The following, used with the permission of the Rev. Wade Mullen, is an excellent piece on how abusers weave webs of deceit to hide their actions. I believe it well describes Bob Malm’s smear campaigns directed at me, as well as his efforts to convince people that they are threatened by “domestic terrorism,” — a phrase directly from Bob’s pleadings to the Venango County Court of Common Pleas in Pennsylvania. The pleading was filed in conjunction with his effort, in contravention of state law, to drag my mother, dying of COPD, into court.
A primary goal of the exposed abuser is to capture the truth in a web of deception. It’s a highly deceptive process intended to control your perceptions so you see only what the deceiver wants you to see. The ability to weave a web of deception is never put on display as much as it is when the deceiver is confronted or exposed. I’ve seen abusive individuals deftly spin a web of deception around the truth in a matter of minutes. They do this by weaving threads between themselves and issues or people indirectly related to the central truths. These tactics of deception are similar to what is described in the field of sociology as “impression management by association.” I see these associations made all the time by abusers in my advocacy and research.Using the metaphor of a spider web, here are 8 hard to recognize threads:
- The exposed abuser might create a thread between themselves and others people view favorably. They draw attention to another person or group and then boast in their positive connection to them. They will bask in the reflected glory of someone else’s values when their’s are questioned. One of the most common examples of this is seen in the abuser who seeks to highlight a positive connection with God or a spiritual leader.
- They will then spin a thread around more serious examples of wrongs and boast in how they are not like such people and have never engaged in such horrible behavior, and that they would even go out of their way to oppose such behavior. You are then led to believe they should not be connected to the less serious actions they are accused of. The individual who abuses verbally and psychologically might draw comparisons to other types of abuse they deem more serious and promote how they are not like such people.
- They might thread together their life’s work and their contribution to that work. This is often seen in response to a specific question about a specific behavior. Rather than address the details of their behavior, they spotlight their life in general because it is easier to defend. This tactic subtly diverts attention away from any specific words or actions they know are more difficult to explain.
- If they can’t escape addressing the story, they will weave together an effective fiction. This new version is said to provide clarity when in fact it produces confusion. Nobody, even the abuser, seems to possess an accurate recollection of events, so everyone moves on because they grow tired of trying to see through the fog.
- Abusers quickly identify who their supporters are and then use flattery, compliments, and expressions of appreciation to thread themselves to their supporters. They will publicly enhance their positive attributes in order to bolster the credibility of their judgement. The more people view with favor the people the abuser is positively connected to, the more likely they are to believe the abuser.
- They will quickly identify who their critics are and then thread their criticism to fabricated or exaggerated negative attributes like hatred, bitterness, and revenge. Criticism is then viewed by others as malicious and misguided, and perhaps even evil. The more people view with disfavor the people the abuser is negatively associated with (critics), the more likely they are to believe the abuser.
- Abusers may go so far as to add their family members to this portion of the web. By connecting the accusers to the perceived negative effects the allegations are having on their family, the abuser pours more condemnation on their critics & requests more help from supporters. This is a common tactic in which the innocent are used as a shield to protect the abuser.
- If necessary (and only if necessary) an abuser will spin an apology. This apology will not be threaded to the truth of their actions, but to unintended mistakes that resulted in unintended harm. The apology is a deception that seeks to retain legitimacy and avoid shame. The words “I’m sorry” can be used to disarm those who are seeking to free the truth from the web.
Abusers will keep creating these connections, and will spin so many threads that their supporters will be convinced of their innocence. They then become objects as well that the abuser can attach threads to in an effort to strengthen their claims of innocence. These supporters fail to see they are trapped in the web themselves, having simply conformed to the pattern they were weaved into.Those who do escape the web walk away bewildered, unsure of how to address an issue that once was as clear as day. To the abuser’s satisfaction, they soon forget that behind all those threads is an entrapped truth, a truth that could have freed others had it remained free itself.The truth-seeker must have the patience and wisdom to see each thread, understand its purpose, and then detach it from the truth it is seeking to capture. For example, when asking a specific question about a specific behavior, the abuser might respond by saying, “Listen, I’ve always treated people with respect.” That thread needs to be removed by drawing attention back to the specifics. And nothing frustrates the deceiver’s attempt to spin a web more than the person who keeps removing each thread.