Friday, May 11, 2018


    The media and the public are acting so shocked about Eric Schneiderman. How could a man with such a great public image, and a women's rights advocate even, turn out to be a vicious batterer?

    I wish people weren't so surprised. Those of us who work in the domestic violence field have been trying for decades to get people to stop being fooled by how abusers come off in public.

   Here are some key points I'd like to bring to people's attention (actually I'd like to scream them) about this case:

*  One of Eric Schneiderman's victims, Tanya Selvaratnam, describes him as a "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" personality. This public vs. private split in the conduct of men who batter women is the norm, not the exception, and it's time for people to stop acting surprised about this. Those of us who work and do research in the domestic violence field have been talking and writing about this split for over thirty years. Most abusers cultivate a positive public image, leading repeatedly to cases where observers say, "Oh, I doubt it, he doesn't seem like the type at all." Putting on a good public face is the type.

*   How does Schneiderman live with the hypocrisy of casting himself as a women's rights crusader, making such rousing statements as, 'If a woman cannot control her body, she is not truly equal"?The answer lies in some key aspects of how abusive men think, including:

  --   Seeing himself as special and above it all, so his own behavior doesn't count.
  --   Feeling that women owe him gratitude, service, and obedience in return for anything positive he has ever done for them
  --  Convincing himself that, in his case, women love being abused, even though he professes outrages when other men do it.

      Again, what is most stunning about these attitudes is how ordinary they are; Schneiderman is joined in these ways of thinking by almost all men who are violent or sexually exploitative towards women.

*   Alcohol is not the cause of Schneiderman's violence and abusiveness. His former partners are describing how he would assault them for saying no to sex; how he would belittle them intellectually; how he would pressure them to change their bodies to make themselves more pleasing to him; how he would threaten to kill them if they tried to leave him. These are not drunken eruptions; they are deeply ingrained abusive behavior patterns that he was using day in and day out. Alcohol can't make a man suddenly start to view his partner as an owned object whose entire life should be subjugated to his -- which is how Schneiderman operated.
      Alcohol is a frequent excuse among men who batter, and that's exactly what it is: an excuse. There are plenty of alcoholics who don't assault women.

*   Schneiderman just drips with entitlement, and that is well-established as one of the core characteristics of men who abuse women. Abusers think that they're justified in treating women the way they do, and they invariably blame their victims. That's why they're so shocked when they end up facing actual consequences, whether from the legal system, or from their employers, or from public opinion. When abusers do get held accountable, they always insist that we aren't being fair to them. Schneiderman's outrage is probably genuine -- but that's because he feels so disturbingly justified in what he has done.

*   Despite how overwhelming the evidence against Schneiderman already is -- and plenty more is bound to come out -- he still believes he can manage it through denial. Abusers think that if they say the problem doesn't exist, then it doesn't exist. The media and the public tend to put too much weight on such denials; abusers are comfortable and skilled at telling lies about anything related to their history of assaulting, sexually abusing, or psychologically attacking their partners. And the thing is, it usually works; if they just sound sincere, they can tell the most outrageous falsehoods and succeed in getting people to discredit the victims.

     A fake denial and an honest denial usually sound exactly the same. We have to assess the evidence -- including the huge weight of multiple credible victim reports in this case -- and not think we can tell by judging the sincerity of the denials coming from the accused.

  In high-profile abuse and sexual assault cases, it generally turns out that other people in important positions have been covering for the offender for a long time. There are already signs of this tricking out in the Schneiderman case. As a society we need to impose consequences on the influential people who covered for the offender, not just on the man himself. Otherwise we're not going to succeed in stopping violence and violations towards women.

Friday, March 13, 2015


     If you go day after day, week after week, not getting enough sleep, the toll it will take on you can be greater than you realize. Lack of sleep can clog up your ability to think clearly, and can make you feel more raw and sensitive emotionally. The effects tend to be cumulative, so that the longer you've been having trouble getting enough rest, the greater the impact on your life may be. Some people report starting to have depression, hopelessness, or even a sense that they are losing their minds. You can start to just plain feel shaky, physically and mentally.

            So if you feel as though you're falling apart, one possibility is that you just need to sleep.

