Some of this bloke’s friends will be defending him right now

Man admits to elaborate online stalking campaign against girlfriend

Ruth Jeffery became withdrawn and depressed following a campaign waged by Shane Webber, who impersonated her online and sent photos of her naked to her friends and family.

Webber, 22, of Clifton, Nottingham, will be sentenced next month after pleading guilty at Southampton magistrates’ court on Monday to a charge of causing harassment, alarm or distress.

Jeffrey received such detailed messages that she believed her movements were being constantly watched by someone unknown to her and became frightened to go outside.

“I want him to be put in prison because he has wrecked the past three-and-a-half years of my life,” said Jeffrey, a Loughborough University student from West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire, who reported the abuse to police in March 2010.

Jeffrey is reported as saying that she thinks Webber wanted to stop her getting a university degree (he dropped out of studies and had no qualifications) and that

“Throughout the whole relationship, he was a bit controlling and possessive really. If I didn’t go to see him the moment I had some free time, he would start complaining.”

This is classic passive-aggressive manipulative dominance bullshit, a possessive person making their partner feel guilty any time the partner is doing something that doesn’t centre on the possessive person for even an hour.

But there will be people right now in Nottingham, and online, defending Webber as just some insecure guy who “took things a bit too far” but is still a fundamentally decent bloke who just loved Jeffery “too much” and was “afraid of losing her”. That’s more classic bullshit: if the only way an “insecure” person can hang on to a relationship is to demolish the confidence of the other party to the point where they cannot leave the house to lead an independent life then the “insecure” one is not in any way a decent person – that person is an abusive control freak who puts on a mask of “insecurity” to avoid being rumbled, and far too often these possessive manipulators get away with it.

I bet this bloke played all sorts of psych-out games while waging this campaign – at times pretending to believe that she really was sending all these messages and photos herself, and how could she do that to him then demanding that she spend hours overcoming his feigned anger and despair about that; giving her the silent treatment while telling all their mutual friends about how terrible it was so that he could garner sympathy from them while making them doubt her and shun her so that she was even more socially isolated and dependent upon him; having long conversations with her parents about how worried he was about her if she was confused/ill enough to be doing this herself so that they would begin to doubt her too. All of it would have kept her increasingly emotionally dependent upon her relationship with him, and thus compliant to his wishes generally, which was the point.

For the longest time, I bet most people in their community thought Webber was a really, really Great Guy to keep on standing by Jeffery throughout all this weirdness that must have seemed like she was lying about how it was happening. Even now, there will be those who think it’s far worse that he framed a friend for the cyberstalking and got him arrested (and yes, that is fucking awful) than what he’s done to Jeffery, because of course she “should have known” that there was something wrong with him from the start. On one news story about this it took all of five comments before the first “but she was a slut anyway for posing for naked pictures at all” comments started, as if someone as manipulative as Webber couldn’t wheedle/cajole/whine/guilt/intimidate a girlfriend into posing for such pictures with enough iterations of the if-you-really-loved-me-you’d-do-this-for-me (so-if-you-don’t-do-this-I’ll-leave-and-who-else-will-ever-love-your-desperate-neediness-that-I’ve-created-in-you) manipulation tactic.

This is just another demonstration of a person who fulfilled all the expected social proprieties while actually being an insidious Manipulative Abuser. There will always be a subset of the population who are insidious Manipulators, and many of them become skilled at charming others into trusting them, and most of them will never make the obvious mistake such as Webber did which allowed the police to detect him and reveal his manipulations to the world. These are the Manipulators who will gradually gaslight their partner over months and years until the manipulated partner doubts their own sanity regarding a growing sense of fear and helplessness around the Manipulator, becoming ever more desperate to please them so that the disappointed guilt-trip won’t be deployed again. Simultaneously the Manipulator will be twisting others’ perceptions of their partner with long-suffering sighs and ostentatious displays of material generosity so that all their friends think the Manipulator is a saint who gives so much and who puts up with so much and that the manipulated partner really should be more grateful for everything instead of ever complaining.

a circular diagram of manipulation techniques used by user-abusers

How user-abusers establish power and control

Over and over, when a manipulated partner finally manages to find the personal conviction/strength/opportunity to get out and stay out of the relationship with the Manipulator, the Manipulator is the one who plays injured party and turns their entire social circle against the partner they dominated for so long. The Manipulator first gets all the emotional kicks through abusing/controlling their partner in the first place, and then gets all the ego strokes of all that sympathy offered for being “left for no reason after all you sacrificed”, with an added layer of still being able to punish the ex-partner for non-compliance by telling lies so that many/most mutual friends will shun the ex-partner as being the one who broke the Manipulator’s heart.

