Abusers, Denial, and 10 Tips From Their Playbook

I keep writing about abusers because once you know one, live with one, survive one…you can see patterns of abusive personalities in society.

This is one of the reasons I took on the Lynn Messer case which you can read about here. I thought I was possibly seeing glaring red flags of Lynn being the victim, not survivor, of domestic abuse.

Understanding abuse is like understanding a football playbook. Abusers have a built in playbook and if you know the signs you understand the lurking danger.

Abusers can be found in different settings: domestic, clergy, spiritual leadership, athletics, educational, family court, or anywhere in society. They follow the same playbook/guidelines regardless of where you witness them.

Today I’m comparing what I know to what I saw in
Gayle King’s CBS interview with R.Kelly last night. Singer/songwriter Robert Kelly (R.Kelly) is charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault, with children and underage girls, dating back to 1998. He is also accused of holding women against their will in a so called sex-cult. Court documents show three of the victims were between the ages of 13 and 17. At the time of the alleged crimes, Kelly was at least five years older than these victims and there are other allegations that include a child.

R. Kelly’s reactions are typical among abusers, regardless of their background.

Play #1: It begins with denial, repeatedly reaffirms denial, and ends with…denial.

R. Kelly was explosive in his denial but denial can look different from abuser to abuser.

Here are some acts of denial I’ve seen:

  • Angry and hurt…becomes silent.
  • Angry and violent…hoping fear and wanting to maintain safety will stop the conversation/confrontation, or achieve agreement.
  • Calm and positive…they believe the victim has problems and they are willing to give said victim time to heal.
  • Befuddled….turns accusations against them into questions while placing the focus on victim/interviewer.
  • Reflectful and prayerful…toward the victim who is obviously emotionally unhealthy.
  • Angry but calm…spins the story.
  • Hang their head, shake their head, roll their eyes…because some people are just too stupid to understand the lies.
  • Condescending with a straight face…while explaining why they were justified to do what they did.
  • Sad and hurt…cries.

These are all forms of denial even though many do it with an air of believability.

Please understand that any emotion mixed with tears IS NOT because the abuser is sorry for what they did. It is from their frustration of their specialness being called into question; their sin or crime being brought into the light of truth. They believe they are above moral code and law and shouldn’t have to answer to anyone. (This is especially true of individuals with narcissistic personality disorder). The tears are not for the victim and not from remorse of doing wrong.

“When we do not understand an abuser’s capacity for deceit we make it is easy for the offender to continue in deception and sadly, often call it ‘grace’.  If it lacks truth then it is not grace.”  ~Diane Langberg

Here is a detailed list of denial from an abusers’ playbook:

  1. Select, groom, and brainwash your perfect victim.
  2. They (abusers) are the real victim.
  3. The person speaking truth is made to be the liar.
  4. The offender is the good, healthy, benevolent person.
  5. The victim is retaliating for vengeance, money, or notoriety.
  6. Believes the heart of their motive has been misunderstood.
  7. Judgement has fallen on them for conduct that was ‘private’ and should never be made public.
  8. They deny all private abuse or explain why it was necessary or beneficial.
  9. There is one way to do anything and everything and it’s their way. To them this is perfectly normal and logical.
  10. They hold power over the victim they claim is victimizing them.

How do we know if an abuser is rehabilitated? Conviction, repentance and change all have to take place. This is the only way you will know if your abuser is sincere.


Don Hennessey, relationship counselor and former director of the National Domestic Violence Intervention Agency, refers to abusers as psychephiles and lumps them in the same category as pedophiles when it comes to recovery. Statistics agree that abusers stand little to no chance of recovery because they don’t believe they have a problem, and “I’m sorry” isn’t in their vocabulary.

We all know that pedophiles target children for sexualized abuse.” Don Hennessy coined the word psychephile for the man who abuses his intimate female partner. “A psychephile targets the psyche of the woman he has selected as his target for a long term intimate relationship.”

Link to Gayle King interview here… (it has been broken into several shorter segments so you will need to scroll down to watch all of them).

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Writer, wife, imperfect home schooling mom to 3 amazing humans. Writing about lessons learned from surviving 100% of my worst days. Educating the church about domestic violence & abuse in their midst. Advocating for abused women living in, or leaving destructive marriages. Living an A.I.P. lifestyle. St. Louis Cardinals fanatic. Dog lover, Football fan.

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