There is a huge cache of written analysis and testimonial on the internet. Let’s call it the canon of lay-knowledge relating to abuse. I don’t include the works of professional psychologists here because, especially in relation to Narcissism, these works hadn’t made it onto the internet until a vast supply of information from non-professional quarters had been published. I am more than a little suspicious that all of a sudden online psychology magazines take Narcissism as their pathology du jour just when there is a critical mass of interest and discussion. Psychologists after all are part of the mental health industry and it is in their best interests to be where the work is. That said, this body of knowledge, this accepted canon (accepted by the victims of abuse that is) holds an interesting conundrum.
Many of us, including psychologists, are good at recognising the problem and it’s patterns. We are good at describing those patterns. We just can’t really understand why they do it or how to fix it.
It seems that in the main chronic abusers are either psychopaths or malignant narcissists. These are the types of people who act purely on a desire to create chaos and destruction and they seem to sadistically enjoy seeing the pain in their victims’ eyes. In plainer terms, they abuse because they want to. This is an almost impossible concept to understand and if you have trouble getting your head around this, be grateful. It means that you are an empathetic individual with a conscience – most of us are. Certainly all of those who share their experiences of abuse and abusers have trouble understanding why they were victimised in the first place. It seems that generally speaking you don’t have to do anything to be targeted for abuse. You can be born into an abusive family, or you marry an abuser, or you are friends with an abuser or you work with one. They are, unfortunately, everywhere.
The psychologists will tell us that abusers were born that way or that they were made that way by their parents or somebody who abused them. That makes about as much sense as stating that everything in the universe came from an explosion of nothing into something. Abusers may be born with certain genetic material which makes them more likely to be abusive, and yes they may also have been abused by others as children. But if abuse causes abusers, then what happens to all those siblings of abusers. Why aren’t they out abusing everyone. And if there are in fact abusers who enjoy abusing, then this counters the argument that they were so traumatised by their abuse as children that they simply go out and abuse others because they don’t know any better.
The problem is that nobody understands why malignant character disordered people do what they do. There are many suggestions as to why, but nothing definitive. Nothing at least which satisfies most of us. Personally, I believe that abusers who enjoy abusing others and do it without remorse and do it even more when you try and point out that their actions are hurting you are simply wicked people. It sounds trite, but as a Christian, I believe that this is actually a biblical explanation. I won’t go into it on this post, but I believe there are precedents in scripture. Good men have had evil sons. Jacob and Esau are a perfect example of two sons born to the same man; one who was favoured by God and one who was profane, or godless. Job the righteous had delinquent kids for whom he needed to sacrifice daily ‘just in case’, and King David’s son tried to overthrow his rule. The patterns are historical, writ large and undeniable. It simply remains for the rest of humanity to ‘get it’. Why is it that many of us feel that this will never happen?
There is a greater question in my book, even greater than why it is that wicked and repellent people do what they do. And that is, how do they manage to get away with it? They seem to have a network of supporters, some who are both powerful and influential, who will deny the possibility that the abuser could do any wrong. They are not just loyal friends, they seem to be devoid of any ability to question or critically assess the reports of victims. It seems to be a near constant, at least from my own research over the last decade or so, that abusive people are more likely to have a Greek chorus of apologists and adherents than the genuinely deserving.
Internet blogs and commenters tend towards calling this Greek chorus ‘flying monkeys’ which is a cute phrase taken from the Wizard of Oz. The witch in this movie/book had an army of literally flying green monkeys who did her bidding. However, the term has a larger meaning in the online canon of abuse and abusers. A flying monkey is somebody who not only does the bidding of the abuser and applauds their every move, refuses to believe what the victim says because they are invested in believing that the abuser is a good person, but also will gossip and spy on the victim and carry information to and from the abuser in an attempt to reinforce the abuse. They are not the silent and innocent bystander (who by the way is also an accessory), they are co-abusers. They turn the acts of abuse by the individual into a reign of terror.
