This episode is Part 4 of Anne’s interview with Jane Gilmore.
Part 1: When You Say Yes to Sex But Feel Dead Inside
Part 2: Is My Husband Manipulating Me Into Sex? How To Know
Part 3: How Do I Know if I Really Want to Have Sex?
Part 4: Is It My Fault That My Husband is Angry? (this episode)
Part 5: Why You ACTUALLY Feel Crazy In Your Relationship
Is it my fault that my husband is angry?
That he secretly uses porn?
Is it my fault that he yells at the kids and sometimes hurts them (and our pets)?
That he closes off emotionally?
That he says he’s sexually frustrated?
Because I feel like it’s my fault… but I also feel like something’s off.
It’s Not Your Fault. But We Understand Why You Feel That Way.
When you start to look for it, suddenly it’s almost like it’s everywhere. Women are responsible for men’s choices. We drive them to it, right? We make them so angry, so jealous that they just lose control and then it’s our fault. But actually, if you think about it, the reverse would never be true. And it’s not true. On the very, very rare occasions that women do commit violence, ‘they’re monsters’, ‘they’re evil’, ‘there is no excuse.’ But we don’t talk about men in the same way because of this idea that women drive men to the terrible choices that they make.
Jane Gimore, Consent Educator
Jane Gilmore is back on The BTR.ORG Podcast with Anne, explaining why you feel that way AND why none of his behaviors and feelings are your fault.
Behavior is a CHOICE – Yes, Even Your Husband’s Behavior
Abusive men will blame everything and everyone for their behavior, rather than themselves. They’ll blame
- Their upbringing
- Their mental health
- Your sexual health and or/habit
- Their own sex drive
- The children’s behavior
- Their “trauma”
- Their “addictions”
- Alcohol & drugs
- Their work situation
- Their parents
- Their siblings
- Poor anger management skills
But behavior is a CHOICE. It’s always a CHOICE.
How Do We Know Behavior Is a Choice? It’s Simple:
When people will say to me, ‘Sometimes you just lose control and sometimes you get so angry you can’t stop yourself,’ I reply, ‘Okay, sure, but how do they behave in front of other people? Almost 99% of the time, an abusive man is not abusive in front of other people. He does it in private, which means he’s choosing, which means he can control it.’
Jane Gilmore, Consent Educator
If he can choose not to be abusive, he is choosing to be abusive. It’s that simple.
You Deserve Safety. We Can Help.
We understand the pain that comes with realizing that your husband has been blaming YOU and EVERYTHING and EVERYONE ELSE for his abusiveness and sexual betrayals. Please know that we want you to be safe and experience peace. Our BTR.ORG Group Sessions are a safe space for you to process trauma and find a community of women who get it. Attend a session today.
Jane and I are continuing our conversation. We actually recorded this long ago and it’s airing now. I didn’t realize that I would have personal experience with this particular topic. When we recorded this in May, my good friend Leah Moses called and told me that her son had been murdered by her husband, Parth Gandhi. So you can look this up. I was on the news quite a bit and our social media covered it. The news did a terrible job. They took the court documents and they said, “Oh, this was a prolonged legal battle, and they couldn’t figure out who the perpetrator was”, even though the proof was right there.
He was a murderer. He had murdered his son. There’s no more proof. And as I looked at that and thought, If murdering your own son isn’t proof, there’s never going to be enough proof for them; not for the media, not for the courts.
How does the media influence our perception of consent?
At first, it gave me hope that maybe we could bring some attention to the issue. And then I got kind of super depressed, ’cause I thought, If this doesn’t help people see it, what would? I’m kind of still struggling with everything. And so sad for Leah and sad for all victims who have to go through this. Jane and I are talking about it today on the episode. I just wanted to let you know that when I interviewed her about this, I didn’t have personal experience with it yet. So I will be doing an episode on that later. That’s just taking me a while to process my own personal experience and how difficult it was. If you didn’t hear my interviews with Jane before this and her introduction, then go back a few episodes, listen to that first, and then join us here and we’re going to get right to the conversation.
So today we’re going to be talking about how media influences us and in relation to this podcast, especially how media influences how we perceive consent or how we perceive relationships, and also how we perceive violence against women. So let’s start there. What is your feeling about how media influences the way that we perceive relationships?
