Chet Greason, Gazette staff
To coincide with the release of the Social Research and Planning Council’s new report on violence against women, the local Stop VAW (Violence against women) Committee held a seminar led by noted American writer Lundy Bancroft on May 9 at the Festival Inn.
Author of “Why Does He Do That?”, Bancroft, who has been studying men from different cultures who batter women for over 15 years, said he’s noticed some striking similarities among abusers.
“It’s almost as if they went to an abuser academy,” he said.
“The abusive man is an unbelievably unreliable reporter,” he observed, noting their deceptive nature often gets assessors and other professionals in the justice system and social services to bond with them, sometimes leading to a he said,she said legal scenario even when there’s hard evidence of the man’s guilt.
“We have to let go of the idea that we can tell anything about an abuser,” he said.
According to Bancroft, at the core of every abuser is a need to control; a need to dictate how his partner expresses herself, where she goes, who she sees, or when and how she chooses to be sexually involved.
He said some abusers only want to control certain aspects of their partner’s lives, throwing friends and relatives off by not exhibiting behaviours typically associated with abusers.
“So he might check her odometer and finances, but maybe she’s allowed friends,” Bancroft said.
“They’re also not on a schedule,” he added, noting instances of battery could be months, even years, apart,
and between them “he’ll almost always have moments of decency to point to … so you underestimate how dangerous he is.”
Bancroft also addressed abusers who claim they “lost control” during instances of battery.
“That needs to be taken away from them. No. You’re not here because you lose control. You’re here because you take control of your partner. You will not gain anything by having more self-control. You need to let go of control. Respect her internationally-guaranteed human rights.”
After getting guests to discuss their personal experiences with the worst bosses they’ve ever had, Bancroft took note of some of the qualities that made them horrible supervisors. Things like unrelenting desire for control, lack of respect, intimidation, using public shame as a disciplinary tool, and deceptiveness were also qualities shared by abusive men, though, as one participant noted, the worst boss she had ever had was a woman.
Bancroft acknowledged this reality.
“Tyranny is not a genetic issue … testosterone is not the problem. There’s similarity among tyrants,” he said, noting behavioural patterns can be shared amongst bad bosses, abusers, dictators, bullies, and racists.
The key to working with victims of violence against women, he said, was to find the similarities between her experiences and yours.
“That way you’re not looking down on her as a poor waif who needs your help, but as an equal.”
As for instances of women abusing men, Bancroft said hard data is scant as such cases rarely get reported. But he noted, though a woman may abuse a man emotionally, financially, or even physically, those situations rarely reach the sort of extremes that females face under male abusers.
Abused males will likely find it easier to physically walk away from an abusive relationship than a woman, and will rarely experience entrapment. Bancroft also observed that far more men kill their female partners than the other way around.
He also briefly touched on same-sex relationships, noting data surrounding abuse cases in same-sex scenarios is also extremely difficult to come by. However, he said homicide cases between same-sex partners are “a serious problem.”
After 30 years of research, Bancroft said men who batter women are no longer a mystery.
“We even know how they’re produced,” he said, adding that instances of violence against women are “no longer a failure of knowledge. Now it’s a failure of will and policy. When we get serious enough about it, we can stop it.”