Ruth Jeffery became withdrawn and depressed following a campaign waged by Shane Webber, who impersonated her online and sent photos of her naked to her friends and family.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