In this extract from her book, See What You Made Me Do, Jess Hill traces the psychology of abusers and how they use the same techniques of oppression
Domestic abuse may be as old as intimacy, but we only really started to understand it after the first women’s refuges opened in the 1970s. When women in their thousands fled to these makeshift shelters, they weren’t just complaining about black eyes and raging tempers. They told stories of unfathomable cruelty and violence, and what sounded like orchestrated campaigns of control. It became clear that, although each woman’s story was individual, the overarching narratives were uncannily alike. As one shelter worker said at the time, “It got so I could finish a woman’s story halfway through it. There was this absolutely eerie feeling that these guys were sitting together and deciding what to say and do.”
Today, we know that that the techniques common to domestic abuse match those used by practically anyone who trades in captivity: kidnappers, hostage-takers, pimps, cult leaders. What this reveals is that there is nothing uniquely weak, helpless or masochistic about victims of domestic abuse. Faced with the universal methods of coercive control, their responses are no different from those of trained soldiers.