Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Venus: The Dark Side

By Heidi Hiatt

In 2008, journalist and author Roy Sheppard and Mary Cleary, founder of the Amen network that helps male domestic violence victims, released a book on female predators that turned heads. Venus: The Dark Side shines light on the inner workings and tactics of, as Sheppard and Cleary put it, queens of manipulation and deceit. Having dealt with such women both in the workplace and on my own time, I was pleased to know that someone has finally written a book on female sociopaths and their cousins. I read it over a year ago and it’s been on my to-blog list ever since.

To quote from their introduction, the type of woman they are analyzing “…is prepared to hurt innocent men, women, and even children to get her own way. This ruthlessness takes the form of physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, or financial abuse… Many are nothing short of domestic terrorists: Al Qaeda in high heels and lipstick… Nothing is ever their fault.” The authors claim that ever since they first shared the title of this book, stories of such women came pouring in from both sexes. I believe it because I’ve experienced and witnessed the wrath of these unbalanced cutthroats, particularly the type who ingratiate themselves to men and terrorize other women.

While the above description of low to no conscience female aggressors is refreshing, I was greatly disappointed that this definition was attached to the word bitch. I understand that the word bitch is commonly used to describe unbalanced, vindictive, and violent women. But I more commonly hear the word bitch used to describe a woman who is willing to stand up for herself, her beliefs, her family, and her self-respect. It is also a word that abusers use against their victims frequently. So I believe the word bitch is a poor choice because it can be twisted to mean whatever someone wants it to and is usually used in a vulgar, demeaning manner.

The book does a good job of detailing how manipulative women go about finding and taking advantage of their victims. On that note, Venus is a crash course in recognizing the vampires among us and what they can do to you once you’re hooked. Sheppard and Cleary note that sociopaths gravitate toward “nice people” and that being a nice person “is seen as a character weakness to be exploited.”

From experience I know that these vampires are empty inside and they are drawn to nice, giving, successful people because they want to take from them what they themselves lack. Nice people are ultimately filling stations on the road to life for these dark souls. As the book put it, “men and women with no conscience prey on those with too much conscience.” They will gladly take your virginity, property, time, money, and any number of other things you hold precious and walk off with them as if nothing has happened.

I appreciate how the authors delve into some common tactics of female sociopaths, such as creating the illusion of intimacy quickly, how they will gladly steal their best friend’s boyfriend to feel desirable, and how they seek positions of authority so that others won’t challenge them. They are adept are using sympathy to gain footholds in others’ lives and make them dance like puppets. Such women may choose their victims based on status or wealth or because they know that the victim is unlikely to fight back. Sheppard and Cleary say, “Because she has no conscience, remorse, guilt, or shame, she will use others mercilessly, ruthlessly, and callously to get what she wants. If this involves bullying or humiliation, so be it.”

The most useful chapter in this book is chapter four, The Psychologies of Malice. The beauty of psychology is that by classifying human illnesses and disorders, you have more clout to deal with them and treat them. When you can name your opponent, you have far more power over them than when you are flailing wildly at an anonymous enemy. This is because others have written guidelines on how to help people with such issues and protect yourself from any fallout. Chapter four discusses borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, dissociative identity disorder (multiple personalities), sociopaths, psychopaths, and factitious disorder (Munchausen’s).

An aspect of this book that resonated with me was the discussion about what happens when you confront one of these dishonest, controlling vampires. I give Sheppard and Cleary a hearty amen for recognizing that our society allows such people to get away with their behavior because it’s easier to shrink away from the abuse than confront it, displacing the aggressor’s behavior onto her next victim. We are afraid to rock the boat, of being pushed out of others’ lives, of retaliation, and of the libel and slander that fall like acid rain when we take a stand against this kind of evil. From experience I can say that such women will stop at nothing to cover up what they’ve done and punish anyone who has the understanding or courage to expose them.

Despite its useful information on identifying dark souls in female form, this book has more drawbacks than its choice of b-word terminology. Even though the authors’ intentions are to protect people from sham marriages, they seem to forget that when you’re married, you’re supposed to share. Marriage and divorce are treated rather casually here. This may be because divorce is so common in our society and the line between living together and married has been blurred.

The text is heavy on protecting yourself and your assets and practicing strategies to outwit an abusive woman. I am a firm believer in prenuptial agreements and do believe in being prepared. However, there are parts in the book that seem to be teaching men to manipulate just as the authors scold women for doing. One section says, “…be seen to earn less, or decide to work fewer days in order to look after your children.” This is bordering on if not practicing the “maintaining appearances” tactic that the authors speak out against.

An unfortunate and unintended side effect of a book like this is that it could help abusers be better abusers. Sociopaths instinctively adapt to survive, and reading a dissection of their own behavior may influence them to get more creative. If you are at war, and your enemy finds out that you know what their next move is, they’ll try something different to bamboozle you. It is more important to educate the public about sociopaths than worry what one might do with the material though. I also caution that this book may inadvertently perpetuate the erroneous belief that if you are dealing with a woman like this, nothing is wrong with you. You might be just as bad as she is, or your abuse may have led her down the road to desperation or a personality disorder.

It should also be noted that women make false allegations of abuse much less often than the general public thinks they do. Yes, it does happen, and we should ask what that woman has to gain or lose if we are questioning the validity of such accusations. Real victims of domestic violence and sexual assault often risk losing financial support, a place to live, their personal safety, their jobs, their reputation, and other major components of their lives by standing up for themselves. False allegations can result in the target, not the alleged victim, losing those things.

