be violent, so they can stay in control and dominate; then, they execute. Here’s a bit of a perp play by play. Be warned, it’s a bit brutal- not physically brutal, but brutally revealing about how much manipulation, coercion and mind-fucking a perps use.
Courtesy, charm, and charisma
Charisma and charm are what gets you in the door. You have to plan this. If you are abusive straight up, you won’t be able to suck anyone into your web of control and domination. Deception is key. You must appear to be super sweet, caring, charming- and maybe you really are some of these things. But not always, and not for long.
Overstep the line
This requires a bit of planning too, because if it seems too ridiculous or if you take it too far too early, she will see right through it and run for the hills. You need to pick a strategy that you can easily justify (with your own logic, of course). Maybe something like demonstrating extreme jealousy, or check up on her way more than would be considered normal. Start small (ish).
Pretend you only did it because you “care so much”
Ok, now it’s time for the rubber to hit the road. Excuse or justify your actions by explaining how deeply you care for her. Like, she’s probably never had anyone care about her so much that they would look out for and worry for her this much, so really- she’s just not used to being so cared for and getting so much attention. But that’s how much you care. You would move mountains just to know she was ok; even if you’ve already checked in on her 14 times, in 3 hours. Legit.
More courtesy, charm, and charisma
Now that you’ve convinced her to rationalise your abuse with your excuses, pull out more of that old charm and charisma and work that into your regimen. Move fast if you want to establish that she belongs with you. She is your property after all, right?
More boundary breaches
Chuck in a few more boundary breaches for good measure. Depending at where you’re at in the relationship you might be able to scale up into larger, more invasive breaches, but make sure it’s something that you are able to craft an excuse for. Here are some ideas, but every context will be different, so try and choose something that will be just the right breach to keep your victim in line. Maybe you breach her privacy and read her emails and text messages without her consent; or maybe you hide something of hers that you know will upset her; maybe you make up a lie about her to a close family member- get creative here.
Once you’ve invaded her boundaries, be sure to convince her that they were unnecessary or unreasonable boundaries anyways, or that she deserved to have them breached. If you’re really good- you can try and convince her that the breach never actually occurred. Fuck with her mind! Make her think she’s paranoid; make her think she has trust issues; make her think she needs counselling! It will help you to maintain your control. Use your discretion- whatever is going to be the best strategy for your particular victim and circumstance.
Do something that deeply scares her
Ok, now you’re ready to pull out the big guns. You need to do something (or at least make her believe that you are capable of doing said thing) that deeply makes her fear for her safety, or even her life.
Or something like that. You can apologise, which might be effective depending on what you did, or you can try and justify, or make excuses for what you did, you could blame her for “making you do it,” or you could try and minimise the gravity of what you did; make her believe she’s blowing it out of proportion; she’s being unreasonable; she’s just a bit “nutty”.
Micromanage her life
Alright, now you need to make her acutely aware that YOU are in CONTROL. She is your prisoner/property. This one is a bit of a three-stepper.
- Enforce unreasonable “rules” that she must adhere to. Really ridiculous, unreasonable things like having to constantly check in with you before she does stuff/goes places, or having to account for every cent she spends, or only being able to dress a particular way, having to fold the towels a particular way- get creative about it.
- Now, leverage the fear you have created from the “doing something that deeply scares” her step. This will ensure she complies with all your weird-ass, ridiculous crap, because if she doesn’t, she knows what you are capable of.
- Be sure to change the “rules” on a whim and without letting her know. Act as if she should know.
Punish for non-compliance
Even though you’re holding the threat of enforcing the act of whatever it is that deeply scares her, over her head (which in most cases is enough to maintain control, if you’re sprinkling in acts of abuse here and there), you might still have to pull out the big guns once in a while.
Despite the stereo-types, victims aren’t passive agents. They actually always resist (in various ways- some less obvious then others), so you will need to work to overcome acts of resistance, in order to dominate and maintain control.
Progressively undermine her relationships
In order to maintain control, you must find a way to sabotage her relationships. Feed her lies about family/friends; punish her for visiting them; make your home hostile so they don’t want to visit; just find a way to make her feel isolated, like she’s all alone in the world, like you’re the only one that really cares about her.
