February 24, 2018

Intimate Partner Abuse: profile of abusers

The Rob Tichener profile on The Archers (BBC Radio 4) has been carefully constructed. It accurately reflects the attitudes, controlling behaviour and motivation of many abusers. The way his long-term undermining of Helen left her confused, isolated and fearful was also the product of careful research and good script-writing. However, the plot was greatly helped by scripting the witness of Jess, Rob’s first wife, who changed not only the outcome of Helen’s trial for attempted murder, but Helen’s ability to walk away from the abuse, and begin life again. Many real-life victims don’t have access to previous partners, historical examples and other scenarios of abuse.


Although The Archers discloses a scenario found very often in domestic abuse situations, there are many other variations it can take. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 6 of  my book  Scars Across Humanity  (written, incidentally,  before the Rob-Helen development in The Archers) The chapter is titled: ‘Nowhere to run; nowhere to Hide.’

‘Abuse can begin at the start of a relationship, but it can also suddenly erupt after years spent together. It can occur in ‘forced’ marriages, where the woman has few legal rights or protection, or it can occur in relationships where the woman has chosen her partner and is ‘protected’ by the law. It can follow a generational pattern, where the abuser has grown up in a dysfunctional family or with a violent parent, but it can also begin without any previous family patterns of abuse. It can be affected by poverty and scarce resources, but also found in highly affluent contexts. It can be part of overall violence in society – war or tribal fighting – or it can occur in situations of peace and calm. It can be related to trigger points – unemployment, financial loss, depression – or it can come without warning. It can be accompanied by irritability and anger, or it can be a calculated and deliberate way of inflicting pain on another. It can be associated with alcohol or drug abuse, but be inflicted too by those who are stone cold sober. In short, domestic abuse covers so many multiple forms that even those who are enveloped within it do not always recognize it for what it is. At its core, it happens because an abusive person chooses to behave in a way that gives maximum power over the other. The abuser deliberately acts to dominate and control.


What are the signs?

We can see from the complexity of domestic abuse that it is difficult to construct a definitive list of signs that someone is a victim, whether that person is male or female. Because individuals may not identify their experiences at the hands of their partners as domestic violence, they may neither seek help nor realize help is available. Sometimes, an abusive person’s personal characteristics are exactly the same qualities that first attracted the partner. For example, a woman might initially regard a man who always wants to know where she has been as intensely romantic and loving. Only later, when she finds she cannot act or move without his supervision, does she realize she has become imprisoned by a controlling tyrant. There can also be a collusion of silence between both the violator and the victim, where the perpetrator lies to deny what is happening, and the victim hides the truth because of fear or shame. As Amy Buckley points out, the victim may defend the abuser, due to ‘fear, coercion, threats, denial, shame, [or] blame economic necessity and events relating to the cycle of abuse’. Sometimes, couples have become so skilled at playing ‘happy families’ that even close friends or relatives may not detect the real truth about the relationship.

Yet in relation to women’s experience of domestic abuse, there are patterns which constantly recur. An abuse victim often becomes isolated from family and friends. She may be jumpy or anxious in her partner’s company, or be reluctant, unable even, to speak for herself. She may have regular unexplained absences from work, have little access to money, and be cautious about having visitors at home. She might show little interest in her appearance, paying no attention to clothes or hair. Those around her may notice that her partner is constantly checking up on her – texting, phoning, interrogating – requiring her to answer his questions or meet his requirements. And, even though the abuser is careful to inflict wounds which cannot easily be detected, she may, of course, present inexplicable injuries, where explanations do not match the evidence.

