BY CHRISTINE LOUIS DE CANONVILLE, MIACP
Domestic violence against men by narcissistic women:
Narcissistic Intimate partner violence (IPV) in the home is not always easy to identify. But when it is perpetrated against the man in the household (whether it is a heterosexual relationship, same-sex relationship or transgender relationship), it is even harder to recognise. Regardless of gender, intimate narcissistic abusive relationships are perpetrated from similar motives, and always involve an imbalance of power and control where intimidation is used against the partner. It is time to challenge cultural stereotypes that assume that the perpetrators of narcissistic abuse in the home are always men, and the victims of abuse and violence are always women. According to Sam Vaknin: –
“There are no major psychodynamic differences between male and female narcissists”
Children exposed to a narcissistic parent also become a victim:
We must all put aside our preconceptions and look at the facts regarding female abuse, even though they are very uncomfortable for all of us. It is a fact that any women who abuse their partners (whether male or female partners) by default, also abuse their children. When children witness domestic violence, even if they are not physically abused themselves, they too become victims. Children who are exposed to constant abuse within their environment are likely to suffer developmental disorders, mental health disorders, and behavioural problems in the future. By denying that women are abusive in the home, we are not helping these victims (men and children) to come forward and get the help they need. Female IPV is not a new phenomenon, I have been working with both male and female victims of narcissistic abuse for many years. Erin Pizzey, the U.K. social activist who established the first women’s shelter in 1971 said that 62 of the first 100 women who were admitted to her centre were “violence-prone” and therefore just as violent as the men they were fleeing from. It is more than time that we treat all abused victims, regardless of gender, with the same respect and provide all with equal support services for recovery.
Domestic Violence Against Men By Female Narcissists & the Risk Factors:
Men who are victims of spousal violence (domestic violence victims) have a terrible fear of social stigma. Because men feel such shame about being abused by a woman, many have a reluctance to report their abuse, giving the woman carte blanche to continue battering him. But things are changing, and I would encourage men to report their abuse and seek support. Since the extensive media coverage of the Alex Skeel case in the U.K. in 2018, the young man who was repeatedly knifed, scolded and hammered by his then-girlfriend. Due to the quick observations of a police officer, she was eventually convicted of the crime of coercive control, and she was sentenced to seven years in prison. Since that case, men do seem to be treated better by the Criminal Justice System in England.
The legal system especially needs to understand that women are not only capable, but also have the potential to commit a cycle of violence against their partners. The sad thing is, many men all over the world are being battered by an abusive female partner daily. These women, who are perpetrators of violence (i.e., with antisocial personality disorders), will often use the element of surprise when they attack, for example, make their attack when their victim is asleep. The abuse includes not only physical violence (i.e., being kicked, punched, spat at, choked, scalded, threaten to harm the children or pets etc.) but the male can also be subjected to psychological abuse, verbal abuse, sexual coercion or sexual violence, stalking, economic violence, and in extreme cases, homicide. Typically, the acts of violence becomes more frequent and severe over time. Yet, to the outside world, he seems to be in a good relationship, and you can be sure that his narcissistic woman will appear to be a most charming and attractive partner. But the truth is he is experiencing intimate terrorism with a pathological ‘she devil’.
For example, one of the most famous Irish murders by a pathological narcissist was the murder of Tom Nevin (owner of White’s Pub in Wicklow) by his wife, the notorious Catherine Nevin. Catherine had hired an assassin to murder her husband (shotgun by proxy) one night when he was counting the takings. She wanted him dead because she was determined to have all the money and assets that they owned, but she was caught. She was convicted of Tom’s murder, in 2000 and she was given a life sentence. In 2016 Catherine was diagnosed with a brain tumour and given only months to live. She was granted compassionate release in late 2017, and she died in hospital on 19 February 2018. She became known in Ireland as The Black Widow.
What Prevents Men from Reporting Intimate Partner Violence?
Things that prevent men from reporting intimate partner female violence are their fears of being punished by the narcissistic partner who will want revenge (i.e., punishing them by not allowing them to see the children, etc.). They may also be fearful of the reactions of society. For example, fear of being ostracised or scorned for not being macho enough and having their masculinity challenged. Their fears of being seen as “less than” a man are real. Many men also fear the anti-feminist backlash that says, “when a female retaliates with violence it is due to self-defence, and that they (the woman) is the real victim.” This creates a big fear when the man decides to report their abuse to the police service . Fear that the police or friends will laugh and ridicule them, which is a common response. An even greater fear is that they will not be believed, but rather be seen as the perpetrator and be arrested. If in a same-sex relationship, the victim may fear the threat of their sexual orientation (their gender identity) being ‘outed’ to friends and family. Even many health professionals (i.e., doctors, therapists, psychiatrists, police, etc.) are not familiar with the serious crippling effects of coercive control and narcissistic abuse. I am doing my best to address this lack of education amongst professional caregivers, which is a big task when working alone.