“The idea that women are responsible for abusive things that men do”
I think it’s huge. I think we really, really underestimate how much the things that we don’t really notice influence the way we think. And one of the things I say a lot is the most dangerous ideas are the ones that we don’t really notice that we have. So the idea that women are responsible for abusive things that men do: how many headlines have you seen about the jealous lover, the jilted husband, the –
Even if they just say they were having an argument as if the two of them were causing the problem and it just ended badly…
“It’s all about saying that men aren’t responsible for what they do when they get angry”
Yep, yep. “Cheating Wife”, you know, common thing in a headline, and it’s all about saying that men aren’t responsible for what they do when they get angry or when they lose control of their emotions. That men can’t be held responsible for the actions that they commit because it’s women that drive them to it.
It happens a lot in headlines, but it also happens in other kinds of media, like in the TV shows and the movies and the video games that we consume all the time where you don’t even really notice it. But if you start to look for it, you know that thing of once you’ve seen something, you can’t unsee it. When you start to look for it, suddenly it’s almost like it’s everywhere. ‘Women are responsible for men’s choices. We drive them to it, right? We make them so angry, so jealous that they just lose control and then it’s our fault.’
But actually, if you think about it, the reverse would never be true. And it’s not true. On the very, very rare occasions that women do commit violence and it happens, ‘they’re monsters’, ‘they’re evil’, ‘there is no excuse.’ But we don’t talk about men in the same way because of this idea that women drive men to the terrible choices that they make.
Why aren’t we allowed to defend ourselves?
I think that’s really evident with self-defense kinds of things. So for example, if a man comes into another man’s house and the man shoots the guy in self-defense, everyone’s like, “Yeah, self-defense, no problem.” But if a woman is being raped and she shoots him, people are like, “Hmm. She committed murder. Rape isn’t really a good reason to like murder someone.” Have you ever heard of stuff like that?
Oh, definitely. Absolutely. If you think about it, if a man went to kiss another man, like a sexual kiss, and the man who was being kissed reacted really badly and punched him in the face, most people, “Yeah, sure.” But if a man might kiss a woman who didn’t want to be kissed and she reacted with violence and punched him in the face, “Why are you like that”? So if you try and put it in those other situations (and I want to be a bit careful of that because it can sound a bit like gay men go around kissing straight men all the time. They don’t), would that still make sense if, as you say, a woman is being attacked and she fights back and she’s to blame for fighting back? “Well what was she wearing?”
“You’re told violence is always a choice”
You know, that kind of stuff. If you’re seeing things where the person who chose to commit the violence (and violence is always a choice, no matter what, you’re told violence is always a choice) is not responsible for it in the way that it’s being depicted, then something’s a bit off. And then again, you reverse it and you put a woman in that situation, would she be held responsible for making that choice? Yes, she would. Would you ever say, “Well, a woman who forced sex on a man, had no choice. He was flirting with her, wearing tight little pants. And he was smiling and winking at her. He drove her to it and she was just so overcome by lust at what else could she do?” It sounds ridiculous when you put it like that, right?
But that kind of thing would be, “Oh well yeah, that can happen. Men lose control of themselves. And if she was really flirting with him and teasing him and you know, wearing a skimpy little top and showing off, well what did she think was going to happen?” “He was flirting with her; he just had his T-shirt off. And he was showing off all his muscles. What did he think was going to happen?” And it’s so ridiculous that it’s almost funny.
Well, I’m laughing. After podcasting and doing what I do, I have a very dark sense of humor. I apologize <laugh>. I don’t apologize, actually. But yes, it’s ridiculous.
“Women are not responsible for men’s choices.”
If you can do that juxtaposition and it becomes ridiculous, then you know that something is going wrong there. Because women are not responsible for men’s choices. We have to stop infantalizing men. Adult men are as responsible for their choices as adult women. And to be really clear here, I’m not talking about children or teenagers where they’re in that shadow lands halfway between child and adult. When we’re talking about adults, they have the ability to make choices. They do make choices. And violence is a choice.
When people will say to me, “Oh, but sometimes you just lose control and sometimes you get so angry you can’t stop yourself.” And you say, “Okay, sure, but think about in a relationship, how do they behave in front of other people?” And almost 99% of the time, an abusive man is not abusive in front of other people. He does it in private, which means he’s choosing, which means he can control it.
Well, and also think about the grooming. He can groom for extended periods of time when he needs to. He can act very loving, he can act very caring. So he knows how to do it.