If we try to draw up an accurate profile of a typical abuser we are beset with the same problems. For example, some violators do lose control very easily, and become caught up in demonstrations of anger which get completely out of hand. Often, a man will blame his partner for making him angry and out of control, and thereby bringing the problem on herself. He will deny that he is violent, or punitive, and assert that he is simply reacting to the situation his wife leaves him with. Yet although domestic violence often does build up in a crescendo, it has very little relation to the woman’s behaviour, for she is in a ‘no-win’ situation. The majority of perpetrators are not, in fact, men out of control, but are very much in control. They know exactly how to hurt their victim, how to inflict the maximum pain without detection. Women have come to clinics with their bodies covered with burns, yet largely hidden by clothing. Women have described how their throats have been squeezed almost to the point of asphyxiation, and then, as they were losing consciousness, released. Violent and brutal tactics employed by abusive men will be used regardless of whether they feel anger or not. Only rarely is domestic abuse simply an angry outburst; it is far more frequently a very deliberate choice to hurt, damage and control the other.’

The next posting: What might we learn from The Archers about what other people can do, and what to avoid?


Surviving Abuse – your stories

Scars Across Humanity posting 13

I am posting, with permission, two of the responses sent to me from readers of my page who have survived abuse. One,  in her 20s, wishes to remain anonymous; the other reflects as a mature priest and is happy to disclose her identity.  I hope they might encourage anyone who shares experiences – past or present – of violation.


My grandmother brought me up as my mother couldn’t ever really care for me – I just thought this was normal, that the oldest people in a family always looked after everyone else. I didn’t realize that my mother was a heroin addict until after she was dead. I loved my grandmother, and I know she loved me. She had to go into hospital for regular treatment and then I went into a temporary foster home, where the man was so nice to the social workers, but he was very nasty to us (there were other foster children). He would touch my body and I hated it. I never told my grandmother as I didn’t want to upset her. Because she was poorly a lot, I was also afraid the social workers might take me away from her if I complained. I think she fought to hang on to me. She died when I was 14 and it felt like the end of the world.  I ran away from the next foster home, and got into a lot of trouble. I suppose I was easy to spot as somebody who just wanted someone to love her. Boys took advantage of me, and I often ended up having sex. Looking back on it, I always said no, and tried to get out of the situation, but I still didn’t recognize that this was rape, or that I should report it to the police.

I had an abortion when I was 17, and cried for that baby for months afterwards. That baby needed me and I killed it.

I don’t want to talk about the next two years. Then a girl came for job experience to my works.  She was so friendly, and even though I was the lowest grade person there she chatted to me every day. I couldn’t believe it when she invited me to her house. And then again, a few days later.  The week she left, her family invited me to go with them to a Christian camping holiday. I went and saw a very different kind of life and very different kind of people. But it also churned something up inside me. It made me so angry about my life and my abuse. Anger took me over and I ended up shouting and screaming at these kind people instead of being grateful to them.  I don’t know why they persisted with me. But they did. After my friend went to college, I carried on going to their house. One day, her mother said they realized my life had been hard, and they wanted to help me find a very different future. She prayed out loud about it. I think I cried for hours. I don’t really know why. But when I finished crying, it all felt different.

I can’t explain it, but during those months with that family, I found that love was real and God is love. I think of God now as like my grandmother, but always there. He is like my friend’s mother, who didn’t give up on me.  I can talk and God listens. These great people were right about a different future. Things are very different. It’s not always easy, but I know I will never go back to the pain and heartache I once knew.

I would like to write a poem like the ones you posted, but I am still learning to express myself, and this is the best I can do.

Just tell people who read your book not to give up hope.

A friend



I share with you how traumatic events that I experienced during my teenage years crushed my spirit and damaged my soul. Years of sexual abuse by school teachers caused me to endure many, many wilderness years until I had my own Epiphany when in absolute desperation I cried out to God ‘ You take the reins, I have tried to live life my way and it hasn’t worked… make me well and I will do anything you ask’

Immediately I received a Divine Healing (not the first time I had experienced this) and over the next two years I became ‘A New Creation’….leading my dad to say to me….’I’ve got my daughter back…I lost my lovely girl 30 years ago’ During this time I learned to listen to God, to be open to the Holy Spirit and my soul was restored.

prayerI meet people who tell me how lucky I am to have faith and I remind them that faith is a free gift from God given to all but it is not always easy to receive. Hard hands find it hard….full hands find it hard…..for to receive the gift of faith we need open hands and an open heart.