What Would Cause Women To Become So Aggressive With Their Partners?
The majority of women would not be aggressive unless in self-defence situations, which is understandable. However, where female-perpetrated IPV occurs, many of these women will have experienced male dominance growing up. Many of these women may demonstrate poor anger management, substance abuse, history of sexual abuse as a child, deep wounds of rejection and abandonment, post-traumatic stress disorder, a malignant narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), etc. It is as if narcissists have a broken filter for viewing the world, so when they encounter problems, they view them through the lens of a wounded child, without the ability to think through all the possible consequences of acting through their destructive behaviours. To protect themselves, they develop an elaborate set of defence mechanisms to defend themselves from the outside world.
It is important to understand that when a person suffers from NPD, that person will operate from a position of 9 criteria: –
1. He or she has a grandiose sense of self-importance (exaggerates accomplishments and demands to be considered superior without real evidence of achievement).
2. He or she lives in a fantasy world of exceptional success, power, beauty, genius or “perfect” love.
3. They think of themselves as “special” or privileged, and that they can only be understood by other special or high-status people.
4. They demand excessive amounts of praise or admiration from others.
5. They feel entitled to automatic deference, compliance or favourable treatment from others.
6. They are exploitative towards others and take advantage of them.
7. They lack empathy and do not recognise or identify with others’ feelings.
8. They are frequently envious of others and think others are envious of them.
9. They “have an attitude” or frequently act in haughty or arrogant ways.
Should the narcissist’s partner trigger their feelings of abandonment or shame (accidentally or deliberately) they will be confronted with an intense violent rage that will become quite revengeful and sadistic, which will be acted upon without any sense of guilt or conscience. The unhealthy narcissist cannot regulate affective responses to their internal or external stimuli (their feelings of shame, anger, envy, etc.) that dysregulates them, making them feel under constant threat (fight-or-flight response). The activation of their automatic nervous system affects their behaviour, attention and arousal, making it almost impossible for them to regulate the negative effect. It is also the dysregulated effect that causes the instability that easily plunges the narcissist into self-loathing and extreme psychological pain, resulting in sudden outbursts of rage or punishing behaviour against the offender or situation. This is what makes these individuals so dangerous. In such cases, the woman’s IPV is not motivated by self-defence, but by their deep need to control their partners. The narcissist’s overt physical aggression and gaslighting covert aggression creates enough fear in the victim to ensure that they maintain their control.
What are the reasons that would make a man want to stay in such an abusive relationship?
All victims of narcissistic abuse (whether male or female) have great difficulty leaving these abusive relationships. Having gone through The Idealisation Phase, The Devaluing Phase, The Discard Phase and possibly the Hoovering Phase, the victim’s sense of self is eroded. Furthermore, the narcissist’s gaslighting techniques (psychological abuse) instil an extreme sense of anxiety and confusion in their victims to the point where their victims no longer trust their memory, perception or judgment. The isolation they have been subjected to beats them down, and not being able to stand up to their partner creates the most horrendous shame. Their self-esteem is so low, they feel worthless and paralysed. They may be trauma bonded to their partner, and in denial of how bad things are. They may know that they would never get custody of the children, so stay for their sake, to protect them from their narcissistic mother. They may have no idea how to start leaving the relationship, most men would not know where to turn for support.
WHAT ARE THE TELL-TAIL SIGNS OF BATTERED MAN SYNDROME?
According to Dr Jeanne King (2018), an American Psychologist and Domestic Abuse Consultant that works hard to end intimate partner abuse. She says: –
“If you think battered women are stuck in their mess, you haven’t seen “stuck” until you have met a battered man.”
Below are some of the signs that Dr King (2018) lists for letting you know if you are an abused man in a toxic, dangerous relationship.
1) Your partner uses different types of violence as her means of establishing and maintaining control in your relationship: Verbal abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, physical partner abuse, financial abuse, alcohol abuse, systemic abuse to get her way (i.e., calls you names, insults you or puts you down.).
2) Your partner may punish and/or manipulate through the use of battering that can also involve threats of abuse i.e., threatening to separate you from your children if you report the abuse.
