NARRATION: So there’s this movie from the nineties called Falling Down.
It’s got Michael Douglas as the white-collar guy who goes on this violent rampage across LA, and Robert Duvall as the crusty old cop who’s trying to stop him.
The final scene—this face-off between Douglas and Duvall—is shot out on a pier. And I swear, it’s a scene I just think about so often when I’m grappling with the most confounding part of domestic abuse: Why do so many men want to hurt and even kill the people they profess to love?
So if you haven’t seen it, here’s a quick recap: when we meet Douglas, he’s unemployed, he’s divorced, and he’s just stuck in a horrific traffic jam in downtown LA…
BACKGROUND MUSIC BEGINS
It’s hot, his air conditioning is broken. He snaps. He leaves his car, and sets out on foot to get to his little girl’s birthday party.
Now as we get to know him, it’s no mystery as to why his ex-wife has a restraining order out against him. On his way to her house he leaves a trail of destruction – mostly in response to him being ‘disrespected’ or humiliated.
MOVIE AUDIO BEGINS
1.07 WAITER: Hi, can I help you?
DOUGLAS: Yeah I’d like a ham and cheese omelette and fries
WAITER: I’m sorry, we stopped serving breakfast, but we are on the lunch menu now
DOUGLAS: But I want breakfast
WAITER: Well you can’t have it
SUPERVISOR: We stop serving breakfast at 11.30
DOUGLAS: Have you ever heard the expression, “The customer is always right”?
DOUGLAS: Well, here I am. The customer.
SUPERVISOR: I’m really sorry
DOUGLAS: Well, hey, I’m really sorry too
STRANGER: He’s got a gun!
1.41 NARRATION: He shoots up the restaurant, he shoots up a phone booth when someone hassles him to get off the phone, he stabs a white supremacist…Everywhere he goes he feels like he’s being humiliated. He’s seeing other men being humiliated. Disrespected. Done in by the system. He’s done with it—and if he’s going down, he’s not going to go alone.
By the time he gets to his ex-wife’s house, she’s fled with their daughter. But he knows where they’ve gone—they’ve gohe to the Venice Pier.
So in this final scene, Michael Douglas is on the pier, and he’s found his ex-wife and his little girl.
MOVIE AUDIO BEGINS
2.20 DOUGLAS: Hi, honey. I thought I’d find you here.
EX-WIFE: Leave us alone!
DOUGLAS: What? I can’t talk to my wife?
EX-WIFE: I’m not your wife anymore.
DOUGLAS: No? Sugar, this ring a bell? “Till death do us part”? Do you remember that?
2.37 NARRATION Suddenly, Robert Duvall’s cop appears. He approaches slowly. He tries to talk Douglas down, and he gives the little girl a box of popcorn. Everything’s normal, everything’s fine.
And at that moment we hear the sirens, and see the cop car speeding up the pier. Douglas looks around, and his ex-wife and child make a run for it.
MOVIE AUDIO BEGINS
DOUGLAS: No! Don’t! Elizabeth, no!
DUVALL: Freeze! You’re under arrest.
DUVALL: Elizabeth, go on, get outta here!
3.14 NARRATION Now it’s just Douglas and Duvall on the pier.
MOVIE AUDIO BEGINS
DUVALL: What were you gonna do?
DOUGLAS: I don’t know! I don’t know what I was gonna do
DUVALL: Oh guys like you always say you don’t know what you’re gonna do. I think you know exactly what you were gonna do. You were gonna kill your wife and child! And then you knew it’d be too late to turn back. It’d be real easy to turn the gun round on yourself!
Now let’s go meet some nice policemen. They’re good guys. Let’s go.
3.37 NARRATION Douglas looks shocked. It suddenly hits him.
MOVIE AUDIO BEGINS
DOUGLAS: I’m the bad guy?
DOUGLAS: How did that happen? I did everything they told me to.
3.55 NARRATION: ‘I did everything they told me to.’ This is, for me, just one of the most perfect portrayals of humiliated fury – a dangerous force we see in so many abusive men. Humiliated fury is basically a cocktail of shame, rage and entitlement that gives abusive people, particularly men, a way to protect themselves against feeling powerless and defective. By blaming others, by abusing and oppressing them, they are able to regain a sense of power and avoid unbearable feelings of shame.
You see this Douglas character again and again in the stories of abusive men
THEME MUSIC BEGINS
‘I did everything they told me to’.
I’m the real victim here. I could have been somebody. They stole it from me. She stole it from me. If she’d just been loyal, if she’d just listened, if she’d just done what I needed her to do—none of this would have happened. Look what she made me do.
We’re going to talk more about humiliated fury, and a lot more, in this episode. What we’re trying to do is get some kind of answer to the hardest questions:
Why does he do it?
How does a boy go from being loving and compassionate, to cruel and controlling?
And is it possible for abusive men to change?
My name is Jess Hill, and this is The Trap.
5.25 JESS All right. We’re recording now. I guess as an opening question, I wanted to ask you guys, when did you realize that the behavior that you were using with your partner or ex-partner was actually domestic abuse? Was there a moment when that became clear?
5.41 ADAM I’d say the moment she pulled the separation card on me and I reached out to David, basically.
5.46 NARRATION: This is Adam, and he’s talking about David Nugent, who’s founder and lead facilitator of the men’s behaviour change program, Heavy Metal.
Tonight, I’m on a Zoom call with eight guys who’ve been in David’s program—some have been attending for months, others for years. Now most behaviour change programs in this country go for around 12 to 20 weeks. But in David’s program, there’s no time limit. Adam is new: he’s only been with the program for three months.
ADAM (cont): As a male, you sort of think through life that physical abuse is the abuse in relationships, you don’t realize how many other forms of abuse there really are. I think the mental conditioning from a child, what you go through as a kid, we’ve all got different stories, you inhabit that, and you don’t realize it until someone makes it aware, the awareness of it. There was a real…
6.36 DAVID: Try, sorry, but try and keep talking from a position of I. It’s really important.
ADAM: I’m sorry
DAVID: I know in phase one we drill, we’ll drill it on to you. But now, I’d say stay
ADAM: Yeah, I um I now know, there was a lightbulb moment for me, when David made it aware about the different forms of abuse, and you start feeling guilty for being that person. And I think most men, probably out there have some sort of abusive behavior
JESS: And what was it about what David told you or what you were learning that really like gave you those lightbulb moments?
ADAM: The first thing was the cycle that he brings up, I don’t know if you know about that, from happy to build up and then to explosion and of repeating that cycle over and over. And that is the last five to 10 years of my relationship. That was massive to me. It was like he’d been watching me for forever. And I think so many people are the same.
7.39 NARRATION: The cycle Adam’s talking about is the ‘The Cycle of Violence’. It’s a model that shows how apparently loving behaviour can actually be part of a cycle of abuse.