For me faith was a growing awareness that there was a fleeting, flickering light in the depth of myself which I could not grasp. The fleeting light and sensation of something more were being hidden by years’ worth of emotions and abuse and I had to search hard behind these emotions until I made a startling discovery. When I learned to listen closely to myself I had to learn to accept myself. I discovered that I didn’t really like myself and I discovered that I was limited and unable to be or achieve all that I would like to have been and to be; I discovered a self that had not always been loved well and not always lived well. The old self was totally independent, didn’t need anyone else; it was a self that was unforgiving, a self that was jealous, possessive and controlling and incapable of allowing others to be truly free. (How do you know how to enable others to be free to be their God given selves if you have never been free to become the person God intended for you to be?) Part of the Christian journey is making this transition from old self to new self. …death of the old life and being born again…having to learn to shed the old ways…behaviour, attitudes and values. This conversion is a gradual process of turning towards God and of understanding ourselves.

My over-riding message is that with God nothing is impossible, Jesus is our personal saviour (the healer of our soul) and the Holy Spirit enables us to become that new creation, to become the person that God longs for us to be…the person God intended us to be, despite whatever happens to us along the way.

Revd Alison Wallbank

Surviving rape

Scars Across Humanity

Chapter 9 Rape 

After emails from a few people, in this posting I’d like to sound the more hopeful note, which ends the harrowing stories in the chapter on rape and the previous posting on rape culture.

‘For those still struggling with fear and defeat from sexual violation, words of survivors and activists bring support. I leave some of them with you now, in the hope that they might reassure those in pain that rape does not have the last word in their lives.

I survived this torture which left me paralysed for years. That’s what that night was all about, mutilation, more than violence through sex. I really do feel as though I was psychologically mutilated that night and now I’m trying to put the pieces back together again. Through love, not hatred. And through my music. My strength has been to open again, to life, and my victory is the fact that, despite it all, I kept alive my vulnerability.

Tori Amos

Refusing Hatred and Evil

And I have seen the ugly face of hatred
As it ripped my flesh and seared my soul
Mocking my refusal with malicious, brutal force.
But I am learning to erase that gaze
And seek instead the gentle face of love
Which stoops to soothe my fear with tender touch
And travels patiently in step with me
On the long journey towards peace.

Anon, Survivor’s workshop


Prophetic visions (Isaiah 61)

Woman walking through tunnel, rear view

Darkness lifts, and light beckons us on.

They speak of binding for the broken-hearted
Freedom for captives
Release for prisoners in darkness and confusion.
A crown of beauty instead of ashes
Oil of gladness instead of mourning
A garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

I believe all this is true.
And I wait in trusting hope, ready to receive.’

Anon. Survivors’ Workshop

Please do read the whole book. Order a signed copy from SPCK: http://spck.bookswarm.co.uk/product/scars-across-humanity/

or from your local bookshop

or come and meet others at one of the book launches. (Posted on this site)


Scars Across Humanity Posting 11

Chapter 8 Rape

We are told to forgive and forget . . . But I couldn’t forgive and I couldn’t forget . . . Then I realized . . . I have a right to remember and I leave the forgiving to a higher being.  Rape survivor

(Looking at some of the horrific stuff posted on social media, I’m posting a section from towards the end of the rape chapter, about the culture which spreads it…)

Rape Culture

In many societies, the passive silence about sex abuse can be compounded by the presence of an active rape culture which normalizes and excuses it. Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, the glamorization of sexual violence and the entitlement given to men. Gender definitions themselves play a part in it. When ‘manhood’ is defined in terms of dominance and sexual aggression, then it is ‘hardly a man’s fault’ if he expresses this aggression towards a woman. The high level of rape carried out by soldiers in conditions of conflict is regularly justified this way. Defining ‘womanhood’ produces more ambiguous results. Women can be perceived as submissive, innocent and sexually passive, or as whores just waiting to be raped (‘she was asking for it’). Either way, they are at risk.