3) Your spouse is extremely jealous of your contact with other women, even when there is no basis for an extramarital affair (i.e., Acts jealous or possessive or constantly accuses you of being unfaithful).
4) Your partner seeks to control your time, attention, and social life (i.e., Tries to control how you spend money, where you go, who you see or what you wear, etc.).
5) Your partner demands that things go her way or no way, leaving you with no other options other than to acquiesce.
6) Your partner insists that you assume blame for all discord in the relationship including her abusive behaviour toward you.
7) Your partner may seek to isolate you from all sources of support outside of your intimate relationship with her (i.e., prevents you from going to work or studies, from seeing family & friends.).
8) Your partner demands your compassionate understanding of her, yet fails to offer empathy toward you.
The Prevalence of Intimate Female Violence in Ireland:
Estimates of male victimization: The prevalence of violence by women towards male partners around the world is mainly ignored by whole societies, and this leads to a lack of resources for dealing with the abuse of men. In Ireland alone, out of 40 domestic violence support services, only three of those services (that I know of) will work with abused men. In 2021 one of the frontline services that do work with men, reported that they supported almost 8,000 men who contacted them. This was an increase of 45% in 2020, so the numbers are growing exponentially. Most of the allocated €30 million go to funding the women’s support services, however, less than 1% of the funding goes to support male victims. It is estimated that at least 1 in 7 men will experience an abusive partner during their lifetime, however, only about 5% of men are reporting their abuse to the police, which means 96% of these men are invisible and suffering in silence. As yet, there are no domestic violence shelters for men in Ireland, so when they find themselves in this predicament, there is no safe place for them to go with their children.
Just as there is a condemnation of aggression by men against women, so should we be condemning female aggression against men. Even if the feminist domestic violence movement (as health care providers) do not want to acknowledge that female abuse against men exists, these organisations must address this issue if they want Ireland to be the safest country in the world for all children. Children are the real victims, they are not only witnesses to domestic abuse, but they also experience it, and unlike any adult, they have no way of walking away from it. Even if the women’s movement is not concerned about the safety of the men of domestic violence, they must acknowledge the need for the children to be protected from abusive mothers as well as abusive fathers. It is time for these victims of violence (abused men) to come out of the shadows and be seen and supported by a comprehensive domestic violence program in the same way that women who experience IPV are.
Narcissistic abuse does not discriminate, it is not gender-specific, and we all need to wake up to that fact. There can be no hope in changing the culture and transforming the response to domestic violence in Ireland (or the world) as long as male victims are not included in the research and statistics. Let us not make the same mistakes that other countries have made. We can learn from their mistakes, and protect everyone, men, women and children. Remember, these narcissistic abusive offenders do not confine their behaviours to domestic violence in the home, they bring their behaviours into the wider community, (i.e., the workplace, into friendships, as neighbours, etc.). Each narcissist is capable of abusing multiple victims throughout their lifetime. Now, how scary is that? I implore the women’s movement to stop their Domestic Violence misandrist agenda and look to change the world by treating all victims equally and fairly.
- Narcissistic Female Intimate Partner Violence Against Men Is No Joke - February 28, 2023
- Narcissists and Positions of Power and Influence - February 6, 2023
- Why Is It So Blooming Hard Leaving a Narcissist? - December 9, 2022
A wonderful article on a subject that professions in England do not want to discuss. They often don’t understand that women can abuse men and don’t pick up on the pattern of abusive behaviours. As a result they unintentionally collude because of their own unconscious bias and discriminatory practices. They need more training and calling out when they show gender bias. These females also alienate fathers from their children which feeds them power.
Thank you, Christine for your groundbreaking exposé of men’s suffering in a relationship with a female narcissist. After a 36-year marriage, it was another 22 years before I became aware – thanks to the Internet – of my ex-wife’s covert NPD. it was a shock and a relief at the same time. It has enabled me to reach out to my adult children and my grandchildren and encourage them to seek help. This is happening, and brings hope of breaking the cycle of abuse and suffering passing from one generation to another.
I can never thank enough the psychotherapist (herself a survivor of her mother’s NPD ) who told me – after a brief account of my suffering – that she “knew all too well what I was talking about” and offered me respect and admiration for having survived it all. What a precious gift that was!”
Very good and informative article. I don’t doubt it a bit that men are abused just as much as women. I think women are more manipulative, so emotional/mental abuse would be worse, and that’s very hard to get anyone to truly listen to the victim.
I’m a woman, and I’ve known more women narcissists than men, and they are very sneaky.