First is the Tension-Building Phase—where she’s walking on eggshells.
Then the Acute/Crisis Phase—so we’re talking about threats, blow-ups, possibly violence.
After this, comes the Remorse Phase—he has a right to explode, and he’ll be full of excuses and justifications for his behaviour—including blaming her
But after this, the light switch comes on, and he enters the Pursuit Stage—here, he becomes “Mr Fix It”: he promises her he’ll never do it again, he loves her, he’ll get help. In this phase he’s very patient, helpful, and thoughtful.
And then back it comes to the Calm or Honeymoon Phase—which of course leads back into the Tension Phase, where the victim is back to walking on eggshells.
This cycle can run over a few hours, or over weeks or months. Seeing it laid out in front of them can be a real wake-up call for some men, as it was for Adam.
8.49 ADAM: You do feel ashamed and you do you feel guilty and you feel really shitty, because obviously, I never wanted to be that person. I didn’t see myself as that person. I thought that was, there was triggers for my partner that made me become that person. But it wasn’t. It’s not. And we’ve all got a choice. And we, I know that now with what we’re learning and I’ve got a long way to go still, but the awareness is a big thing.
9.09 NARRATION: Simply getting this awareness can be a huge process. Men like Adam have to overcome enormous internal resistance—like the belief that they are the victim, a blindness to their entitlement and how they use it, and to all those emotional walls they’ve put up to protect themselves.
Once the awareness is there—which could take weeks, months, even years—that’s when the really hard work begins.
9.36 ADAM: It’s unravelling but there’s a long way to go. I do slip up. Yeah, definitely um just with certain forms of emotional abuse is one—definitely not physical—for me.
JESS: When you say slipping up and around emotional abuse, what does that look like? What does it feel like?
ADAM: I just feel like I’m not being heard. I feel like I’m not yeah and I’m not being respected. So I feel like I have to get my point across and I’ll do anything it takes verbally, to try and get it out there. But I’m obviously pushing her away even more than bringing her in. So that’s where I have to put the stop button on and go okay, sometimes you’ve just got to walk away and regroup your thoughts and get your shit together and let her have the space. You don’t have to be right.
TRANSITION MUSIC BEGINS.
10.29 NARRATION: We need to think very deeply about why so many men in Australia perpetrate domestic abuse. Why they feel that the only way they will get their needs met is if they degrade and entrap their partners and kids.
Now, when we’re talking about coercive control in particular, we need to be clear that amongst the men who use it, there are vast differences.
Researchers have consistently identified two main patterns of behaviour in coercive controllers.
The first is the calculating abuser who knowingly manipulates and degrades his partner so that he can dominate her. These men actually choose a woman they think they can control. They are very attached to having someone to control, but are typically not that emotionally attached to that woman in particular. These are the men who are most likely to have antisocial personality disorders, like psychopathy and sociopathy. They are at their most dangerous when they are about to be left or exposed—so, for example, when a woman calls police or applies for an intervention order. Believe it or not, these guys are actually in the minority.
More often than not, we’re seeing the second type: the paranoid, insecure, codependent abuser who becomes more controlling over time because he’s secretly afraid his partner will leave. These are the guys that neighbours and friends might describe as ‘a nice bloke’. Few will ever see their dark side, because their abuse usually only surfaces in intimate relationships because that’s where they feel triggered. But they are no less controlling than the first type: they are often jealous to the point of obsession, and prone to converting the most unlikely clues into evidence of betrayal. These are the men who are more likely to stalk and potentially kill their partners after they’ve left.
Now, it’s not as simple as saying this guy is the first type, this other guy is the second type, but at least this sets some parameters around what we’re looking at.
So in this episode, we’re going to talk more about the second cohort, and look at how their abuse and control is fuelled, at least in part, by ‘humiliated fury.’ But we will also hear from men, in this episode and throughout the series, who better fit the first category.
Now, I want to play you something, and there’s a big content warning on this.
It’s a secret recording and it was made by a woman while she was being verbally attacked by her partner. It’s chilling to listen to, but really worth it—I haven’t heard anything that better illustrates what coercive control sounds like.
Before we listen, though, let’s meet the woman who recorded it. Her name is Ellie, and listeners who tuned into episode one will be interested to hear that she grew up in a cult. We won’t go into the details here, but the similarities between her cult upbringing and the domestic abuse she endured are amazing.
So Ellie met this man on Instagram—he messaged her to say that he felt attracted to her kindness and integrity. They got talking, and they were on the phone for three hours. They had so much in common. He was everything she was looking for.
But despite everything that was going right, he was very jealous—especially about past boyfriends. Ellie thought it would put his mind at ease if she just let him have the passwords to her social media accounts, so he could see she wasn’t going behind his back.
Pretty soon, he was setting rules for Ellie.
Within months, he’d become physically violent. It was regular, sometimes extreme, and often had a sadistic quality to it.
He told Ellie this was all her fault. She had made him into the kind of man he despised.
NARRATION: The day she made the recording, she was done with him.
14.35 ELLIE: I’d actually asked him to leave. So he’d left but he came back because he had nowhere to live. And then I saw this look in his eye, and I thought he’s gonna start up again. So I put my phone down my bra and recorded him.
14.51: NARRATION: We’re going to play parts of this tape now, so if you’d rather not hear it, just skip ahead a few minutes.
14.57 PERPETRATOR: This is the problem! Take the fucking pill!
ELLIE: No, I don’t get like this when you’re not around.
PERPETRATOR: Shut up.
ELLIE: Don’t come near me
[Perpetrator grunting, yelling]
ELLIE: No no don’t come near me
PERPETRATOR: I will fucking kill you
[Ellie whimpering, crying]
PERPETRATOR: The choice you are making is unacceptable
ELLIE: Please go, please go
PERPETRATOR: I am leaving. Shut up. Shut up. Please. Please! Please! That is only designed for me to hurt you, for you to escape. You do not get to run away.
ELLIE: Please leave
PERPETRATOR: I will fucking kill you if you desert me, do you understand?
15.43 NARRATION: He’s telling her that she can’t leave. He won’t let her. He’ll kill her if she leaves. When she starts threatening to call the police, he goes from raging to placating: look how I’m standing, he says, look at my body language, I am not a threat. Then he just keeps laying into her—take the pill, take the pill.
16.03 ELLIE: Ok. Ok.
PERPETRATOR: I’m ok.
ELLIE: I’m not
PERPETRATOR: Take the fucking pill, bitch. You don’t fuck me over, leave me in the shit because you don’t want to take a fucking pill, are you serious? Are you serious?
ELLIE: It’s not that simple, taking a pill doesn’t make everything go away, please just…
PERPETRATOR: What the fuck are you talking about? You don’t know how simple it is ‘cause you…
ELLIE: Ok, I’ll think about it…I’ll talk to someone about it…Please just leave
ELLIE: Please leave my house
PERPETRATOR: Shut up
PERPETRATOR: I was asleep
ELLIE: Don’t hurt me, please don’t hurt me
PERPETRATOR: Why do you say that?