“The presumption of innocence doesn’t apply there”
Yeah. And the other thing to think about too, in that framing of it, when we’re talking about the media, is most of the news media that we see when we’re talking about violent or abusive men is done through crime and court reporting, right? Somebody’s been arrested, somebody’s in court, somebody’s being charged, the police are investigating. And the court process is based on this idea of innocent until proven guilty. I would never, ever want to mess with that because it’s so important when you’ve got the power of the state against a single individual, you need to have some way of balancing that power. And that’s why we have the presumption of innocence. But that’s in a court setting. And the reason we have that presumption of innocence is because the state can incarcerate you, and in some states in the US they can kill you.
Two people who should be on a fairly equal level
You need to have something to say, “Well, if you have the power to take away my freedom or to take away my life, then I have to have something to balance that back.” Right?
But in a relationship that’s not what you’re talking about. You’re talking about two people who should be on a fairly equal level. So the presumption of innocence doesn’t apply there. You’re not talking about the entire power of the state and the police and the DA and all the people who can investigate and punish you. You’re talking about two people having a conversation about what’s going on. So the presumption of innocence there is always assuming that the man is innocent and the woman is lying. That’s bad in a court situation. It’s necessary but bad. And any victim who’s been in court for any kind of abuse or violence will tell you that that assumption means we are assuming you’re lying.
“This is how I feel. I feel like I can’t trust you.”
So all I need to do is just get reasonable doubt about whether or not you’re lying. So I just need to make you into a liar. And all this is reported in the media and reported that way. So again, we’re framing it in this idea of “He’s innocent until he’s proven guilty, she’s probably lying.” And that’s the basis that all of this reporting comes on.
And then that translates into relationships. “I’m innocent till you’ve proven that I’m guilty. You are probably lying. So all I need to do is convince you or other people that you’re lying or that there’s even a possibility that you’re lying. And therefore that means I’m innocent.” And that doesn’t work in a relationship where you are sharing things with each other. It’s not about proving something. It’s about saying, “This is how I feel. I feel like I can’t trust you…”
“You don’t need to prove how you feel”
“…I feel like I’m not safe with you. I feel scared, I feel unsure, I feel insecure. And having somebody else listen to that and say, “Well that’s really concerning that you feel that way. What can we do to help you feel better about yourself? What can we do so that you can find a way to feel better?”, not about proving innocence or guilt. Because you don’t need to prove how you feel.
“I feel sad. I don’t need to prove that, I just feel that. And I’m telling you that I feel scared. I feel like I can’t trust you.” You don’t need to prove how you feel.
I don’t know the specific cases in the US where it’s happened, where a man who’s killed his wife or killed his children is reported as a good guy, a loving father, a good man. But I know it’s happened because it happens everywhere in the world, and it happens here (Australia) a lot. We had a case a few years ago where a man killed his wife, his daughter, and his three grandchildren. I think the youngest was three, and he was reported as a loving father. And it was just obscene.
It developed this huge debate in Australia about journalists, I swear to you, debating about a man who killed his wife, his child, and his grandchildren, whether it’s okay to say that he’s a good guy. And women in Australia were just like, “I’m sorry, what? He’s just killed his family.” Of course he’s not a good guy!
Why were they arguing for it?
A man who murders his family? NOT A GOOD GUY. PERIOD.
Because one of the things that journalists will do after something like that happens is they’ll go and interview people in the community, like people in his church or people on his football team, that kind of stuff. And they’ll interview people and somebody inevitably will say, “Oh, but he was such a great guy”, because they weren’t married to him, they weren’t living with him. They saw him once a week where he’s doing that “really good guy” act, and that was all they ever saw. And so journalists will say, “Well, it’s a legitimate thing to report because somebody said it.” And if you search enough, people used to say Ted Bundy was a great guy. Only he was not.
<Laugh>. Yeah. Right. Objectively speaking is correct reporting to say he was not a good guy. Yes.
“He’s such a good guy who just snapped – or she drove him to it”
But just because you can find somebody who says that he was, doesn’t mean it’s true. I often say this- It’s not like I think journalists are sitting somewhere stroking a white cat and thinking of ways that they can come up to excuse the terrible things that some men do to women. I think a lot of it happens without them really knowing it. But particularly when it’s men that journalists feel similar to, if journalists can make sure that “He’s not a good guy like me. He’s nothing like me and my friends and the men that I know, he’s the balaclava-clad stranger that jumps out of the bushes at you”, then that’s okay. But it often is somebody that they can think, “Oh, that could be my friend, that could be my brother.” Or even worse, “That could be me.”
