Did you know you even have any? And that not all death threats are equal? Or that not all stalkers are serious threats?
I don’t know why some women can’t or won’t recognize the red flags of abusive, crazy-ass men, but even when a therapist draws them a road map to imminent, fatal destruction, these women follow their heart rather than their brain, knowing they possess bad judgement. Even after the therapist explains exactly how it’s badly skewed by abuse.
Nicole Brown Simpson’s therapist’s road map led to a splattered walkway and a frightened, confused dog. Nicole’s insanity also sucked in an innocent person. Nicole knew it was coming. She updated her will a month before the infamous deed. She also had to suspect the end might come at knifepoint rather than by gun.
She’d said she thought dying by knife had to be the worst way to die. One wonders if she shared that with O.J., or someone told him.
Despite all her therapy, despite all the books she’d read including one that described O.J. down to the last cell of his narcissistic, violent self, despite clear warnings she was in danger of getting murdered, Nicole walked with eyes wide open to her death.
I’m glad he didn’t decide to send the kids along with her - or kill them and not her.
Colluding with the enemy
I moved from Raging Heart: The Intimate Story of the Marriage Between O.J. and Nicole Brown Simpson to Gavin de Becker’s now-classic book The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us From Violence.
De Becker is a leading expert on violence prediction. His large consulting company advises clients on how to predict and avoid violence, and just as importantly, to determine when one is in, and not, in real danger. Not all death threats are serious. He designed his MOSAIC Threat Assessment to analyze threats to U.S. Supreme Court Justices. De Becker himself was raised in a violent home. Instead of becoming an abuser, he chose the path of violence prevention.
The book is a great segue from one on America’s most committed violence victim.
It’s quite clear some women don’t understand male violence doesn’t just come from nowhere; they ignore countless signals. Some women simply can’t or won’t learn.
Women no longer have much excuse. There’s been too much public discussion of spousal battery, too many publicized deaths, too many talk show discussions, and examples of celebrities suffering or causing abuse.
Yet still, feminists and anti-abuse advocates resist exploring ways women can self-protect and self-acknowledge their own personal power. The conversation MUST change from Don’t blame the victim to Don’t BE the victim. It harms women by encouraging helplessness to teach them men are solely responsible for abusive relationships. Men are solely responsible for their own behavior; women bear responsibility for protecting themselves, and their children.
It was gratifying to read a major expert saying out loud what I’ve been saying for years: Women are victims the first time a man hits them. After that, they’re volunteers.
Thank you! Thank you, Gavin de Becker! Victim feminists won’t listen to me; since they give all their power to men, maybe they’ll listen to someone with a penis.
He also notes the importance of mothers in violence prevention for their daughters. He asked one mother who’d most recently suffered three broken ribs from her husband what she’d do if her teenage daughter was beaten up by a boyfriend.
“Well, I’d probably kill the guy, but one thing’s for sure: I’d tell her she could never see him again.”
“What is the difference between yourself and your daughter?” de Becker asked.
The lady offered a lot of silly-ass excuses for her husband’s behavior, in the grand tradition of compliant victims, so de Becker rejoined with this: “The difference is that your daughter has you—and you don’t have you. If you don’t get out soon, your daughter won’t have you either.”
Finally the scales fell from her eyes: She lacked the self-protection element she offered to her daughter.
Some women have someone in their corner like that, if not a mother. Nicole Brown Simpson’s therapist tried to convince her to stay alive, that it would be suicidal to go back to O.J., but she didn’t listen.
Abused women, even before they’ve been abused to the point of compliantly marching toward death, often don’t listen to others. They listen to their hearts—or their egos—rather than their brains.
De Becker says it out loud: Staying is a choice. If we acknowledge how much choice women have every step of the way, then they can recognize leaving as a choice and an option, and hopefully sooner than “He’s on the verge of killing me.”
Let me quote some of the other things this man says that vindicate me. I’ve never claimed to be the first to say them, but I do feel sometimes like I’m shouting into a maddening crowd of lobotomized feminists.
“Whoever we blame, there is some responsibility on both sides of the gender line, particularly if there are children involved.” Yes! Yes! Yes! I’ve refuted the argument over the years that domestic violence is ‘no one else’s business’. Violent men sometimes take the rest of the family, or her family, with her. He can show up at her workplace primed to kill indiscriminately. Or take out innocents like poor Ronald Goldman; if only he’d been ten minutes earlier with those eyeglasses.
Domestic abusers are heavily represented in mass shootings. So no, a woman’s private pain is no longer her own. She’s responsible for innocent people’s lives as well.
The role of rejection
De Becker notes that spousal homicide, easily the most predictable, is the kind people are unwilling to predict. A man in Los Angeles accused of killing his wife mystified the neighbors: “He seemed so normal.” “He must be crazy.” “I can’t imagine a father would kill his own children.” What, they never read the paper? Watch TV? Happens all the time.