Generally, if I hear about a couple breaking up where one of them stays in the community and gets all the local sympathy while the other one moves hundreds or thousands of miles away ASAP, I begin to suspect that something extreme was happening in that relationship one way or the other and that the story being told by the “abandoned” partner may well not be the whole truth. Sadly though, it appears that skeptical observers (cynical misanthropes?) like me are in the minority most of the time in this scenario, which is another reason that these Manipulator Exploiters get away with this, and keep on doing it.

Editorial note: I was challenged rightly in comments below for using the word “sociopath” originally in the post above (I have edited the post to replace all instances with the word “Manipulator”) – I fell into the trap of using a clinical jargon word in a pop-culture way, which both trivialises and oversimplifies the real problem, which is not why Manipulators do what they do, but the simple fact Manipulators are abusers; the incorrect usage also buys into a mental illness model of abuse which is also oversimplistic and trivialising of deeper cultural structures that underpin abusive behaviours and who are considered acceptable targets for those behaviours.



Categories: relationships, technology, violence

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13 replies

  1. Hi, Tigtog. I’m torn–I really like the meat of this post, the part about emotional abuse and how insidious it is. It’s so important for us to foreground this often, because it’s so damaging and yet there’s even less support for victims of emotional abuse than there are for victims of physical abuse.
    I felt pretty conflicted about the part where you bought into the mental illness model of abuse, though. I’m pretty sure you don’t have to be mentally ill to be an abuser–far from it–and that persons with mental illness are a lot more likely to be abused than abusers. Misogyny and other oppressions are more than enough to turn average schmucks into abusers–a diagnosis of mental illness, such as Antisocial personality disorder (aka “sociopathy”), isn’t really required. Implying that the two go hand in hand tends to obscure the real causes of abuse, namely, oppression culture. Seeing this kind of linking can be pretty hurtful to people with mental illness, too, “sociopaths” or not.

    • Thanks for commenting, Laughingrat. You’ve made me think, and largely what I was thinking while writing the post is that sociopathy doesn’t actually seem to be a mental illness, to me. The lack or compassion/empathy etc is certainly a mental/cognitive difference – but is it a mental illness?
      I could be way off base with that, though, and I certainly don’t have any relevant clinical expertise to justify using it in such a way if that differs significantly from how others are accustomed to using the term.
      The emphasis should be on the domineering manipulative behaviours rather than any label, because it is the behaviours which are so destructive no matter why somebody engages in them, so I’ll go through and edit the post to reflect that.

      • Post has now been edited to remove the word sociopath, and the following note appended:
        Editorial note: I was challenged rightly in comments below for using the word “sociopath” originally in the post above (I have edited the post to replace all instances with the word “Manipulator”) – I fell into the trap of using a clinical jargon word in a pop-culture way, which both trivialises and oversimplifies the real problem, which is not why Manipulators do what they do, but the simple fact Manipulators are abusers; the incorrect usage also buys into a mental illness model of abuse which is also oversimplistic and trivialising of deeper cultural structures that underpin abusive behaviours and who are considered acceptable targets for those behaviours.

  2. Generally, if I hear about a couple breaking up where one of them stays in the community and gets all the local sympathy while the other one moves hundreds or thousands of miles away ASAP, I begin to suspect that something extreme was happening in that relationship one way or the other and that the story being told by the “abandoned” partner may well not be the whole truth.