ELLIE: Because I’m petrified of you, please leave my house, please get out, please go
PERPETRATOR: Shut your mouth.You’re turning me into the fucking bad guy here, this is not acceptable, please stop interrupting
16.55 NARRATION: The level of gaslighting here is acrobatic. ‘You’re turning me into the fucking bad guy,’ he says, ‘and this is not acceptable.’ He’s literally just threatened to kill her, and is trying to force her to take medication!
Then everything is ok again—after all, he was just trying to leave.
17.14 PERPETRATOR: I’m the one who’s trying—I was trying to go. Please look at me without freaking out. Can you please bear in mind the good guy, who has just woken up, who has just had his life destroyed, by you, over a long period of time, and he is suffering severe mental illness. Shut up.
ELLIE: Oh, help me
17.44 NARRATION: Everything is calm now because he feels back in control and he’s back to shaping the narrative.
17.50 PERPETRATOR: No, the reason you do this is because you don’t want to listen. Just hold your hand over your mouth so that you don’t interrupt and talk over me so your brain might fucking hear me. You have spent two years torturing me. Sometimes consciously, sometimes not. Torture!
18.16 NARRATION: Listen to that projection. You can hear how convinced he is that he is the real victim. This is the kind of guy who’d answer the door to police with his partner sobbing and screaming behind him and sincerely inform them that it was she who attacked him.
But Ellie’s not just going to take it.
18.35 PERPETRATOR: Ellie.
ELLIE: What about when I had my… two black eyes and a broken nose? Don’t touch me! Don’t come near me! Don’t hurt me! Don’t put me in a hospital again! Just walk out the door now!
18.49 NARRATION: But if Ellie resists his narrative, he’ll punish her for it. The only thing she’s allowed to do here is agree and apologise.
But really, the most telling part of this whole incident is what he reveals in the first minute. She is going to leave him, and he is terrified. As he says: ‘I’ll fucking kill you if you desert me.’
NEW AUDIO CLIP
19.12 ELLIE: And when I finally got to escape, I took it to the police. And they were so horrified. I was so blown away, because I had normalized it. And that recording is nothing compared to other times, nothing at all. Young police constable played it, he was absolutely horrified. And I said, Look, I don’t want you to do anything. I just want you to record, you know, just say you’ve got this recording, I don’t want to do anything. He said, you’re not leaving here. Until we, we’re going to, you know, charge him. And I need a statement. I said, no, no, no, I don’t want a statement. I just, and he goes, no, he goes, I don’t want to see your face on the papers tomorrow. You’re dead, that he’s killed you. So I went through and that was probably one of the best things I ever did because I haven’t seen him since except in court. He hasn’t been near me. And the AVO’s worked. He’s petrified of going to jail. I just hope he never hurts another woman, that’s all.
TRANSITION MUSIC BEGINS
20.22 MAGGIE WOODHEAD: So the woman in that situation, they’re experiencing themselves smaller and smaller and more and more vulnerable. And him as bigger, louder, stronger, more intimidating, more whatever.
20.37 NARRATION: This is Maggie Woodhead. She’s worked with trauma, violence and abuse for 25 years—both with victim survivors and perpetrators. From her work with some of the most hardcore offenders in Western Australia, she’s learned a lot about how men feel when they’re being abusive—and it’s mostly the opposite of how they looked.
20.57 WOODHEAD: He’s experiencing himself as smaller, more afraid, more vulnerable, more desperate, more fearful of abandonment, he’s shrinking, shrinking down inside internally, which is why he’s making himself bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger externally, until he becomes this raging monster.
NARRATION: These well-concealed feelings of fear, shame and vulnerability are what underlie these men’s need for power and control.
WOODHEAD: It is around insecure attachment, it’s around feelings, most often generated through their own childhood experiences of not feeling safe and secure and protected, which has driven them for an inability to self soothe, feelings of very low self worth, and the the need to have a container for their overwhelming emotions.
22:00 NARRATION: When Maggie talks about a childhood of not feeling safe and secure and protected, she’s not just talking about men who’ve grown up with abuse and violence, although studies do show that those two experiences are often linked.
She’s also talking about men who grew up with one or both parents who were emotionally unsafe, and unavailable. In their book, The Batterer: A Psychological Profile, Donald Dutton and Susan Golant identify two parental types that can lead tender, loving boys to become frightened, abusive men: a shaming father, or a cold, rejecting mother.
22:37 WOODHEAD: So they’re looking for the mother to protect them. But they can’t acknowledge that because they’re the big tough guy. They can’t also admit to themselves that they feel very small and vulnerable. So that their inside self is very different to the outside persona. They need someone to lean on, and when they become fearful that this person is going to be unavailable for them to lean on. Which is why so often they develop fantasies about their wife or partner having an affair with someone, etc, etc. They then respond in the way they know that keeps that partner with them in order for them to continue to lean on. But of course, the partner stays through fear, rather than through love.
TRANSITION MUSIC BEGINS.
22:30 NARRATION: The men Maggie has worked with have been convicted on domestic violence offences.
WOODHEAD: And you don’t get involved in the criminal justice system as a domestic terrorism perpetrator unless you’ve committed acts of gross physical violence, so I’m talking at the pointy end.
NARRATION: Research she did with these men showed that 86 per cent of them grew up with domestic abuse as children.
WOODHEAD: And I actually think that was a gross underestimate. The most common background for serious perpetrators of domestic terrorism is, is growing up in that same situation yourself as a child. To not factor in trauma is really doing a dreadful disservice.
NARRATION: As a society, we’ve long agreed on a narrative about abusive men: that they do it for power and control, they do it because they can, because of male privilege, because they’re entitled.
But, you know, that doesn’t get to the heart of why so many men are still abusing women and kids—or why they need that power and control in the first place. That’s what I keep trying to understand, to get closer to some kind of answer that might help us find better ways to help them stop being abusive.
I think the psychoanalyst Erich Fromm gets close to the heart of what drives coercive control, and he writes: ‘The passion to have absolute and unrestricted control over a living being,’ he says, ‘is the transformation of impotence into omnipotence.’
So why aren’t we investigating, as a matter of urgency, what is making hundreds of thousands of men in Australia feel such a shaky sense of self-worth, feel so impotent, and so entitled?
25:16 WOODHEAD: We are trapped now in this politically correct context, where we can talk about patriarchy, but we’re not allowed to talk about trauma. And I think that’s because of the sense that well, if we talk about trauma, well, then we’ll just excuse all these guys. And that will say, it’s not their fault, it’s their trauma background. Well, my point is that you can have the knowledge of their trauma to inform the intervention, and to enable them to to hold themselves accountable for what they do. It’s not an excuse, but it’s a way to understanding and working with.
