Fair’s fair Jacqui Petrusma

We were concerned today to hear Jacqui Petrusma suggest that 1 in 3 men is guilty of domestic violence.

People participate in domestic violence for various reasons; some lack resources and simply are not coping.  Some express themselves violently because they are afraid or because they do not know a peaceful way to express themselves.  These may be the people Jacqui thinks about when she assumes that the number of female victims equates directly to the number of perpetrators.

In fact there is another class of perpetrator of violence against women, a class of perpetrator that does not fit Jacqui Petrusma’s well meaning but misinformed formula.

This other class of perpetrator accesses and abuses “more than their fair share” of women (or men as the case may be).  We are therefore deeply concerned by Jacqui’s assumption on several counts: one that a perception that one in three men is a perpetrator of domestic violence is a gross and unfortunate misrepresentation of Tasmanian men and men globally; and two that Jacqui’s assumption flows from ignorance of a serious factor in understanding domestic violence:  the ‘low conscience’ disorders.

The low and no conscience disorders are biological, chemical and physical disorders.  The brain of a ‘low conscience’ person operates differently to the brain of the general population.  It is estimated that there are between 5000 and 20000 people currently living in Tasmania who have a low conscience disorder.  It must be stressed that not all of these engage in abusive and criminal activities.

People who have low or no conscience are typically charming, bold, risk takers who rise to the top of their industry quickly.  They can attract partners easily, and often have multiple partners, both ‘significant’ and casual.  The highly intelligent among them are able to gain new skills incredibly rapidly, and have a differing hierarchy of needs that allows for them to behave in ways that are simply unbelievable to the general population.

Expert in the field Robert Hare writes: ”Laboratory experiments using biomedical recorders have shown that psychopaths lack the physiological responses normally associated with fear.” “Lying, deceiving, and manipulation are natural talents for psychopaths.” “Much of the lying seems to have no motivation other than what psychologist Paul Ekman refers to as a ‘duping delight’.”

They have a low need for community, honesty, sleep and food.  This means that they can carry out unethical and criminal activities within surprisingly tight time constraints.  They lie more easily than they tell the truth, and lie for no apparent reason because they play a constant game of “duper’s delight”.  It is generally accepted that people without conscience are not rehabilitatable and have a high rate of recidivism.  The good news is that the successful management of one low conscience perpetrator is likely to protect numerous women and children.

Low conscience is significant in the fight against domestic violence on many levels:

People of low conscience can participate in relationships and perpetrate abuse with several partners simultaneously.  They can perpetrate abuse and crimes that the general public find horrific and literally unbelievable.  They can lie convincingly to the justice system that is currently geared to assume all persons to be honest.  The crimes they commit are so awful that victims are disbelieved, and victims can disbelieve their own eyes.

This phenomenon of not believing what is truly awful is termed cognitive dissonance.  Cognitive dissonance makes it easy for a perpetrator: to groom a family to accept abuse, to believe it “normal behaviour” (“every marriage has its ups and downs after all”); and to groom a community that typically does not wish to believe “the worst”.

Complicating the domestic violence conversation further is the unfortunate fact that people of low conscience are typically drawn to positions of power or influence, and roles involving vulnerable people.  The result is that victims are not only abused by the original perpetrator, but must navigate a minefield of professionals and services that can be corrupted imperceptibly by the cultural influence of colleagues and management who may also exhibit low conscience traits.  Just one person of low conscience within a workplace can have a devastating influence over an individual case of domestic violence, and the workplace culture at large.

If a person’s parent is of low conscience this adds a whole new level of vulnerability for the offspring, ie. adult children and grandchildren.  At this stage it would seem that our Child Protection and Family Court systems are ignorant of this significant dynamic.

As an example of the potential for these people to abuse “more than their fair share” we quote expert in the field Robert D Hare, a researcher in the field of Criminal Psychology. In his book Without Conscience Robert writes:

“Most psychopaths have lots of victims. It is certain that a psychopath who is causing you grief is also causing grief to others.”  “Everyone is vulnerable to the psychopath, and there is no shame in being victimized. This may be difficult to accept if you have just been conned and are too embarrassed to complain to the police or to testify in court. But you may be surprised by the number of people in your community who have been taken in.”  “Not all psychopaths end up in jail. Many of the things they do escape detection or prosecution, or are on the ‘shady side of the law.’ For them, antisocial behavior may consist of phony stock promotions, questionable business and professional practices, spouse or child abuse, and so forth. Many others do things that, although not illegal, are unethical, immoral, or harmful to others: philandering, cheating on a spouse, financial or emotional neglect of family members, irresponsible use of company resources or funds, to name but a few.”

While the low conscience disorders make an appearance in the psychiatric diagnostic manual DSM-V, the clinical description fails to highlight the destructive nature of the low conscience disorder. For an accurate picture of how the low conscience disorders play out at home, in the workplace, in business and in government it is necessary to peruse the many victim/survivor forums. There is also a steadily growing number of books available on the subject.

We welcome the State Government’s action on domestic violence and urge that allocation of funds considers management of the low conscience disorders.

In the interest of educating the Tasmanian Community Becky invites readers to share their story anonymously here.

Further reading:

Without Conscience; Robert D Hare

Bad Boys, Bad Men; Donald Black

Puzzling People; Thomas Sheridan

Backstabbers and Bullies; Adrian Furnham

Author: Becky and Dean Morgan (pseudonyms used in order to protect the identity of child victims)

Refer: Without Conscience; Robert D. Hare; The Guilford Press; 1999; ISBN 9781572304512

To view the press release click here



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