Why would anyone do this? To me this question has even greater import than working out why abusers abuse. At least ‘being evil’ carries the understanding that some people just love being mean. Every child who has ever seen a Disney villain or a pantomime will know that some people are just evil. In real life of course, that brainwashing loses its impact. Evil is not obvious, it is very often banal, to quote Hannah Arendt’s book ‘Eichmann’ which was based on the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the nazi war criminal. She posits the theory that people who carry out evil acts are not necessarily psychopaths but simply following the orders they are given. Stanley Milgram, a sociologist carried out a series of experiments at Yale University in the 1960s from which he asserted that 7 out of 10 people will follow orders from somebody they perceive as an authority even if those orders are hurtful and wrong. This may explain the mindset of flying monkeys in some cases, but often the monkeys are not in a position of working for the abuser or even relying on the abuser for ‘orders’. Often the flying monkeys are simply friends with or relatives of the abuser, whom they seem to genuinely like and respect, and they believe that the victim of the abuser, moreover the victim who speaks out against the abuser, is actually the evil person. This assertion is both counter-intuitive and counter-logical. Simply speaking the truth does not make you bad or even abusive. I don’t know whether flying monkeys do what they do because they truly believe that victims are lying about their experiences or whether they are attacking the victim in order to avoid having to look at the facts that the victim is exposing. Either way, their actions are often worse than the original abuse because in their zeal to protect the abuser, they are re-traumatising the victim.
If you read the previous post relating to the rape victim from the Master’s University, you will see a classic case of the abuser’s supporters creating even more trauma for the victim of the rape than what she originally experienced. The upshot of these flying monkey’s actions was that the rape victim was denied the right to graduate despite having already finished three years of her degree and having her name slandered and her character assassinated in the college community she had known all that time. Few people stood up for her, and the devastation of the rejection and betrayal of so called mature Christian leaders and the Christian friends she had known all that time was in fact worse for her than the original crime. The rape itself was bad enough, the abuser was unrepentant despite his final ‘confession’ that the act was in fact non-consensual after a long period of silence. This was nothing to those who led the inquisition against this young woman, in fact I would go so far as to say that the men who attacked her as a consequence of the rape and her refusal to acquiesce to their completely insane demands to withdraw legal charges and ‘let them deal with it’ were in fact pathological abusers themselves. John Macarthur’s church is well known for its abusive practices and some have gone so far as to call it a cult. It doesn’t surprise me that he and his staff re-traumatised this poor girl for having the courage to not only confess a crime against her body and soul and one which carries shame and humiliation, but looked to them for help. This is what predators do. In the face of a terrible experience, they have shockingly backwards reactions. Normal people would help the rape victim and condemn the abuser. These men attacked and blamed her and attempted to blackmail (itself a crime) her into lying about what happened. Not only are these reactions abhorrent to God and anyone with a working human soul, they are proof that the environment in which the rape was covered up was in itself malignant. Whether or not they were trying to protect their college’s reputation (too late gentlemen) the means manifestly did not justify the end. And despite their own delusions as to their pristine reputation, the facts, which they themselves so ably demonstrated, were that their college is run by wicked men.
Incidents like this are hardly uncommon. Flying monkeys do what flying monkeys do in just about every instance where sociopaths or malignant narcissists or in fact any kind of abuser exists. The canon of knowledge and experience attests to this fact and has done since it’s inception over ten years ago. And this is the interesting thing about abuse. Since the advent of social media and blogs in general, abuse victims have used the resource to speak up about what happened to them. Comments from other victims, who often write their own accounts later, testify to the common attributes of both the abusers and their apologists. It IS a canon of knowledge simply because of the fact that the information has been shared and acknowledged as true by so many other people from so many different backgrounds and so many different experiences. The abusers are male or female, the apologists can be related or not related, the abuse can be physical or mental or both, but the actions of these people form chilling patterns which simply cannot be ignored. Hence the rise of the psychology journal articles and their authors who have proven by their use of it that the canon of information out there is not only authentic but creditable.