            Being involved in a destructive relationship can make sleep hard to come by. The stress and emotional pain of being mistreated can keep you awake. Your worries about what your partner will do next can do the same. Maybe sometimes  -- or often  --  he doesn't let you sleep, either to punish you about something he's angry about or as a way to force you to have sex with him. When a man causes sleep deprivation in his partner, he is actually committing one of the more serious forms of physical abuse -- yes, sleep deprivation is a form of physical abuse  --  but the depth of damage he can do in these ways is often not recognized. 

            If you have young children, that adds a lot of additional challenges to getting sleep, especially if your partner isn't carrying his weight about sharing the times of getting out of bed to attend to a child in need.

            Keep some notes about how much sleep you get, and track your rest patterns over a period of weeks. Putting down on paper what is going on can help you to assess whether lack of sleep is actually one of the major contributors to emotional and physical struggles you are having.

(This post is based on an entry from Lundy's forthcoming book "Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That?: Encouragement for Women Involved with Angry and Controlling Men", which will be released by Berkley Books (Penguin) on April 7, 2015.)

Monday, January 12, 2015

You Are Their Mother

The title of today’s second post may seem odd to you. If you have children, you’re probably thinking, “Of course I’m their mother. What’s up with that?”

In the rush of daily responsibilities and challenges—especially when you are in a relationship with someone whose behavior is a huge problem some days—it’s possible to forget just how important you are to your children.

Biology is not the issue here; in fact, some of you are raising children you didn’t give birth to. Motherhood is about so much more than giving birth or breastfeeding, as powerful and profound as those are. As your children’s mother, you are their protector, their moral compass and teacher, their key source of love and affection and nurturing, their refuge, their source of faith.

You might ask, “Isn’t their father supposed to be these things too?” Yes, although even the best father can’t be exactly what a mother is. But if your partner is struggling with addiction, is deeply selfish, or is abusive to you, he can’t even begin to be what the children need him to be. So your role as a mother grows even bigger.

The bitter irony here is that many destructive men attack a woman’s sense of her value as a mother. Your partner may say that he knows better than you do what the right way is to raise children, . He may even try to convince you that there is something toxic about you that your children are in danger of catching, and use that as an excuse to take away your parenting decisions and rights.

So when you say to yourself, “I am the children’s mother,” you are making a profound statement that is not about being their biological or legal parent. You are stating how absolutely critical your role is in who they are and who they will become, and how inalienable your right is to guide them and love them. Your children are looking to you.

(This post is based on an entry from Lundy's forthcoming book "Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That?: Encouragement for Women Involved with Angry and Controlling Men", which will be released by Berkley Books (Penguin) on April 7, 2015.)

Sunday, April 13, 2014


            When a man has some unhealthy relationship patterns to begin with, the last thing he needs is to discover philosophies that actually back up the destructive aspects of how he thinks. Take a guy who is somewhat selfish and disrespectful to begin with, then add in a big dose of really negative influences, and you have a recipe for disaster. And the sad reality is that there are websites, books, and even organizations out there that encourage men to be at their worst rather than at their best when it comes to relating to women.

            Some of these groups come under the heading of what is known as “Men’s Rights” or “Father’s Rights” groups. Their writings spread the message that women are trying to control or humiliate men, or are mostly focused on taking men’s money. They also tend to promote the idea that women who want to keep primary custody of their children after divorce are evil. The irony is that we live in a country that has refused to pass an amendment to the constitution to guarantee equal rights for women; yet some men are still out there claiming that women have too many rights and that men don’t have enough.

            Other groups don’t use the language of “rights”, but promote abusive thinking by talking about the “natural” roles of men and women. These groups teach, for example, that men are biologically programmed to be the ones making the key decisions, and that women are just naturally the followers of men’s leadership. These philosophies sometimes teach that men and women are just too different to have really close relationships.

            Human personalities and preference are obviously not determined by biology. There are women who love to watch football and men who would much rather be dancing. There are women who hold in all their feelings and men who burst into tears freely. No one has the right to tell anyone what they “naturally” are or must be; one of the greatest joys of human life is having the freedom to decide for ourselves what our identities and styles will be.