Other facets of rape culture are easily recognized: trivialising sexual assault, showing tolerance towards sexual harassment, inflating false rape report statistics, publicly scrutinising a victim’s dress, mental state, motives and history. RapeOne of the more alarming recent developments in many Western societies is the proliferation of ‘jokes’ about sexual violence. The growth of social media and the internet has brought a proliferation of sites specializing in sick rape jokes which go unmonitored and unregulated. ‘Jokes’ like ‘I had sex with a girl in public the other day, and I was amazing! So amazing in fact that she was screaming before we even started’ can clock up hundreds of endorsing comments within minutes of posting. Beyond the internet, the appalling rape-entertainment culture among the worst of the stand-up comedians has proved hard to combat. One brave woman in the audience of a Daniel Tosh comedy gig heckled ‘Rape jokes are never funny’ after he had told several in a row. His response was to insult her by suggesting it would be funny if she had been raped by five guys. He later had to apologise, but has continued his banal and empty patter, enjoy- ing the support of those who will always laugh.

Rape 4Rape culture has been exposed, not simply by sociologists studying social mores, but by organizations committed to bringing change. The Rape Is No Joke (RINJ) campaign, a Canadian anti- sexual assault organization founded in 2011 in response to ‘rape joke’ and pro-rape content on Facebook, has pressured media and law-enforcement agencies. A Socialist Students initiative in the UK of the same name has also been active. It refuses to accept that attempts at humour are innocuous and in a different league from any actual violence. Its stance is that:

this ‘comedy’ is lazy and un-intelligent. But it also, combined with prolific violent pornography on the internet, ‘lads mags’ in every corner shop and aggressive sexual imagery in advertising, adds to a culture that accepts, and even glorifies rape and sexual assault.


Read more in Scars Across Humanity pre-order http://www.amazon.co.uk/Scars-Across-Humanity-Understanding-Overcoming/dp/0281075085

Or come to one of the launches – see post on launch dates

Trafficking and Prostitution

Chapter Scars Across Humanity Posting 10

Chapter 7 Money Sex and Violence: Trafficking and prostitution

Sexual exploitation eroticizes women’s inequality and is a vehicle for racism and ‘first world’ domination, disproportionately victimizing minority and ‘third world’ women. Women’s support project

We, the survivors of prostitution and trafficking gathered at this press conference today, declare that prostitution is violence against women. Manifesto, joint press conference for Coalition Against Trafficking in Women and the European Women’s Lobby (CATW–EWL), 2005

Former comfort women who served the Japanese Army as sexual slaves during World War II, shout a slogan in a rally before Korean Liberation Day of Aug. 15, which marks the end of Japanese colonial rule in 1945, in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2009. They demanded from the Japanese government an official apology and financial compensation.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Former comfort women who served the Japanese Army as sexual slaves during World War II, shout a slogan in a rally before Korean Liberation Day of Aug. 15, which marks the end of Japanese colonial rule in 1945, in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2009. They demanded from the Japanese government an official apology and financial compensation.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

In northern Vietnam, trafficking has become so acute that communities say they are living in fear. ‘I worry so much about it, as do all the mothers in the villages, but it has happened to a lot of girls already,’ said Phan Pa May, a community elder from the Red Dao ethnic minority group. ‘. . . I’m worried about my grand- daughter. We always ask where she is going, and tell her not to talk on the phone or trust anyone.’ Activists working to combat trafficking in Vietnam said police and authorities take the problem ‘very seriously’.

Human trafficking was once called slavery. Abolitionists exposed the sheer injustice and atrocity of taking people from their own communities by coercion and force, and transporting them to distant places to work without freedom, for the benefit of others. The conditions of slavery were appalling; the ill-treatment, brutality, deprivations and harsh punishments were dehumanizing.

Today, 200 years after slavery was abolished, human trafficking is again part of the global landscape.

Read more in Scars Across Humanity. It can be ordered:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Scars-Across-Humanity-Understanding-Overcoming/dp/0281075085

Useful link :  www.beyondthestreets.org.uk/


This will be a final posting of excerpts  for now. There are  6 more chapters, but a range of speaking takes over from here!