Sprinkle in a few acts of kindness
This isn’t going to work if she can’t see any happy times at all, or hold out hope that things might get better. You must sprinkle in demonstrations of kindness, or days of relief. This will also help when you continually try to blame her for YOUR behaviour, or minimise the extent of your actions. If you can show her there are normal/nice days, and convince her that the abuse isn’t that big of a deal, or it’s her fault, by continuously fucking with her mind, then you are set. She will think she’s somehow responsible for your behaviour and keep trying to “get things right.” Or if you deny and minimise it enough, she might not even be able to recognise that what you are doing is abuse and that YOU are the source of the violence.
Abuse the victim relentlessly
Keep up the abuse. Remember to use different kinds (emotional, physical, spiritual, technology, sexual, etc) and different behaviours too, so that you can reinforce your eco-system of fear.
Make her think she’s crazy
We’ve already alluded to this a bit in some of the other points, but it’s important enough to warrant its own heading. You gotta make her think she’s losing her shit. At least a little. Shift the blame; pretend it didn’t happen; act like it’s no big deal; pretend she’s overreacting; make her think she’s paranoid. Maybe even convince her she needs counselling for her “problems”. Whatever works, right?
Abuse the victim relentlessly
An essential part of any domination strategy. Continue with your conscious, strategic and somewhat creative abusive behaviours. Remember what I said about having a broad cross-section of types and also utilising a repertoire of behaviours; you need to create a whole “eco-system of fear.”
Abuse the victim relentlessly
Keep it up.
Make other people think she’s crazy and make sure they know you’re a saint
Ok, now that you’re starting to convince her that she might be losing her shit, make sure that she has no credibility to the outside world as well. How to do this? Flex your deception muscles! Don’t be shy now, we know you’re the master of this. Put on a great guise, pull out your charisma and really play the husband/father of the year role. Really lay it on thick that you are Mr Right; act so attentive and charming to her in front of others. If you’re really good, you will be able to look super caring in front of others, while actually being abusive or threatening to her at the same time.
Example: because nobody knows your abuse patterns (except for her), if you see her talking to a male guest at a family BBQ and this is a trigger for you because you’re incredibly insecure about yourself, you could go up to her and say “honey, you look cold, do you want me to grab you a sweater?” and people will think you’re incredibly caring. But! Because she knows that you use physical abuse to “keep her in line” and often threaten that you will beat her so bad, she’ll need to wear a sweater for a month, you will scare the shit out of her, because she knows you are making a threat point-blank and she knows nobody will believe her if she says that your offer of getting her a sweater, was a threat. Doing things like this will make her look strange or paranoid, because her reaction won’t seem appropriate to your behaviour, so SHE will lose credibility. Nice work!
Abuse the victim relentlessly
Back to work. Spread that web of fear.
Pepper in some random kindness
Don’t forget to leave room for hope and sprinkles of normality.
Tap into your privileges and leverage that shit
This one is great! If you are a member of a dominant group in society or have some kind of privilege that she doesn’t have, leverage the shit outta that! For example, if you are a man and she is a woman- use that to your advantage, dude! Rely on societal injustices and prejudices towards women, to support your abuse. She’s a woman, so obviously, her place in society is to cater to your needs; do all the housework; be submissive; etc. Leverage the power of stereotypes and societal oppression to help you enforce your abusive behaviour and your sense of entitlement.
Well, more or less you’ve pretty much got it down-pat now. All you have to do is wash; rinse; and repeat. Good luck.
And that’s it folks
I told you it was going to be brutal. But I really wanted to communicate how far from “losing control” this type of violence really is, what it actually looks like, how deceptive and manipulative perpetrators can be, and how we as bystanders often get duped or even become complicit. Please note that every victim’s experience will be uniquely different and every perpetrator will rely on a different set of strategies.
Hey you! I’m Heidi. I’ve been working in the anti-violence against women sector as an educator, advocate and activist for the past 10 years. I work with survivors and advocates to ensure that their voices are heard in the development of policies, laws and programs, to overcome structural oppression and injustice. I’m a coffee addict and a social justice nerd and I’m here to help you become a sexual violence saboteur and a domestic violence disrupter.