            If you see your partner coming under the influence of a philosophy that is harming your relationship, take some steps to research it. Look underneath the surface of what he is telling you about his new belief system. If he starts to attend workshops or read books that seem to be worsening rather than improving how he treats you, try to use the Internet to make contact with other women who have been hurt by these philosophies. The clearer you can be about what he is getting into, the more you’ll be prepared to defend yourself.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


            Has your partner ever said to you, “You’re the controlling one! You are always trying to control me! You’re a controlling bitch!”
            These accusations can create confusion for the woman. So let’s clarify a few points.
            It is not control when you:
  • Demand that someone treat you properly, insisting that your rights be respected (including demanding that you be spoken to with respect)
  • Challenge someone about the work they are creating for you (such as by leaving messes around the house)
  • Press someone to meet responsibilities that they aren’t meeting (and if you have to keep asking them over and over again, that doesn’t make you controlling, it makes them irresponsible)
  • Challenge someone about behaviors of theirs that have large implications for the couple (and for the family if you have children), such as abusing alcohol, gambling, ignoring the children, or being mean to the children
  • Call the police because someone is hurting you or threatening to hurt you
            It is control when you:
  • Ridicule someone, make them feel stupid, or call them demeaning names, especially when you are doing so in order to force them do something or to silence them
  • Physically or sexually intimidate someone
  • Get revenge on someone for not doing what you told them to do or for standing up for their own opinions
  • Impose double standards (make different rules for yourself than for the other person)
  • Pressure or manipulate someone into sexual contact that they don’t want
            I’m willing to bet that when he calls you controlling, he is referring to things you do from the first list, and that when you call him controlling, you’re referring to things he does from the second list. He's the one getting it all backwards.
            Another useful, though tricky, concept:  It’s control when you are trying to take someone’s rights away, and it’s self-defense when you are trying to keep someone else from taking your rights away. (The reason this gets tricky is because the controlling man will often say that you are trying to take his rights away, because he thinks he has the right to abuse you.)
            And a last concept:  The abusive man will call you “controlling” for resisting his control. Noticing when this is happening will be a huge help to you.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


            Verbal abuse is not sexy. Intimidation is not sexy. Public humiliation is not sexy. Ruining the day is not sexy. So why does he think that a short period of time – say a couple of hours -- after he’s been treating you terribly could somehow be a good time for sex? He really thinks that this is when you are going to be in the mood?
            Not exactly. The problem, as is so often true with abusive men, is that he isn’t thinking about you at all; he’s thinking only about himself. He wants sex to reassure himself that he hasn’t driven you away, and that he still has access to your body. He thinks that if he can get you to have sex, that also means he has erased from history the destructive acts he did earlier. And he wants to have sex because in some twisted way his ugly behavior made him feel close, even though it had the opposite effect on you.
            And because of the ways he’s been tearing you down, it gets hard for you to say no to sex that you don’t want; you can end up feeling like giving him what he wants is the only way to settle him down so that he doesn’t launch into more abuse, or even violence.
            He is the one whose reactions are unhealthy, not yours. The feelings you are going through are completely natural for a woman who has been demeaned and bullied. When he has sex with you following one of his incidents, that is a form of sexual abuse, even if you don’t – or can’t – fight him on it. Keep reminding yourself that the sickness is in him, not in you. Sex after abuse is just more abuse.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


One of the common contradictions that women hear goes like this:
“Well, it’s your own fault because you let him get away with treating you like that. You have to stand up to him.”
    while other people say
“If you’re going to get right up in his face and push his buttons like that, what do you expect? You already knew how he’d react if you said that to him, because of what has happened before, but you said it anyhow.”

            So what’s the correct way to handle him? Should you stand up to him or shouldn’t you?

            The answer is that no one has any business telling you what to do, because there are so many factors involved in the decision in each specific situation. You are the expert on your partner. You know which issues you can (usually) get away with challenging him about. And you know that there are others where he will punish you if you stand up to him. Some days you will choose to hold your ground despite the pain his retaliation will cost you; you’ll do that because the issue that you’re arguing about means that much to you, or because you can’t take being bullied anymore, or because your soul and dignity need to see you resist his dictates from time to time.
            Most people don’t understand how payback-oriented controlling and abusive men are. They don’t understand what a high price you may pay for calling him on how wrong his statements and actions are. How can someone else know when it’s worth it to you and when it isn’t?
            And as for people who are telling you not to challenge him, they too have no idea what they are talking about. While it’s true that confronting him can cost you a lot, failing to fight back eats away at your soul over time. These people are saying, in effect, that you should consent to be oppressed because it will make life look a little more peaceful, a little less overtly injurious, a little less scary. It’s the same thing as saying to someone, “You should let the invaders take your children one at a time, because otherwise they might take them all at once.”
            There are no simple solutions in dealing with a partner who bullies you, and you deserve respect and understanding about that fact from the people in your life.