by Dr. Sam Vaknin
If all else fails, the abuser recruits friends, colleagues, mates, family members, the authorities, institutions, neighburs, the media, teachers – in short, third parties – to do his/her bidding. He/She uses them to cajole, coerce, threaten, stalk, offer, retreat, tempt, convince, harass, communicate and otherwise manipulate his/her target. He/She controls the unaware instruments exactly as he/she plans to control his/her ultimate prey. He/She employs the same mechanisms and devices. And he/she dumps his/her props unceremoniously when the job is done.
One form of control by proxy is to engineer situations in which abuse is inflicted upon another person. Such carefully crafted scenarios of embarrassment and humiliation provoke social sanctions (condemnation, opprobrium, or even physical punishment) against the victim. Society, or a social group become the instruments of the abuser.
Abusers often use other people to do their dirty work for them. These - sometimes unwitting - accomplices belong to three groups:
I. The abuser's social milieu
Some offenders - mainly in patriarchal and misogynist societies – co-opt other family members, friends, and colleagues into aiding and abetting their abusive conduct. In extreme cases, the victim is held "hostage" - isolated and with little or no access to funds or transportation. Often, the couple's children are used as
II. The victim's social milieu
Even the victim's relatives, friends, and colleagues are amenable to the considerable charm, persuasiveness, and manipulativeness of the abuser and to his/her impressive thespian skills. The abuser offers a plausible rendition of the events and interprets them to his/her favor. Others rarely have a chance to witness an abusive exchange first hand and at close quarters. In contrast, the victims are often on the verge of a nervous breakdown: harassed, unkempt, irritable, impatient, abrasive, and hysterical.
Confronted with this contrast between a polished, self-controlled, and suave abuser and his/her harried casualties – it is easy to reach the conclusion that the real victim is the abuser, or that both parties abuse each other equally. The prey's acts of self-defense, assertiveness, or insistence on her/his rights are interpreted as aggression, lability, or a mental health problem.
III. The System
The abuser perverts the system - therapists, marriage counselors, mediators, court-appointed guardians, police officers, and judges. He/She uses them to pathologize the victim and to separate her/him from her/his sources of emotional sustenance - notably, from her/his children.
Forms of Abuse by Proxy
Socially isolating and excluding the victim by discrediting her through a campaign of malicious rumors.
Harassing the victim by using others to stalk her/him or by charging her/him with offenses she/he did not commit.
Provoking the victim into aggressive or even antisocial conduct by having others threaten her/him or her/his loved ones.
Colluding with others to render the victim dependent on the abuser.
But, by far, her/his children are the abuser's greatest source of leverage over his/her abused spouse or mate.