TRANSITION MUSIC BEGINS
25:58 NARRATION: In refusing to talk openly about the role of men’s trauma, we’re simply reinforcing the same old patriarchal culture: as the great bell hooks writes, this is ‘one that socialises men to deny their feelings and in which male pain can have no voice, and male hurt cannot be named or healed.’ When we frame abusive men simply as powerful and privileged, we neglect what hooks calls ‘the deep inner misery of men… the terrible terror that gnaws at the soul when one cannot love.’
By refusing to properly confront this, we leave it to individual women—often the men’s victims—to fix them, which, of course, is impossible, and only draws them deeper into being abused.
The need for us as a society to address the destructive force of trauma, shame and humiliated fury in men is stark and urgent—for women, for men, and most importantly, for the children they are raising.
TRANSITION MUSIC BEGINS
27:10 JESS: If you want to just start off by telling me a bit about what it was like living with your dad.
27:15 FINLEY: Oh yeah sure. Well it was fun when he was in a good mood. When he wasn’t in a good mood, or he just wasn’t, he wasn’t entertained, like he was bored, he would do things to like scare us, or injure us purposely. I remember once he wasn’t in a good mood, or maybe he wasn’t like, maybe he wasn’t entertained. And he just chucked a ball at my head. I can remember one period of when we were living with him. He just like basically didn’t talk to us at all.
JESS: So, he just went silent for ages.
FINLEY: Yeah, pretty much.
NARRATION: This is Finley. He’s nine years old (going on forty one, according to his mum). He lived with his father’s violence and coercive control until his parents separated about a year before I called to speak to him. This recording is pretty scratchy, because I was originally only going to transcribe what Finley said for the book that I was writing.
JESS: And what did you do? Like did you try to talk to him?
FINLEY: Oh, yeah, like we like asked him questions about how his day was. And like, all the normal stuff, and then we just asked personal and family questions, and he wouldn’t answer at all. Like maybe he just like nod or grunt. Like some talk, but not very often.
JESS: And so did that go on, like was that for quite a few days or longer than that?
FINLEY: It’s pretty much the whole year.
JESS: The whole year. Wow. That’s pretty confusing and weird.
NARRATION: There was no explanation for why Finley’s father stopped talking to his entire family. He just became a menacing presence in the house, silent and brooding. This is a common element of coercive control. It’s called stonewalling.
When Finley’s dad was talking to his family, he would devise ever more creative ways to terrorise his kids.
FINLEY: I felt really scared and like, I feel my gut, like, turning and sort of like making me want to vomit almost. Yeah.
JESS: Could you ever predict what would set him off? Like what would make him angry?
FINLEY: No, ‘cause it was really random like. Like, if the sky wasn’t blue enough, he’d get angry.
JESS: Yeah right. Did you feel like he set strange rules that were really hard to live by?
FINLEY: They were ever changing. I mean they would be valid for 10 seconds. And you’d be abiding by them. But then the new rule would state that you’re doing something wrong. Just so he could get mad at you.
NARRATION: Over time, Finley became so hypersensitive to the quality of his father’s presence, he could feel when he’d arrived home before he heard him.
FINLEY: Even if he, like, came in silently, and there was no noise, you could sort of sense that he was here.
NARRATION: Finley became hyper-vigilant to the changes in his father, learning to read them like a code—so he could prepare for what was coming.
FINLEY: Well, it was mostly his facial expressions. IT had like, an algorithm. So the expression would be dead silence. And then he’d go off.
TRANSITION MUSIC BEGINS
30:34 NARRATION: There are kids like Finley all over Australia—it’s estimated that as many as one in four children are growing up with domestic abuse. And many, like Finley, will grow up to be sensitive, empathic men who would never dream of hurting their partners or their children. But as we’ve heard, others will find themselves repeating the patterns of their fathers.
30:56 TYRONE: I was always an angry kid, apparently. From when I was growing up. So obviously there’s a lot of violence in the house, like domestic violence, when I was growing up. I can’t remember it because I was a lot younger. Got to about 15, I started using drugs quite frequently. And then I was 18, and it was daily drug use, all types, like amphetamines, downers, weed, ecstasy, ice; anything get your hands on, sort of thing.
31:26 NARRATION: Tyrone has been with the Heavy Metal program for over two years. He’s been sitting pretty quietly for almost an hour. When I asked whether anyone had experienced issues with jealousy and control, Tyrone raised his hand.
TYRONE: I’m now 20, nearly 29. So I was 17, I was in a relationship, and I was quite jealous. I was with this girl for two years, and my relationships never lasted longer than two years. And I thought that’s just how long the relationships last and they run their toll. Anyway. And I didn’t realize that I was quite abusive, really controlling and jealous. And anyway, that relationship ended… Mum made me realize that my behavior was unacceptable. And now my wife made me realize that my behavior was unbearable.
NARRATION: Tyrone was 19 when he met the woman he would marry.
TYRONE: I vowed not to be jealous, but because I was jealous in my previous relationship, I felt that I was being manipulated. So I needed to be in control of this relationship that I’m now married into, into. And so it was my way or the highway I had to physically be in control of things I had to mentally be in control if things weren’t right.
NARRATION: Tyrone wasn’t just in control—he was erratic, and angry. But as he looked more agitated and angry on the outside, he felt quite the opposite on the inside.
TYRONE: I know when I hit that plateau of anger, I actually feel calm. Like, I get that angry, I’m actually at peace with myself. Which is weird because I thought, okay, that’s what happens when you get that angry? But it’s like, that’s the feeling of Okay, I’m in control now. So I’ve got the power…. That was when I suppose I was like, Okay, this is how I get things in life. This is how it works. And trust me life works. I was making a lot of money. I had a really well behaved girlfriend. And everything was rosy. On the outside, we were the pinnacle couple, we’d go out, I’d have heaps of money, shout people drinks, shout people dinner, you know, oh he’s such a good guy. And I’d go home and my wife wouldn’t put a glass away or something or something wasn’t in the right spot. And like you see on those ads. And yeah, it’d be like, what the fuck, what’s, hat’s this doing here? It’s like fucking, if you hadn’t done this, I wouldn’t have done that. Like, it’s like the title of your book.
NARRATION: Tyrone says the big change came when he started working with David, two years ago.
TYRONE: As soon as he showed me the cycle, I was like this has been my life for the last 10 years. And essentially co- I realized out of the whole, that question the coer, coercive behavior made me, had fed my ego, it fed, it fed what I thought made me feel good. I didn’t understand emotions. Because when I was growing up, I was taught, boys don’t show, men don’t show emotions, I still remember clear as day. I jam fingers in a car door, I was four years old, we’re at the motorbikes track and my stepdad looked at me, and like, we’re with all the boys, and he gave me the look he’s like, don’t cry now. And so four years old, I still remember it clear as day.
