Look at that poor woman crying! I wonder what he did to her?
Pretend the image on the left is a Thematic Apperception Test card and make up a story about it.
Is the woman crying because she discovered her boyfriend had been cheating on her, dumped her and emptied their joint account to go on holiday with the other woman? Do you feel sorry for her and ready to blame the jerk who made her cry?
Or is the woman crying because she stalked her abused ex-boyfriend and his new fiancee to a party, crashed it, made a scene and was told to leave? Are the tears born out of desperation, frustration, anger, jealousy, a refusal to accept the consequences of her behavior and as a ploy to elicit sympathy from others?
“Why won’t he just talk to meeeeeeee? Why is he so mean to meeeee? All I ever . . . hiccup . . . hiccup . . . did is love him!” Do you still want to protect her and blame her ex-boyfriend, who, in reality, she emotionally and physically abused during their 18-month relationship? Or does knowing the facts of the situation change your chivalrous, caretaker impulses?
How Empathy and Sympathy Are Used to Manipulate the Unsuspecting
When we see someone crying, we feel bad for them. If we’ve suffered pain or loss, we typically feel compassion when we see a fellow human being suffering. It’s an admirable human quality.
Because we have empathy, when we see a woman who’s very tearful or angry, we remember the last time we felt that way. We remember the good reasons we had for feeling that way; i.e., we actually experienced a real loss or betrayal. We then may erroneously assume that when a woman is in such outward turmoil there must be a legitimate reason for it, too.
Enter the professional victim, the high-conflict person (HCP) and/or the abusive personality disordered individual (APDI; histrionic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, paranoid personality disorder, avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder). These women know how to make themselves appear to be the victim and work it to their advantage. You see, they’re not really victims. They don the role of victim to manipulate others.
A professional victim’s, HCP’s and/or APDI’s entire emotional landscape revolves solely around herself, her feelings and having things her way. When these women experience the slightest frustration or disappointment and things don’t go their way, they react as if they’re experiencing an extreme form of excruciating torture and then cue the waterworks and self-righteous outrage.
To the unsuspecting observer, such as a family court judge, custody evaluator, attorney, police officer on a domestic dispute call or rape allegation, family friend or juror in the Casey Anthony trial, the tears appear real. Most people reason, “She’s so upset something really bad must’ve happened.” The tears may very well be real, but not for the reasons we think.
Professional victims, HCPs, APDIs and other predators bank on others making this fundamental mistake. The tears, anger and fear are often real, but very misleading. The HCP is so desperate to get her way that she works herself into a very convincing tizzy. Sometimes, the HCP is so convincing, she actually begins to believe her own lies and, thus, becomes even more convincing.
The Other Half of the Equation: Men as Default Scapegoats
Of course, there are male professional victims, but female professional victims have a distinct advantage over their male counterparts. As a society, we tend to see women as default victims and men as default scapegoats.
Typically, we don’t think of men as victims. We can’t even recognize it when we’re confronted by physical evidence of it.
ABC News did a story in which a woman is observed verbally and physically assaulting a man. All but one passerby assumed the man being assaulted “deserved it” because “he cheated on her” or committed some other offense. Only one passerby intervened and asked if the man was okay. Even the off-duty cop who witnessed the staged assault didn’t stop to ask if the man was alright.
We tend to rationalize female violence and vilify male violence. When a woman claims she was abused as a child or by her partner, society makes excuses for her when she behaves badly. Alternatively, our society tends not to have the same degree of sympathy and urge to protect men who claim they were abused as children or by a partner.
Dr Warren Farrell, PhD refers to this as the invisibility of male suffering.
There are also different consequences for female vs. male perpetrated crimes. Female perpetrators go to counseling and, on rare occasions, are sentenced to jail, but for much lighter sentences than their male counterparts receive. Male perpetrators go to jail. Period.
Men rarely get the, “Poor man. What you did is technically a crime, but we understand because you were abused as a child and your wife verbally abused you, so it’s not really your fault. Enough scolding. Big hug and off to community counseling with you. Oh, and you get to keep custody of the children even though you deny access to their mother and have been practicing a campaign of parental alienation for the last 5 years,” that women often receive in criminal and family courts.
