How do men manipulate women into acting against their own best interests, even against their safety?

Researchers listened to telephone conversations between 17 accused male abusers in a Washington state detention facility and their female victims, all of whom decided to withdraw their accusations of abuse. For each of the couples, the researchers analyzed up to about three hours of phone conversations…

Typically, in the first and second conversations there is a heated argument between the couple, revolving around the event leading to the abuse charge. In these early conversations, the victim is strong, and resists the accused perpetrator’s account of what happens…

In the second stage, the perpetrator minimizes the abuse and tries to convince the victim that what happened wasn’t that serious…
“The tipping point for most victims occurs when the perpetrator appeals to her sympathy, by describing how much he is suffering in jail, how depressed he is, and how much he misses her and their children,” Bonomi said.

“The perpetrator casts himself as the victim, and quite often the real victim responds by trying to soothe and comfort the abuser.”

…In the third stage, after the accused abuser has gained the sympathy of the victim, the couple bonds over their love for each other and positions themselves against others who “don’t understand them.”

The fourth stage involves the perpetrator asking the victim to recant her accusations against him and the victim complying. Finally, in the fifth stage, the couple constructs the recantation plan and develops their stories.

“They often exchange very specific instructions about what should be done and said in court. They seal their bond as a couple and see themselves as fighting together against the state, which they view as trying to keep them apart,” Bonomi said. –Science Daily

Writing Prompt: Write a scene involving psychological manipulation. (If you are interested in learning more about the psychology of the abusive relationship, read Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men
by Lundy Bancroft and The Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships
by Patrick Carnes.)

Journaling Prompt: Describe a time when you’ve been manipulated. How did that feel when it was happening? When did you become aware of what was happening? 

Art Prompt: Psychological manipulation
Nonfiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about how manipulators work and how they can avoid falling prey to them.

Photo Credit: conmike12 on Flickr

11 Responses to Prompt #142 Psychological Manipulation

  1. Kathy Waller says:

    Interesting, and helpful. You’ve given the basics and pointed toward more resources. Thanks.
    Kathy Waller recently posted..ROW80 10.31 & NaNoMy Profile

  2. zencherry says:

    Wow. Incredibly scary! You know, I always wondered how a woman could stay w/someone that beat on them. Great insight into the dialogue of what goes on. Great prompt!

    • Liz says:

      Most people don’t understand it. The books I referenced are really informative. You learn a lot about psychology in those books.

      • zencherry says:

        I will definitely make certain not to rush to rash judgments in the future about these things. Honestly, I just didn’t have much sympathy for someone who wouldn’t go toe-to-toe for themselves. Now I’m rethinking that thanks to you. 😉

        • Liz says:

          If you get a chance, pick up the Carnes book from the library. It’s fascinating. They use classic brainwashing techniques. The scary thing is that I think the brainwashing guys learned it from them rather than vice versa.

  3. Thinking Thursday: Domestic Violence says:

    […] story is loosely based on prompt # 142 from The Writing Reader about manipulation and abuse. As I thought about this topic, I realized we talk mostly about women […]

  4. Cathy says:

    Helpful and horrifying in equal measure. Thank you so much. I’m signing up now. Cathy x

  5. Cathy says:

    Not sure if I messed up on posting – site asking for http, so here it is again.
    Amazing post. Incredibly helpful and even more horrifying. I am signing up to this site now. Cathy x
    Cathy recently posted..The self-cleaning loo and the origins of creativityMy Profile

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