And that’s the one thing that I just had a one-on-one with Dave the other night and vulnerability is the hardest thing for me to actually grasp. And showing emotions, properly, emotions, when they come to me is the hardest thing I’ve had to overcome. Like, yeah, so the coerciveness is, I suppose, is it, because I’m a male, it’s easy. That’s why I did it. It was easy.
TRANSITION MUSIC BEGINS
35:16 PHIL JONES: Men aren’t scared of being murdered. Men are scared of being humiliated. Men are scared of being embarrassed, and men are scared of being abandoned. And when we go deeper, the reasons for that is partly because men have never been supported, and I’m being massively generalistic, never been supported to deal with their emotions.
NARRATION: Phil Jones has been facilitating men’s behaviour change programs for over 25 years, in and around the northern rivers region of NSW.
JONES: Never been supported as little boys to go you can actually handle that feeling. It feels like you’re frightened that you’re going to be abandoned. It’s okay, you can get through it. And we can build you up and give you some support to get to a place where you can actually handle that, because it’s not going to happen. But if you don’t deal with it, what you’re going to do, everything you’re going to do is going to create abandonment for you.
NARRATION: Phil says the kinds of men he works with are not the type that use coercive control strategically.
JONES: I don’t work with men who are what we probably called sociopaths, high-end offenders, guys who are sadistic, who like it. I don’t work with them.
NARRATION: Guys like that are pretty much impossible to have in groups—they require very different interventions. So, the guys Phil works with are predominantly men who use coercive control, but who do it almost unconsciously. Not tactically.
JONES: What we have is, as soon as we start saying, you’re using tactics, immediately, they go into resistance. No way, that’s not my experience.
NARRATION: So instead of talking initially about coercive and controlling tactics—or even, let’s say, behaviours—Phil shows them what is driving the primary emotion they do identify with: anger.
JONES: Okay, so you got an iceberg, a picture of an iceberg, just imagine it’s a triangle just for ease. The top sort of quarter is the bit above the water. And that’s anger, we put anger in there. And then we start to go, ‘anger is not really the primary emotion, it’s the thing we’re allowed to have as men. It’s the thing society gives us permission to be angry as little boys.
But you know the story, you know, ‘you stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about,’ you know, all of that guff that we’ve been given. So we’re allowed to be angry, but we’re not allowed to be anything else. So when we get underneath, and we start, we do this on a whiteboard, we start working out what’s underneath, we’ll get frustration, we get sadness, we get all sorts of things, but the word fear has to be fed.
They cannot come up with fear on their own. But then as soon as we fed them fear, everybody, just, the relief’s palpable.
BACKGROUND MUSIC BEGINS.
Everybody just goes, ah, that’s what’s going on for me, I’m fucking terrified.
NARRATION: So what is it about our society that raises so many boys into men who are ‘fucking terrified’, and using control and violence to cover that up? And how can we get through to them—and show them it’s possible to change?
I have to confess, when I was writing my book on domestic abuse, I didn’t want to confront this question. I’d been so focused on the victim survivors and what they’d endured that I didn’t care about their perpetrators. But then it struck me—this is precisely how such abuse persists. Patriarchy demands we never ask why so many men so commonly abuse their partners.
How can we reduce abuse if we don’t understand its causes? So I turned towards those who have devoted their lives to answering this question.
38:51 TERRY REAL: If you are talking about somebody who is violent or offensive, you are talking about somebody by definition, who is in a state of grandiosity.
39:00 NARRATION: This is the renowned American family therapist Terry Real, he’s written several bestselling books, like, I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression. I’m having an absolute moment speaking to him, because I’ve been citing his work ever since I started writing about domestic abuse. For me, his analysis on the modern condition of men and patriarchy is amongst the best I’ve ever read.
REAL: They are superior, they are above you, they are above the rules. They are either holding the rules and/or you in contempt.
I believe that contempt is emotional violence, and contempt precedes all other forms of violence. First, you have to hold the victim as inferior to you and you as superior in some way, or you won’t be able to victimize them. I mean, there’s a whole thing about how we train soldiers to see the enemy as subhuman, so that they’ll kill them and not have too much compassion for them.
NARRATION: So what happens to so many men that leads to them having this contempt for women? Terry says that this journey into contempt is a form of trauma in itself – a ‘normal traumatisation’ experienced by all boys, when they learn that it’s not safe to be emotional, expressive, vulnerable, anything “girly”. That wound, Terry says, starts to occur in boys when they’re really young – around three or four.
REAL: Before our boys have learned to read, they have already read the code of masculinity. And there’s research that indicates that boys are less expressive at 3, 4, 5; doesn’t mean they feel less but they’ve already figured out it’s not politic to let people know what you feel. Three, four or five. That’s a hell of a trauma.
Now what’s going on here is what one of my mentors Olga Silverstein called the halving process, H A L V I N G. Carol Gilligan calls it the binary.
You take one whole human being, you split them in half, you go all the qualities to the left are feminine, all the qualities to the right are masculine. And there they are. Traditionally the masculine is exalted, the feminine is devalued, the essential relationship between masculine and feminine in Western culture is contempt. The masculine holds the feminine in contempt. What it means to be a man is to not be a woman in any way, shape, or form.
NARRATION: There is an exquisitely sad story that illustrates just how little boys go through this process of normal traumatisation. It comes from a book by the rockstar feminist psychologist Carol Gilligan, who’s a close colleague of Terry’s. It’s about a six-year-old boy called Donald. who was in first grade at school.
So Donald was standing in front of the class, ready to teach them his favourite song. There was only one song for him—it was a song about angels, which he sung to himself every night before he went to sleep. They were his angels—they saved him from having night terrors. It was the most beautiful song he’d ever heard.
So when the teacher asked him to start, he started saying ‘well, it’s the lullaby’…and then stopped short when he saw the faces of the boys sitting down the front. They weren’t mocking him. They were just shocked.
BACKGROUND MUSIC STARTS
Later as an adult, Donald would remember that in that moment, he suddenly learned that what he was about to do, the song he was about to choose, would be a mistake he would never live down. And what the boys were teaching him was that this lullaby about angels could not be his favourite song. In a flash, in an act of gratitude, he told the teacher that he was just kidding, and that he would now lead the class in the Marines Hymn—an army marching song.
When Donald grew up, he became a psychoanalyst. And as an adult, he described that moment as an act of treachery. He had betrayed his angels and renounced them in public. He had been unfaithful to what he loved, and it had haunted him ever since. As bell hooks says, the first act of violence men perpetrate is against themselves.
All boys are conditioned to betray their own hearts, and many can feel as though they have to don a mask. This is the patriarchal disconnection that Terry describes. If they don’t resist—if they can’t be true to their emotional selves, and if they experience shaming or rejection from a parent—they may grow up hyper-sensitive to the threat of being exposed, of people seeing behind the mask. Terrified they will be seen as defective, vulnerable—and unlovable.
