Where Some Ideas Are Stranger Than Others...
Need to Know (2021-09-06)
A basic image. C. Osborne, april 2014.
To be sure, there is always information that we need to know. Yet in these current unsettled times, some of the stuff we need to know is not as available as it should be, and we are being actively encouraged to ignore it when we encounter it, because supposedly what that information has to tell us can't apply to us. We can't be the sort of person who has those sort of problems. Well, that's not how the world works, but that is a story we can fall into using to fool ourselves. I have been following a newer newsblog, UncommonGround.com, which deserves a strong recommendation. In its early days barely three years ago, quite a few of its contributors were undergraduates, and unfortunately that sometimes did not turn out entirely well, because as I know having been there, we are very certain but inevitably a bit shallow in our undergrad days due to lack of experience. The commitment to providing a publishing outlet for essays on current issues and news from an honestly laid out perspective with an eschewal of personal attacks is unmistakeable though, precisely because those undergrad articles were doing that. The contributors are diverse and still include a solid proportion of undergrads whose writing is improving all the time. They are covering issues that for various ideological and frankly dishonest reasons, are being kept out of mainstream media and the echo chambers of social media. They have also been bringing together an important group of articles on three forms of abuse we abosultely must know about in order to learn how to recognize and defend ourselves from them: forced teaming, DARVO, and coercive control.
Forced teaming might be the one almost all of us have run into at one time or another, and I suspect all of us can recognize its satirized form in television sitcom conmen. It is a core conman technique, to be sure. As Dr. Em explains in Forced Teaming, Feminism, LGB and 'Trans Rights':
Forced teaming is a term employed by those who work on abuse, grooming and predation. It was originally coined by Gavin De Becker in his work The Gift of Fear and is also used as a concept regarding criminal activity such as con-artists and romantic scamming. The predator will create the idea that there is a shared goal, or an attitude of we are all in this together, we are allies, in order to disarm, gain trust and manipulate his target. The social contract that most people have been educated or raised in – that we should try not to offend others, be polite, be accommodating – makes forced teaming incredibly difficult to resist. In general, we don't want to be rude and say 'actually, your problems or goals are different to mine and so no, we should not work together' or 'no, I don't feel comfortable with this.' The shared goal can be, on an individual level, as small as a man helping carry shopping to a woman's apartment in order to gain access and rape her. Forced teaming confuses our intuition and disarms us to threat. Jennifer Lombardo wrote in Abusive Relationships and Domestic Violence 'people use words such as "we" and "us" to trick others into thinking they are part of a team' when they aren't. It builds trust when none should be there. Forced teaming, when applied to movements, can be as large as many men claiming feminism should work towards their goals not women's, or that the LGB should work towards heterosexual entitlement.
Whatever a person's views may be of the specific political movements Dr. Em is discussing as exemplars of where forced teaming is being applied, including whether that is actually what is going on, we need to understand what it is. That person who comes up and insists you and they must be on the same side and be working towards the same thing, and no matter how well you do or don't know them, you start feeling weird? That's a good indicator of forced teaming. It's not "phobic" or rude to want to back off from someone who seems to be coming onto you out of nowhere.
I encountered the acronym "DARVO" repeatedly before finally untangling its meaning, and it is probably one of the better and more powerful – as well as more frightening – acronyms any of us are likely to meet. It stands for "Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender," and is part of the basic tool box of every abusive male a woman or girl may find herself living with. In an example of this behaviour, I actually heard and saw a man respond to learning his son was ill with the flu with, "No he's not, send him to school. Stop spoiling him, you'll make him a sissy. How can you do this to me, causing me so much stress?" It's crazymaking and rarely subtle. Jennifer Bilek discusses it in The 'DARVO' Tactics of the Men's Rights Activism Behind Transgenderism. Practitioners deploy these tactics very fast, so that victims have as little chance as possible of parsing out what is going on. For more details on the tactic, including other examples, for that it is important to pop over to a psychology source to complement this article. In this case, a solid start is provided by 5 Sneaky Ways A Narcissist Uses a DARVO Defense to Project Himself As A Victim at MindJournal. Watch out if you try to web search on it, as most search engine puke up wikipedia repetitions and "men's rights activist" shit as the top results.
UPDATE 2020-08-10 - A useful complement to the techniques described here is Lili Loofbourow's take down of the Myth of the Male Bumbler, published in the week back on 15 november 2017.
I am tempted to call coercive control scarier than all of these, but comparisons don't really make sense for this sort of thing. Maybe it is better to characterize it as a complex technique that depends upon some use of the other two. Min Grob describes it in Coercive Control: When It's No Longer Just Sticks and Stones, noting how insidious it is, and how by the time a person is caught up in it, the difficulty of escaping coercive control is grim because that person has been convinced that they can't trust anyone. It is hard to excerpt this article, but here is a bit that provides an accurate start:
Coercive control is a 'course of conduct offence that is not defined by one single criminal act, but rather a number of acts occurring together, forming a pattern. Not all the acts are, of their own, coercive in nature; the act of coercive control is specific to the relationship, but identifying it is not as difficult as it sounds, if you know where to look.
...The important thing to understand with coercive control is that it is largely invisible and has very little to do with anger, therefore anger management will have no effect on an abuser who uses controlling tactics in a relationship... It is not necessary for abusers to use violence, although some do. The threat of it can be enough to frighten someone into submission. Low level violence that doesn’t mark and therefore leaves no evidence is another tactic.
We could argue that coercive control starts with forced teaming, because it is so often part of abusive intimate relationships, and it can't be established instantly. For even more detail, including a blunt explanation of why such comments as "Why didn't she leave?" are not just misguided but cruel, see Sarah Mills in Coercive control activist: 'Sally Challen case is about more than murder.' Another excellent complementary post to check out, this one a podcast, is at Feminist Current. In Coercive control is a key aspect of abusive relationships, but still misunderstood, Meghan Murphy interviews the director Elle Kumhira and executive producer Laura Richards on their feature length documentary Jennifer 42. The documentary recounts the story of Jennifer Magnano, a connecticut mother who sought to escape an abusive relationship together with her children. It's a difficult, and brilliant listen.
Three things we ought to know about, and all of these articles and the podcast include references to trustworthy sources. So again, even if you don't agree with the specific cases some of the authors are applying these concepts to, you can still make use of their sources to learn more about these techniques. News you can use!