    One reason for this happening that I’ve seen is that many people seem determined to pick sides and attribute blame after a breakup, even where both members of the former couple don’t want that to happen. And people tend to stick with the person they’ve known the longest. With lots of people moving interstate for relationships its pretty common for the person who moved in to the area to move back where they came from so they can get the social support they need.
    I’ve had probably one of the the most amicable separations possible (especially given a child is involved) but many friends-in-common still insisted on choosing a side despite our wishes.

    • I hear you Chris, and have seen it myself, which is why I specified moving hundreds/thousands of miles away, and why I should have specified “from family” in that sentence as well. It makes sense for someone whose relationship has broken up while living in somewhere that wasn’t their hometown to perhaps feel the need to return to their hometown. What I’ve also seen and which tends to make me suspect extremes is when one partner leaves their hometown where their parents and siblings still live after a breakup while the other partner stays, particularly if the one who stays is a blow-in. It reeks of desperate-to-get-away, and why should that be? Sure, sometimes it’s as simple as always wanted to travel and now I can, but in approximately a dozen cases over the years where a divorcing/separating hometown-leaver has confided in me, only one of them just always wanted to travel, a few took up a great job opportunity as a good chance for a fresh start, while at least half of the others were getting as far away as they could from controlling exes.

  3. Great post.

  4. tigtog @ 6 – yes moving away from family in those circumstances is certainly suspicious. I’ve done it in the past (and I moved halfway across the world!) but then I’m a bit of a loner and someone who will go to great lengths to avoid stressful situations :-)
    I’ll just add that I think Weber’s behavior was seriously abhorrent and deserves significant punishment.

  5. For the longest time, I bet most people in their community thought Webber was a really, really Great Guy to keep on standing by

    Na, IME possessive control freaks are soon seen through by most people. And contra some feminist opinion, most blokes do not approve of or support blokes who abuse women (or men, for that matter) – the problem is more that men are often oblivious to such abuse rather than supportive of it.
    In fact often the social isolation their behaviour creates drives possessive control freaks (of both sexes) deeper into possessive control freakery – as with so many personal pathologies, a vicious cycle is created.

  6. Can’t agree with you derrida, my experience has been otherwise.
    And surely if

    the problem is more that men are often oblivious to such abuse

    then tigtog’s statement

    I bet most people in their community thought Webber was a really, really Great Guy to keep on standing by

    is fundamentally true.

  7. the problem is more that men are often oblivious to such abuse rather than supportive of it
    Sufficiently advanced obliviousness is indistinguishable from support.

  8. Really interesting post, but that diagram is a Really Dumb Thing. It’s a great example of a blatant attempt to lend credence and gravitas to an idea by rearranging some words as word-art and pretending that you’re actually representing a coherent concept, when all you’re doing is vaguely gesturing at a bunch of ideas. Sure, those ideas are connected, but you don’t really know how. It could have fallen out of any self-help book, pop-psychology tract, snake-oil crystal healing pamphlet…
    Anyway, like I said, great article, but that diagram was clearly meant to impress the reader (“oooh look, a structured diagram, someone has really thought about this!”) but as someone who actually tried to make sense of it, it just made me laugh and shake my head. A shame, because it undermines the importance of your piece.

  9. Having been in this situation, the whole article rings true, especially the moving away to another city (Bendigo to Melbourne) and losing all the friends because my ex stayed local.
    Thankfully for me, I moved in with my next partner a few months later, made a stack of great new friends and started again with not too much drama.
    I did have to put up with several extra months of extra emotional abuse though, because I’d left my ex, and blah blah blah… which would often end up with me in tears. If only I had known that telling him that I was engaged would have made him leave me alone sooner, I so would have done it the moment I’d moved away.

  10. I’ve just read Phil Cleary’s book, Just Another Little Murder. For those not living in Victoria, Phil Cleary is an ex-footballer and Independent MHR whose sister was stalked and eventually killed by her violent ex. And you had better believe that the friends of the violent ex supported him all the way, while dropping a few crocodile tears, natch.
    It’s not Great Literature but I recommend it. (Cleary was instrumental in the ditching of Provocation as a defence in Victoria, after the Julie Ramage case which I wrote about on the Balcony.)

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