This is the shame and insecurity that underlies patriarchal masculinity.
But there’s another trauma at the core of patriarchal masculinity—and it is central to not only to distorting and disfiguring some men emotionally, but facilitating their violence.
REAL: Poisoned privilege, grandiosity, superiority, being above it. It is the central delusion of masculinity, you are not in nature, you are above nature, you dominate it. This is a delusion that has the potential to kill us all, if we don’t wake up. We are not above nature, we are in nature. We’re in the system, we’re not above the system; we don’t work on it, we move inside of it. And if we don’t adopt the wisdom and humility of understanding that, whether the nature you think you’re controlling is your woman or your child, or the traffic or the planet…If we don’t wake up, the consequences are really lethal. We just lived through four years of it. The righteous shift from shame to grandiosity, from victimhood to attack is central to the narrative of masculinity. Central. I mean, we just saw it in Washington.
NARRATION: Terry’s talking here about the attack on the US Capitol in the last few weeks of the Trump presidency.
REAL: Don’t tread on me, baby. So you know, how many boys adventure stories and movies—’Rambo’, ‘Straw Dogs’ there are millions of them—where the the hero is a nice guy who’s set upon by, you know, creeps and hoods, and he takes it and takes and takes it. And then he grabs the gun and goes berserk and we all cheer. It’s what one of my mentors Pia Melody calls offending from the victim position. Once you see yourself as an angry victim, the rest will follow. You go from one down to one up. And from feeling done to, to attack. There’s an incredible AA saying: hurt people hurt people.
JESS: One of the clues that really led me to interrogate shame, and the destructive force of shame was that Margaret Atwood quote, that men are afraid women will laugh at them, and women are afraid that men will kill them. And that quote is often invoked to show how ridiculous men are and how petty their fears are compared to women’s. But to me, it was like, well, let’s take that at face value. That that’s what men say is their greatest fear. So what does that mean about men and how they feel about being laughed at, i.e., being humiliated? And why is that such an existential threat?
REAL: Men are afraid of being laughed at, women are afraid of being killed. The immediate thought, of course, is they’re linked.
REAL: Women will be killed if men are laughed at. Shame leads to violence in masculinity. And it is a millennial old neuron track that’s inherited over generation after generation that you can transliterate shame into grandiosity.
BACKGROUND MUSIC BEGINS.
You can move from impotence to power over. And what’s devilish about grandiosity is it feels good. It works. it pulls you out of the depression of your helplessness and you feel pumped. It’s like cocaine. Cocaine is a drug that is a portal into grandiosity, and you feel big and strong and invincible when you were feeling betrayed and you know, let down and whatever, two seconds ago, it works, but it creates havoc in your world.
In order for a man to attack, there must be two things: there must be the wound, and there must be the entitlement to grandiosity. Now, you may think that his feelings are—except that they’re lethal—laughable.
But men are fragile creatures, because traditional masculinity has no place for healthy self-esteem. Self-esteem comes from the inside out. And instead of healthy self-esteem, which comes from the inside out, 999 out of 1000 men replace it with performance-based esteem. I have worth because of what I can do. And that means that I’m only as good as my last game. And there’s always somebody younger, faster, warming up in the bullpen.
JESS: What Terry is saying here echoes what Maggie Woodhead said at the beginning of this episode – that a big part of what’s been missing in treating men’s violence is an appreciation of their trauma. Except the trauma that Terry is talking about, fundamentally, is the trauma they experience under patriarchy.
One of the few characteristics that distinguish a cohort of abusers from normal men is increased sensitivity to abandonment. Abusers are love addicts. Abusers are grandiose love addicts. And so they’re dependent on the warm regard of their partners. When their partner’s withdraw or don’t give them that regard, get mad at them, they go into a self esteem crash. They have about two seconds worth of tolerance for that. And then they pump up in the grandiosity and they go after them. All the while feeling like they’re the victims.
48:27 Van: I came to Dave and I found Heavy Metal quite early. I thought of joining, I thought of joining the group, but initially, I refused, internally, because I said, I don’t think I need much help.
NARRATION: This is Van. At 23 years old, he’s the youngest on the call with the Heavy Metal behaviour change group. He’s been in the program for almost a year now.
Van: And I started noticing that my relationships with my girlfriends, we’re breaking down and they were getting worse and worse. And shorter even. So what really, what really hit me was last year, I got in trouble with police. And there’s just a bunch of, you know, there’s a lot of stuff that really got me thinking with like intervention orders and like other stuff, unlawful assault.
And that really got me thinking, ya know, if like do, I want all my relationships to end badly like this. Or like do I want to start having healthy relationships in the future. So I decided to take the initiative and contact Dave this time, and it was lucky enough to have him put me onto the program straightaway. He saw that I was there for like the right reasons. And I think the biggest thing for me, that I needed to work on was my ego. Because in the past, I was controlling, I was insecure. Honestly, I was really scared. I didn’t have a lot of value in myself, I thought a lot of people out there were better than me. And I always had this competitive edge that I had to be better than everybody else.
50:54 Van: Also that the fact that I think I have like a possessive nature. It goes back to my childhood, because my parents didn’t really give me much attention and they got divorced, when I was like 11 they got remarried and they both have children with their new partners. And by that time also, me my oldest sister were already of age where Hey, you guys can like look after yourselves. So we weren’t really paid much attention to.
Van: Every time um a new person that cares about me comes into my life, I get like really possessive because I have a fear of them like leaving me.
Van: The work I’ve done with Heavy Metal, it’s really allowed me to, it’s allowed me to recognize the things that I can’t control, and work on the things I can control. And yeah, just learn the difference between the two. And also, I’ve, I’ve managed to drop my ego as much as I can. And I’ve noticed as well, like, when I’m hanging out with friends, both male and female, they find it really refreshing that I don’t have much of an ego.
Like I have a lot to go. I have, like, a lot more to learn. But yeah, it’s one of the best choices I’ve made. And like, in my personal opinion, I think a lot more people around my age, like guys especially need to be in a men’s behavioral change program. Yeah, I see it when I go out, you know, into the CBD. A lot of people trying to be someone that they’re not or like trying to, you know, look tougher than they are. And, yeah, it’s just like, I know like, deep down, it’s, it’s cuz they’re scared or they’re hurt or something like, between the two I guess.
NARRATION: Nine-year-old Finley still sees his dad every three weeks, and has a phone call with him every few days. He says his Dad has changed a bit since he separated from his mother, but it’s also more of the same. He has temper tantrums, but not as often. He’s more relaxed, but he’s also more controlling. Overall, Finley says he feels safer.
53:13 Finley: I think he has to be really careful. Otherwise, a lot of things will like, be unfolded, and he might end up in trouble.