They’ve got to find a way to make it either, “It’s not his fault, so he’s such a good guy who just snapped” or “She drove him to it”, or “There’s a way that we can make him into a monster because it’s so hard to believe.” And this is not just men for all of us. It is so hard to believe that men that we love and respect and care about, men who are our friends or our family or our colleagues can be abusive. But I can guarantee you, if you know 10 men, you know a man who has been abusive to a woman.
Saying he’s a good guy is really saying, “Men are not responsible for these things – women drive us to it”
And that is sometimes really, really hard to face up to. And it’s almost like it’s a “not all men” thing, and they’re not defending all men. They’re defending themselves. “Not all men are abusive.” What they’re really saying is, “You’re talking about me and I’m not like that.” And usually I find the ones that are the most offensive about that are the ones that I’m looking at going, “Really, why does this matter so much to you? Why are you getting so angry about this?” But that need to say to everybody that it’s not his fault, he’s not a bad guy, he just snapped, just lost control for a moment, but he’s actually a good guy is about saying, “Men are not responsible for these things. We are not responsible for this. Women drive us to it.”
“We are all responsible for our own choices”
We are all responsible for our own choices, we are adults. I may not be able to control how I feel, but I can control what I do. You can feel anger sometimes or jealousy or sadness or all kinds of emotions that maybe you didn’t have a choice about feeling that. But you do have a choice about what you do, and if you choose to pick up a gun and shoot somebody, that is a choice. And the only person responsible for that is you.
If you get really, really angry and go, “Okay, I’m going to go and go to the gym and have a session with a punching bag” or “I’m going to run and run and run until I almost vomit” or “I’m going to go and talk to my friend and let it all out.” They’re all choices. Or “I’m so angry that I’m going to hurt somebody.” That is equally a choice.
He’s choosing it again and again and again
Yeah. Right now, the “pornography addiction recovery industrial complex” that I like to call it, likes to make the cause be shame- because he felt shame, then he used porn or because he felt shame, he had an affair. And I’m like, “You know what? I feel shame and I eat ice cream, like, what are you talking about? There are so many options. And he could have done this.” There’s a number of things he could have done. That has nothing to do with it. That’s not the cause of him choosing porn. The cause was him choosing it.
And particularly with something like that where it’s an ongoing choice, it’s not just that he chose it once. He’s choosing it again and again and again. And then he’s choosing to lie about it and then he’s choosing to do it again. And then he’s choosing to not try to change and then he’s choosing to lie about it again. That’s a pattern of behavior.
“True power is taking responsibility for yourself”
Right. Exactly. And then he is choosing to lie that he is trying to change because he is not actually trying to change. So yeah, it is very, very problematic- “The shame causes this or anger causes it.”
One idea that has been floating around in my head and I’m trying to like process it and bring it to words, so maybe you can help me. When domestic abuse experts talk about coercive control, one of the thoughts that I keep having is recognizing how actually powerless they are. So for example, you only have power if you can have power over. If you have a king, and he is supposed to be like, “I rule over all of you without taking power from somebody, without stealing it, without coercing it, without manipulating it”, they have no power by themselves. The thing that makes them the most powerless is that they refuse to take responsibility for themselves because true power is taking responsibility for yourself. That’s when any adult is going to gain the most power to move forward, have a healthy life. And if someone is continually refusing to take accountability and responsibility for themselves, that is going to render them absolutely powerless because they have to find somebody else to take responsibility for them. I’m just trying to flesh these thoughts out because victims are really powerful. They do take responsibility for themselves. They have so much power, that they’ve taken responsibility accidentally for two people.
When women become responsible for their husband’s behavior
Yeah. But it’s not even accidentally, they’re manipulated into it. You often don’t realize when you’re in that situation, because it’s like the frog and the boiling water. It starts slowly and you don’t realize that it’s happening. And then you look back and think, How did I become this person where I feel like I’m responsible because my husband is gambling or drinking or watching porn or cheating, and it’s my fault? I’m doing something wrong, so I’m going to try and change so he will be better.
Jane and I are gonna pause the conversation here and pick it up next week so stay tuned.