Said individual had already tried to kill his wife three times prior, and had been arrested twice on domestic violence charges. Surely someone at least noticed cops at this family’s door? Heard some shit beforehand?
An important violence predictor is the role of rejection, an extremely tough pill for anyone to swallow but when others know it’s worse. De Becker notes how many homicides happen at the courthouse, where now others have become involved. It becomes intolerable when outside parties know of the abuser’s personal ‘failure’ to keep his partner happy. It’s a threat to his identity and self-image, and there’s nothing so intolerable. They sometimes kill others, too, especially the person who made their failure and rejection public. Suicide accompanying murder attests to how damage to one’s self-image is more important than staying alive.
“This is war!”
De Becker and his firm advise their clients on how to prevent escalation of hostilities. Men are conditioned to ‘win’, to ‘go to war’ when necessary, so if a violent man is convinced that “This is war! I can’t let her win!”, a woman is in greater danger. This is where restraining orders fail. They work best when there’s no prior history of violence with a man, whose fear of arrest is greater than his desire to force a woman to conform to his will. Especially early on, when there’s less emotional investment, like a stalker one didn’t date for very long.
But when the stakes are life and death, a restraining order is a declaration of war.
For an emotionally invested, entitled man, a court order to leave a woman alone asks a lot of him—to abandon an intimate relationship, his control and perceived ownership over someone else (who has allowed him to assume this), and his self-perception as a powerful man in control. That’s far different from a love-besotted rejected dude who has a future ahead of him that he can ruin in a heartbeat with an arrest if he violates the restraining order (I know someone like this; he doesn’t know I know about his long-ago very bad judgment. I wasn’t his target).
Women with dangerous exes or soon-to-be exes must tread more carefully, and with professional help, but women with stalkers are in a stronger position.
The hidden power of stalkers’ targets
Stalkers are in a related but different class to violent partners. Their targets are in possession of a strength most don’t know they have.
Stalkers are less likely to be emotionally invested in a woman, in the sense that they’ve at one time known and engaged with her, like on dates. Some do stalk and terrify public figures, and some famously kill them, like John Lennon’s assassin.
De Becker observes that rejecting women often err by saying less than what they mean, in an effort to ‘let him down easy’. It’s how we’re raised, to be nice, to not hurt others’ feelings, and that if we hurt a man’s feelings, he could act violently against us. And that happens. But letting him down firmly and early, making it clear she’s not interested in pursuing any further relationship with him, puts him in less of a position to argue to himself that she didn’t really mean it, she’s just a bit conflicted, he just has to convince her with further contact. And every time she rewards him with contact, even if it’s not responding until the thirtieth phone call, she teaches him that’s the price he must pay to hear her voice again.
Stalking is, de Becker notes, a crime of power, control, and intimidation, similar to date rape. In the past, women had less power to determine who would be in her life and hot pursuit more often resulted in what the man wanted. Today, some men don’t understand that women have the power and the right to reject.
Some stalkers are truly dangerous, others less so. De Becker believes women can head off potential stalking early just by clearly communicating her lack of interest, and ignoring all further attempts at contact. He warns women Do not negotiate. Any contact afterward will be viewed by the man as negotiation.
In other words, if No means No, women need to be loud and firm about it. Don’t tell him you don’t want to talk to him, because you have to talk to him to do that. Any contact is progress in his mind. Show, don’t tell, by not talking.
There’s one characteristic of stalking victims similar to what we see in domestic violence victims: A certain willingness on the part of the woman to be the victim.
De Becker notes that Men who cannot let go choose women who can’t say no.
They’re women who don’t want to be explicit in their rejection. They keep trying to ‘let him down easily’ but refusing to ignore him ‘feeds the beast’.
With abused women, too, there is a certain level of unconscious assent to being abused. First time a victim, second time a volunteer.
A victim should always seek outside help if she’s being stalked; a professional is qualified to determine just how much of a threat he is. Not all stalkers, and not even all death threats, are equal. Experts can evaluate death threats to determine whether she’s in real danger.
She still needs to be vigilant, even if her stalker is evaluated to be likely non-violent. She never knows whether some flukey thing will push him over the edge. She can only follow the Best Practices and take precautions.
The gal who told me about my stalker friend said he’d never been violent with her, nor did he ever threaten violence. She never worried he’d kill her. But she still got a restraining order and changed her address and told no one except her closest intimates. It made her feel better to know he didn’t know where to stalk her, and eventually he stopped.
He had no violent history, including his previous girlfriend who I also knew.
His victim was in far less danger, yet he still scared her and restricted her freedom.
But she listened to the professionals, and did what she was told.
She took back her power. As can many other women. Because the power dominant, oppressive men have over us is our fear.
We can’t help being fearful, but we can refuse to show it. Steal their thunder.
Take. Their. Power.
If you need help with a stalker, domestic abuser or other violent threat :
Gavin de Becker & Associates (I have no association with this man or his firm)
Or call your local domestic abuse hotline.
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