Jess: Right like with the courts and stuff like that?
Jess: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Does that make you feel better? Just knowing that someone’s sort of watching and making sure that, you know, that your dad doesn’t feel like he can do that anymore?
Finley: Yeah especially with my phone cause I can dial like the police and all that sort of thing.
Jess: Yeah right
NARRATION: Finley says that he knows that the connection he has with his dad is different to the healthy connections others fathers and sons have. Those connections, he says, are like telephone or electricity wires: sturdy and thick. With his dad, the connection looks very different.
53:58 Finley: If you look at the fishing wire, I feel like it’s fishing wire with like, a few little like, abrasions in it. So it’s like, really loose.
Finley: Sometimes, like, it can go, like, perfectly. Like, one weekend, it could be really, really great. And you’d come back feeling quite good. But other times, it would come back really bad and It would affect most of my week.
Jess: For other kids who are going through or going through what you’ve been through? What would you want to say to them? What would you want them to sort of know or to hear from you?
54:37 Finley: That there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. And if something’s bad happening, you can always drown your sorrows in friends. You can never have enough friends.
NARRATION: Finley has had amazing support from his mum to get the counselling he needed to deal with the impacts of his father’s coercive control. I wasn’t sure how to phrase this last question, but it’s so key to what we’ve been talking about around intergenerational cycles of violence.
55:05 Were you ever afraid, or are you afraid that like, somehow – I can’t imagine how this would happen just by the way – but that somehow you might sort of end up being like your dad?
Finley: it’s actually sort of a nightmare, almost like, sometimes I see my actions as well and I’m just like “oh my God, I’ve just become my dad.” And that sort of thing. And like in the way I act, I feel that I have to be careful, if I say something mean or critique someone. I’m going to have to say it in a nice way and not snap at them. Or keep on nagging them about something and hound them. I don’t want to become like my dad and have like a happy relationship with anyone that I am with.
NARRATION: It’s clear that if we want to protect kids like Finley, and the countless other women and even men who are subjected to abuse from their male partners, we need to work a lot harder at intervening with men who are capable of change. But can a group program achieve real, lasting change? Do men’s behaviour change programs work?
56:11 Phil: I believe very strongly that men can change. I’ve witnessed enormous change throughout my life in men that I’ve worked with, in my own life, people, I’m friends with – massive amounts of change.
NARRATION: Here’s Phil Jones again, the men’s behaviour change program facilitator from northern NSW.
56:30 Phil: If we don’t address the person holistically that we’re asking to change, we’ve got no chance. So if someone is traumatized, it’s part of the picture. It’s not the whole picture.
See, I have a very, very strong belief, that choice around domestic violence, choice for men to be abusive, was made many, many, many, many, many years before the actual event of domestic violence. The decision that if certain conditions are reached, I will give myself permission to be violent, was never made consciously, but it was made in childhood.
57:04 Phil: Quite possibly, it was made pre verbal.
Phil: For most men who are abusive, they are not making that choice on the spot. I’m gonna quote, Brene Brown, is it’s easier to be abusive or hurtful to someone else than it is to feel our own pain. And I have to qualify easier, because it’s easier in the moment, but it’s not easy or long term. But we’re wired constantly to do the thing that’s easy in the moment.
NARRATION: So how do we change these deeply habituated patterns, in which abusive people use coercive control and violence to get their needs met? At the moment, we don’t have enough programs, and the programs we do have go, on average, from about 12 to 20 weeks.
NARRATION: The data on Australian behaviour change programs is mixed. Some data shows a low rate of change; other studies show that these programs are actually effective with a lot of men, and create more safety for their partners, ex-partners and kids..One big study from 2016 showed that the programs do work – there is a sharp reduction in the nature and severity of violence while the men are in the program, and most men become violence free or almost violence free two years after their program.
But as far as Phil’s concerned, the programs run in Australia are too quick, too generic. For him, no real, lasting change is going to happen in less than two years.
58:40 Phil: The theory of 12 or 20 weeks is that it, it gives the man enough understanding to actually bring the choice into consciousness. So we’ve given him enough information so that what he can do is when confronted with a situation where he would have been violent, and he may have been doing that on autopilot of some description, now he’s not now he’s knowing that he’s got a choice. I think it’s crap. I don’t agree with it. I think it’s nonsense.
Phil: But I worked with a guy for two years, whose narrative was that his partner was narcissistic and alcoholic and incredibly difficult to be with and all of that sort of stuff. And he’d been abusive, and he taken ownership of that, almost to the day of beginning to work two years later, he said, we did a shame exercise and he worked through the shame exercise in group with us again, and at the end of his check out was I’ve been talking about her being narcissistic, alcoholic and her being the problem for two years. She’s not the problem. I’m the problem. I’ve been really abusive to her. I feel so ashamed. And I can sit here feeling ashamed. And it’s okay. You know, I mean, that’s two years. That’s two years of work.
NARRATION: We need to find something that works. Many of these men are going from one relationship to the next, with little in place to stop them.
In Ellie’s case, she was just the latest in a long line of women this man abused. His second wife reported him to police when he beat her, but never pressed charges cause she was scared for her life. He made out that all of his ex-wives were crazy, and drug addicted – you know a classic technique out of the perpetrators handbook. In every new relationship, his oppression and his violence escalated.
1:00:22 Ellie: And his first wife has become a good friend. He had been a bit violent to her but been very controlling, she still has nightmares about him threatening her. Because he used to say you created a monster, you’ve created a man that I’ve always despised. But when the police went looking for him, his ex wife said to me, Ellie, he’s always been a monster.
NARRATION: Ellie’s since found out that he is back on Tindr, where he describes himself as authentic, genuine, enlightened and spiritual. Oh, and guess what he calls himself?
Ellie Lucifer (laughs) but he’s been banned off Tinder now. I’m sure he’s on other ones, but yeah, Lucifer, you know, and he’s got himself as a lot younger than what he is.
JESS: Ellie says she wants to see men like her ex be held accountable, but also receive proper help.
1:01 ELLIEBut why isn’t there money going into rehabilitation programs for these men, men’s groups compulsory that they go, you know, put, take them into the outback. and give them more understanding about what they are doing when they do this.
JESS: What Ellie is highlighting here is one of the biggest problems we have. How can we stop abusive men from being abusive?
Any success around rehabilitation must start by accepting that they are not all the same. There are abusive men who will respond well to therapy, group programs, rehabilitation and other treatments. But we have to separate these men from the high-risk perpetrators who either can not, or will not, respond to any kind of treatment. These are extremely dangerous men. So what do we do with them? Is jail really the only option?
And what about the anti-domestic violence campaigns the government is spending millions of dollars on? What are these campaigns trying to achieve? Are they fit for purpose? Are they working?