As a society, we’re inclined to believe accusations about men. If a woman accuses a man of rape, he’s automatically assumed guilty and treated as such. Men accused of rape suffer immediate consequences, long before their guilt or innocence is proven.
Before men go to court, their names are publicized and they’re forever branded rapists and the consequences last a lifetime. There are examples of this in the press right now: Julian Assange and Dominque Strauss-Kahn. Long before these men have their day in court, they’ve been tried and found guilty in the court of public opinion. Most of the time, all a woman has to do is cry and point her finger in blame at a man and he’s toast.
We’ve been conditioned to treat men and women differently, especially when it comes to conflict and expressing violent emotions. There’s a greater tolerance for emotional outbursts and emotional extremism by women. We tend to contrive excuses for women’s violence toward men and even blame men for women’s bad behavior.
When men express legitimate anger and frustration about the ways they’re mistreated and abused, society labels them “angry” and they immediately become suspect or mandated to anger management classes.
How Predatory Women and Some Attorneys Use Society’s Gender Biases and Double Standards to their Advantage
It’s easy to portray men as villains in domestic disputes. The Court is predisposed to recognize a pattern of domestic abuse in which the woman is the victim. Judges recognize the pattern of male perpetrated domestic abuse because the domestic violence industry spends millions of dollars every year training judges to only recognize domestic violence as a male perpetrated crime.
In the hands of a savvy attorney, the court’s predisposition can be a powerful advantage.
Attorneys and their female clients know that men are unlikely to fight back and defend their reputations if the dispute is characterized as an abuse case. It’s an uneven playing field for men because the social and professional consequences of abuse allegations are severe, regardless of the outcome of the case.
Most men opt to settle swiftly, even on unfavorable terms, rather than contend with the intangible social and financial costs of abuse allegations. Even when men want to defend themselves, the legal costs are often too high, so they plea out. There’s no “victory” for men in such cases. The best they can do is emerge with their reputations intact.
As a result, there is an incentive to concoct abuse allegations against men. For the women, there’s no downside to making such claims, such as in the Tracy West and Louis Gonzalez, III case. Even if the claims are entirely untrue, there are rarely consequences for the abuser, only for the falsely accused.
Some women are coached to make false allegations of domestic violence, rape and child abuse. Their attorneys file baseless restraining orders to raise the stakes on men in the divorce or custody cases. These tactics don’t just hurt men. They hurt the children and families of these men. They also create widespread corrosive cynicism about the family court and the efficacy of the justice system.
Making men the default scapegoat for society’s ills is no different than making a minority or immigrant group the default scapegoat. It’s over broad, it’s unfair, it’s dishonest and it’s discrimination. It’s incredibly damaging to boys and young men, gender relations, relationships, families and “the best interests of the children.” And it gives predatory women a free pass.
It’s necessary to recognize that male abuse exists. Such abuse happens every day, but this is not a conversation America is ready to have. As a result of that silence, we have an invisible epidemic. As a culture we lack the language to describe it, we can’t recognize it and we’re unwilling to confront the implications of it.
This isn’t just a matter of a few women who manipulate the legal system in a family law case. There are two huge industries, the Family Law industry and the Domestic Violence industry, who have a strong financial motivation to perpetuate the myth that women are the only victims of abuse to the tune of well over $4 billion dollars a year (the $4 billion is just for the DV industry — I don’t know how much Family Courts and family law attorneys amass each year).
When you combine our natural tendency to feel empathy for the suffering of women, society’s tendency to make women default victims and men default scapegoats, the double standards and gender biases of family court and the judiciary system, the financial incentives of individual divorce and custody cases and the enormous financial incentives of both the divorce and domestic violence industries, you get the mess we have today in which female predators masquerading as victims are rewarded while the real male victims and their children are being destroyed.
To the “victim” go the spoils.
Dr Tara J. Palmatier provides confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.