Intimate-partner Violence

Scars Across Humanity Post 9

Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide:  Violence in the Home

‘In an article for the US magazine Glamour, editor-at-large Liz Brody tells a story familiar to people who work alongside survivors of domestic abuse. For readers who have been victims, the details may be sickeningly reminiscent.

intimate-partner-violenceNot long before sunrise on a Midwestern Friday, college student and part-time waitress Alexandra Briggs sat in her one-bedroom apartment, meticulously applying thick makeup all over her face, neck and arms. It took two coats to cover her boyfriend’s teeth marks and the cigarette burns he’d inflicted, along with her newly purpling bruises; her pants hid the spot on her thigh where he’d stabbed her with a fork. When she finished, he drove her to the Original Pancake House for her 7:00 a.m. shift. ‘I’m sick,’ she told her boss as she clocked in and headed to the restroom.

Alexandra Briggs was one of the fortunate ones. She had a sym- pathetic boss who had long suspected, and now recognized beyond doubt, that the student was the victim of intimate-partner violence. Her boyfriend would later admit in court that he had hit her repeatedly with a small bat that morning, and strangled her until she slumped, unconscious. A ruptured eardrum and broken nose were just two of the injuries she had suffered. This was no isolated attack but a form of relentless aggression which left deep scars on her body, mind and spirit………..

Read the whole chapter in Scars Across Humanity  (available very soon) and if you are a man, please join Restored’s ‘First man standing’ to take action.  first man standing


Honour Killings

Scars Across Humanity Post 8

Whose ‘honour’? Killings and femicide as reprisals for shame

He told me that in his society, a man is like a piece of gold, a woman is like a piece of silk. If you drop gold in the mud, you can clean it. But a piece of silk is ruined.1

Killing in the name of preserving honour only brings dishonour to the family and largely, the country.   Kamna Arora, India

Honour killings3

Shock and shame gripped communities in the UK when the fate of 17-year-old Shafilea Ahmed was fully revealed. The eldest daughter of five children born to parents from Pakistan, she was murdered in front of her siblings at their home in the north of England. The parents objected to her white, non-Muslim friends and her lifestyle, and were furious at her reluctance to accept their control over her life. After months of family rows, they stuffed a plastic bag into her mouth and closed her airways with their hands until she suf- focated. Having disposed of her body, they then reported her as missing. Her decomposed corpse was found the following year, but it was to be nine years of painstaking police inquiry before the offenders were brought to trial. There, they were forced to listen to the testimony, finally brought against them by Alesha, their younger daughter, who told the court of their repeated attacks and abuse of Shafilea; how they had threatened her with a knife and gun, had drugged her, and locked her in a room for days without food. She said that her sister had been ‘torn between the allure of a Western lifestyle and their demands she wear traditional clothes and agree to an arranged marriage’. On the night Shafilea died, her sister spoke of her gasping for air as her parents suffocated her. As the other children ran upstairs in shock, she saw her father carry a wrapped blanket to the car, which she believed contained her sister’s body. The couple were found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.

On sentencing, Mr Justice Evans told the couple, ‘Your concern about being shamed in your community was greater than the love of your child . . .

read more in Scars Across Humanity 

epa01475854 Pakistani human rights activist shout slogans against the 'honor killings' of five women who were allegedly shot and then buried alive one month ago in Balochistan province after several insisted on marrying men of their own choosing, during a protest in Karachi, Pakistan, 03 September 2008. Every year, hundreds of women in the conservative rural area of Pakistan, fall victim to so-called 'honour killings' by male relatives, mostly in rural parts of the country. Reasons could for example be marrying without consent of the family. EPA/REHAN KHAN

Pakistani human rights activist shout slogans against the ‘honor killings’ of five women shot and then buried alive in Balochistan province Pakistan after several insisted on marrying men of their own choosing. (EPA/REHAN KHAN)

Child Marriage? – child abuse

Scars Across Humanity Post 7

Chapter 4 Early and Enforced Marriage:  child abuse by another name

This is an issue about life, families, communities, broken dreams and shattered bodies. It is about girls at risk of marriage; just as much as it is about the millions of adolescent mothers and girls in marriage.    Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda World YWCA