JESS: (1:02:33) A few years ago, at Safe Steps, Victoria’s family violence helpline, I was talking to Annette Gillespie who was the CEO at the time and I was asking her about what her counsellors hear on these phone lines. She said they were getting women calling in saying ‘can you get them to stop playing that ad on TV, because every time he sees it, he goes nuts.’
Ever since, I’ve wondered what it would be like to actually ask men who’ve used coercive control or violence what they think of the government’s ad campaigns?
JESS: This is an ad that ran in Victoria. So a group of friends they are all sitting around a table and one of the guys gets a phone call from his girlfriend
Ad Male 1: So here we go. It’s Deb. Yep, quick… I gave you enough money this week to get the – hey. Hey. I told you, you don’t speak when I’m speaking.
Jess: You can see his friends getting more and more uncomfortable
Ad Male 1: Seriously, do you like practice being this stupid.
Jess: He’s looking to them for validation
Ad Male 2: C’mon Johno. Do you think that’s funny? Cos thats not funny, mate.
Ad Male 1: (laughs) It’s just a joke, mate.
It’s not a joke, man
Jess: Then they all change the subject. The guy next to him just gives him a slap on the knee and that’s it. End of conversation.
Ad: Supported by the Victorian Government.
1:04 TYRONE: I get the point of the ad but what three four years ago I would have been sitting on the couch and I would have been like tell that fucking person to shut the fuck up don’t tell him now to speak to my wife, I’ll speak to my missus how I want to speak to my missus. If that’s how he spoke to his his girlfriend to get a kick out of those blokes and that bloke had of said, mate, that’s not how we talk to – in reality, that dude would’ve gone shut the fuck up. That’s what I think.
MALE: There’s there’s mostly two types of people discussing domestic abuse on online. And it’s women saying this is horrible, and other men saying that this is horrible with the asterix that Oh, of course, I’m not part of the problem, though. But of course, the statistics say that an overwhelming majority of women experience some type of abuse. So a lot of men are part of the problem.
You know, part of changing society is making certain behaviors unacceptable. So from that perspective, the ads coming from a positive place, but he that man probably felt embarrassed.
And, you know, anger and abuse comes from from a place always of internal suffering. …Even though we might think that shaming him is good, hisinternal suffering probably increased, and he might have gone home and then as a result, been abusive to his partner. …Shaming actually doesn’t help. What we need to do is have really honest and frank and vulnerable discussions with men and other men to say, Hey, you know, we understand you might be suffering.
This is how you can get some help, you know, and that was the thing for me that enabled me to enact change. But that’s just, that’s just not a discussion that’s happening in in society, because it is all about shaming men, and it is all about everyone’s acting like they’re not part of the problem. And no one’s actually putting their hand up and saying, Hey, this is an issue I’ve had.
JESS: Phil Jones is more direct.
PHIL: My first response as a gut response I just feel sick. That’s my first response. And then the second response is, there’s not enough for me. I look at that and I just think, yeah, no it’s not a joke. It’s right. It’s not funny, but why do we just leave it there? Why is that? Why is that covering it?
How is, how is that dealing with the issue? How’s that doing anything? I mean, you know, it’s a great start. But that’s all it is, is a start. It’s not anything further is it?
I mean, he might be angry with his friends. He might be angry with that group of men. But where’s he gonna land that anger?
JESS: How could we remake that ad, to make it speak to men – and to shake up the patriarchal routine of shaming, of shutting down, of power-over?
PHIL: We can take different parts of that ad and we could do something with that to make an ad that might be of worth. So some of that might be, here’s a bloke sitting with three other blokes and the pathway in his brain is, I feel really frightened that I’m not the important man in this group.
I feel less than these guys, I’m not as smart, I’m not as clever, I’m not as educated, I don’t earn as much money, I’m not as strong, I’m not as big, I’m not as something.
Now my partner’s ringing. So one of the ways that I’ve been socialied into showing that I’m actually really cool and together and one of the boys is that if I, if I have dominance over her, that’s one, but I’m not conscious of that. But that kind of clicks. And so I start doing that.
PHIL: And then the guys sort of say, after I’ve hung up, that’s not funny, but but you know, let’s have a talk to you about what’s happening for you mate that you feel you need to do that? What’s going on in your in your head and in your life, that you feel that you need to do that. Because if you want to impress us, being yourself and being genuine and being vulnerable, and being those things is much more impressive to us as men than you trying to be really cool and putting someone else down who is probably the most important person in your life.
01:07:54 JESS: After 150 years of consciousness-raising and feminist activism, women are getting closer to the point where they can direct their own destinies, and one of their most urgent needs right now is to stop being harassed, assaulted, abused and killed by men. For this to happen, we need men to see that stopping this is in their interests too; that they too can release themselves from this cycle of violence.
As we’ve heard in this episode, we’re starting to grasping that this cycle of violence emerges from the cycle of trauma – trauma that is intrinsic to patriarchy, especially its requirement that we teach our boys to split themselves in two, with one part forced into a performance of masculinity constantly policing the other part where they may feel vulnerability, if they allow themselves to feel at all.
The question now for our society is, what do we do about this? Can all men who are using violence and oppression against their partners and kids be healed? What do we do with those who refuse to change?
Jess: But next time, we’re moving on to another question that plagues this subject – the perennial, ‘Why Doesn’t She Leave?’ Now, there are people who say you just shouldn’t ask that question. But to me it really depends on how you ask, and what answer you’re looking for. So there’s the victim-blaming rhetorical version ‘Why Doesn’t She Just Leave?’ That’s obviously a rubbish question. But when we ask the question genuinely, ‘Why Doesn’t She Leave’, the answers are actually revealing, and fascinating, and they take us deeper into the territory of the Trap.
You’ve been listening to The Trap, proudly brought to you by the Victorian Women’s Trust and it’s harm prevention entity the Dugdale Trust for Women and Girls. We would like to thank all of our supporters and donors. Special thanks to Equity Trustees & the Phyllis Connor Trust, the Bokhara Foundation and a private donor.
Our Creative Producer and editor is Georgina Savage. Co producers are Ally Oliver Perham, Maria Chetcuti, Mary Crooks and Lucy Ballantyne. Special thanks to Leah McPherson and the team at the Victorian Women’s Trust. The Trap was mixed by Romy Sher and Pariya Taherzadeh.
This podcast was produced in Sydney and Melbourne and we respectfully acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of this land, the Gadigal of the Eora nation and the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation.
We would like to acknowledge the victim survivors and others who have generously shared their stories and expertise.
If today’s topics have raised any issues for you, help is available. Contact 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or see our show notes for a full list of support services. For more information about this podcast including show notes and resources, visit vwt.org.au/thetrap and follow @TheTrapPod on Instagram
You can also find out more about the Victorian Women’s Trust via their website: www.vwt.org.au or follow them on social media: @VicWomensTrust
I’m your head writer, producer and host, Jess Hill. Thank you for listening.