It is our belief that abusers, true to their predatory and calculating characters, will choose supporters, acquaintances and contacts from among those who will best suit their purposes. To these ingenuous and just as often disingenuous individuals, they show their best faces. They are kind, helpful, supportive and ensure that the relationship is mutually profitable. Thus when the victim chosen by the abuser begins to speak up, the true venal nature of the abuser becomes clear. The unwitting supporter thinks that his good friend is being slandered and opposes the slander out of loyalty, and the collaborating supporter slanders the victim out of knowledge that they will be rewarded for their collaboration. This works in a professional environment, in a familial environment and in a church environment. And it proves beyond a doubt that our carnal human nature can be successfully manipulated by the truly evil.
It takes a great deal of wisdom and discernment to pick a human predator. Often the very worst abusers hide by choosing careers in the caring professions because they know that the victim’s guard is down especially if they are vulnerable. Patients need their doctors to be above suspicion or they would never trust them. Children need their teachers and other significant adults to be trustworthy or they will never learn or grow. In the same vein, the very worst kind of abuser is a character disordered parent who uses their own children both as victims and as flying monkeys. The adult child of a narcissist suffers for the rest of their lives as a result of being abused throughout their dependent years, sometimes as many as twenty or more. That is a very long time to be under the intimate influence of an abusive adult. And if there are more than one abusers in the family, as the canon has proven to be common, the victim must not only deal with their parents but often their siblings. This does not end at adulthood and leaving the family home. It is a very common scenario that a victim of abuse often seems to discover the truth of their family lives into their forties and fifties. Why does it take this long? We believe that maturity, experience and worldview play into this. Also, now the internet canon of information is available, more and more victims are discovering what abuse really is by recognising the patterns from the testimony of the thousands who report what their abuser did. Finally, the victim can read these reports and have something of a slow epiphany in their own lives. They recognise the patterns in their own family, compare it to what they see from other’s accounts and reluctantly and with trepidation make the connection to their own lives. If nothing else, recognising that you were either raised by or married to a predatory individual is the very worst kind of revelation. But in the end, the truth changes you and the lives of those who care about you. When you know the truth, you can live differently. It will be painful, but it is necessary to remove the rot. In our lives, we determined that we would end the cycle of familial abuse with our own generation.
The internet has allowed many victims to speak out, both anonymously and openly. Initially, we spoke out about the abuses of the cult Brisbane Christian Fellowship under assumed names. We found that whether we hid our true identity or not, the flying monkeys descended, some claiming they ‘knew who we were’ with the sinister overtones that they were somehow going to ‘get us’ for having spoken up. We received threats of legal action and yet nothing eventuated. You don’t actually need anything to eventuate if those threats come from the people you knew while you were in the cult. You know what they have done already – destroyed the faith and relationships of individuals and families – and you know that they were willing and able to slander and destroy your character and reputation to everyone else in the cult. In the end though, it was at the borders of the cult’s influence, and narrow and petty they were too, their threats lost power. They might attempt to bad mouth you to other churches, but the fact that their own reputation was scarcely pristine even to those who did not know of their covert destruction of marriages and lives would ensure that their gossip remained just that.
Speaking out is seen by our society as ‘airing dirty linen’ and is treated as shameful. It is seen this way in churches also. We are told ‘not to judge’, yet the apostles themselves had no problem writing public letters regarding false brethren and leaders and teachers and naming names. There is a scriptural precedent for warning of false teachers. But where there is freedom to speak, believers have been known to use it as a license for carnality. There are now many so called ‘discernment’ ministries which are nothing more than lists of every christian leader with whom the author disagrees theologically. Disagreement over certain texts does not mean a person is a false teacher. If Paul, Peter and John all declaimed false teachers to the point of cursing them to the blackness of darkness forever, and if John said that even bringing a false teacher into your home causes you to participate in his evil deeds (2 John 2:10-11), then false teachers are not simply believers with different opinions to you. These sorts of people are actually the same as chronic abusers. Genuinely false teachers have wicked hearts and intentions. No believer who is simply either immature, carnal or who has an unrenewed mind is described in the New Testament as being cursed. Only those with a reprobate mind and soul would be so designated.
Despite these problems, the internet is still a place where real stories can be written and read and real comfort and help can be gained. The ‘canon’ has been loosed and is accomplishing a great deal more than paid professionals could ever hope to.