This is not marriage, but rather the selling and buying of young women.      Ahlam al-Obeidi, Iraq radio

Child Marriage1Some mind-blowing statistics

Every three seconds a girl under the age of 18 is married somewhere across the world – usually without her consent and sometimes to a much older man. The United Nations Population Fund suggests that, every day, 39,000 girls marry too young. It is predicted that more than 140 million child brides will have entered marriage in the decade up to 2020, 18.5 million of them under the age of 15; if nothing changes, the annual figure will grow from 14.2 million in 2010 to 15.1 million in 2030. As the General Secretary of the World Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) observes, the number of children married under age is now higher than the total population of Zimbabwe!


Figures like these do indicate the massive numerical scale of the problem and the difficulties in eliminating it. But they do not unpack the human misery enfolded inside them. A moving exhibition mounted in 2014 by the United Nations in Geneva opened that up. Through very sober photographs and short, poignant narratives we came face to face with the wrecked hopes and tragic lives of survivors of child marriage. Ghulam had wanted to be a teacher, but was pulled out of school at 11 to marry a 40-year-old man; 14-year-old Afisha, in Ghana, was unable to be educated because of her father’s poverty, and instead was sold as a bride for cola nuts and 60 cedis (about £25); Asia was ill and bleeding from childbirth at 14, as she cared for her two-year-old child and new- born baby…….

Read more in Scars Across Humanity

Female Genital Mutilation

Scars Across Humanity Post 6

Chapter three: Female Genital Mutilation


‘The pain of circumcision is like a heavy burden I always carry with me. It is like darkness in my life, in my chest. You can never forget it.’ FGM Survivor

Up to 140 million women worldwide have undergone female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C). That equates to more than twice the entire population of the UK. Women who have endured this process assure me that it is something that stays forever in the memory, and it often revisits them without warning.  A Sudanese writer recalls her own experience of being cut at the age of six:

“Despite the passage of twelve years, the scene still remains vivid in my memory. From the moment the horrendous experience has begun, and until the last day of your life, it will never cease to torment you. I will never forget the faint sound of the scissor cut- ting my flesh four times, the stitching four times or relative hideous pain in urination or retention, the accompanying complications and the nightmares of vicious cycle of cutting-stitching-cutting and legacy of hereditary pain.”

A report on FGM issued by the UK government in 2014 suggested that around 140,0FGM-Anti-FGM00 women in England and Wales are living with the consequences of FGM and around 10,000 girls under the age of 15 are likely to undergo cutting.

Female genital mutilation has no known health benefits, in any of its forms. On the contrary, it is known to be harmful to girls and women in many ways and is extremely painful and traumatic. The procedure involves cutting off the clitoris, and, depending on the extent of the process, other parts of the external genitals may also be excised. Three main forms of FGM are practised. . . . . .

read more in Scars Across Humanity

Chapter 2 Violence begins before birth

Scars Across Humanity Post 5 

Chapter 2 Violence Begins Before Birth: Selective Abortion and Infanticide


(Photo- campaign to save the girl foetus)

Having a girl is to plant a seed in someone else’s garden.   Hindi saying

In India, where female infanticide has existed for centuries, now female foeticide has joined the fray

Dr Sabu George, a Delhi-based researcher, has spent the past quarter-century exposing what he calls ‘the worst kind of violence’ in Indian history – the elimination of millions of unborn girls. He regards it as nothing less than ‘genocide’, and describes the first few months in the womb as ‘the riskiest part of a woman’s life cycle in India’. An incident reported in a newspaper article illustrates the problem:

Earlier this month, police arrested two people after the discovery of 400 pieces of bones believed to be of female foetuses in the town of Ratlam, Madhya Pradesh. Last September, the remains of dozens of babies were exhumed from a pit outside an abortion clinic in Punjab. According to investigators, that clinic was run by an untrained, unqualified retired soldier and his wife. To dispose of the evidence, acid was used to melt the flesh and then the bones were hammered to smithereens . . .

read more in Scars Across Humanity published next month