It is very important that this book discusses domestic violence against men as there is little funding for and awareness of this issue. Sometimes domestic violence against men is treated like a joke, as if men can’t be abused when they’re “bigger and stronger.” It’s useful to remember that domestic violence takes many forms, including psychological. While modern statistics claim that men are more physically violent towards their partners, some in the psychology realm believe that women are more relationally aggressive. Women, smaller or not, can inflict all kinds of mayhem on a victim’s life for the sake of power and control, which is at the root of domestic violence.

I commend this book for being bold and trying to get the truth on female sociopaths out to the masses. I frown upon the book’s terminology, its level of emphasis on happiness to gauge whether to stay in a relationship, and the possibility that it has fueled myths about false allegations. As thrilled as I was to see a book on female vampires hit the market, and I applaud the level of detail the authors go into in the interest of protecting victims, I’d still advise people to check out Sandra L. Brown’s Women Who Love Psychopaths. This is because the information Brown provides in that book can apply to both sexes. It breaks it down into easy to understand components that are written in a calmer tone.

For victims of domestic violence, including male victims, I’d recommend Susan Murphy Milano’s roadmap to getting out of an abusive relationship, Time’s Up: A Guide On How To Leave and Survive Abusive and Stalking Relationships. Violence against men is real and it can be deadly. Some men feel less than manly if they admit they’ve been abused, and they should never be ashamed to remove themselves, their children, and their pets from a dangerous situation. If you wish to read a previous blurb on men and domestic violence, go tohttp://wildninja.wordpress.com/2010/08/29/men-and-domestic-violence/. Overall Venus is a good read, and it should be read with a wary eye so that the bits that veer towards the biased or unbiblical will be noticed.


  1. Thank you for this.

    Mary Cleary- indeed- Navan Ireland.

    I am always fascinated to read what looks like truth, when the readers have no real idea who the author is and their past experiences and what has led them to write as they do. In Navan, the word bitch actually means a breeder- a woman breeder- oh yes, women in Ireland are seen as mere breeders, bitches who produce children for the next generation/workers. It mainly applied to rural areas in the past, but the energy of the word bitch is a mere breeder- not human.
    It is amazing how female abusers- and there are some- my goodness do I know it- but immediately patriarchal society comes down on them like a ton of bricks but will find all kinds of excuses for males who abuse, batter, torture etc.
    I speak from experience from DV court Navan, where women victims are labelled FEEBLE MINDED by judges- as all judges in Eire/Ireland are taught this little gem- even in 2011.
    I feel all the world should know this hidden fact.

    With the label of feeble mindedness- throwback from Inquisition times- female victims of DV are deemed liars- even if they have witnesses and proof. On the other hand male victims are honoured - and some males also make up DV, knowing the system is clearly in their favour now. Solicitors who are honest will confirm all this.

    In conclusion- Patriarchy loves divide and rule and here is the classic example- pitting women against men and a woman doing it.

    I personally know male and female victims of DV- far more females than males.

    However, to fully understand we have to go back to Patriarchal bible story with Eve ill Eve and poor Adam.

    All is Eve's fault.

    Poor Adam was and is never expected to accept responsibility for his actions since that fatefull moment in the garden- all made up of course to demonise Eve's and excuse Adam's.

    DV courts in Navan Ireland and elsewhere need to be open to the public and reporters reporting the truth, unlike having Carol Coulter report as she is told.

    If I did not know Navan and Ireland like I do, I would be writing a different comment.

  2. It is deeply unfortunate that Heidi Hiatt has treated this very serious subject in such a haughty, emotive, vulgar and demeaning manner. Phrases and terms such as "Al Qaeda in high heels and lipstick" and "...this kind of evil" are unhelpful in understanding the personalities of such females and the reasons for their behaviours. On the one hand Hiatt attributes such behaviour to psychological causes (sociopath) and yet on the other hand sees it as some kind of anti-religious position (evil) i.e. from a pseduo-scientific perspective and then from a theological perspective. Domestic violence as perpetrated by males is disctinctly different from domestic violence perpetrated by females and any comparison is an apples and pears comparison, and perhaps the clearest view of the behaviours of male and female psychopaths (a permanent neurological disorder) has been given in Butterworth's Family Law Journal. i.e. " “Women’s violence to male partners certainly does exist, but it tends to be very different from that of men towards their female partners; it is far less injurious and less likely to be motivated by attempts to dominate and terrorise the partner" The Law Commission has referred to one study which was significant in its account of what women did not do (but which constituted tactics frequently employed by violent men) - “No husband was threatened with a gun, or chased with knives, axes, broken bottles or by a car. Husbands were not kicked or stamped on, with steel-capped boots or heavy work boots. Strangling or choking were not used. No wife attempted suffocation with a pillow. Husbands were not locked out, confined to particular areas of the house, or isolated from friends. No wife has ever killed her husband inside Family Court premises or immediately following a Family Court ordered counselling session. Security is not routinely required to ensure wives do not behave violently inside Family Court premises”. Butterworth’s Family Law Journal Dec.2004.

    1. No one is going to use the perfect verbiage or description for the world exactly as you see it, but I see and understand and even agree with Heidi's parallels, and they are VERY helpful. Perhaps the only way you may find full agreement is if you write such a novel yourself, and then you will be confronted with similar decent as yours now?

  3. Thank you Jarl for this clarification.

  4. Thank you both for taking the time to share your thoughts. It's always interesting to hear from people with different perspectives shaped by varied experiences.

    I want to clarify that the terminology you question is used by the authors of this book. Note that I questioned some terminology too. Being glad that this book was written is not a blanket endorsement of the authors.

    In some ways you are preaching to the choir. No one needs to convince me of the horrors men can inflict upon their female partners. I write as a survivor and have specialized in the study of police officer-involved domestic violence. I lost a friend to DV homicide.

    That said, I have also experienced the type of women that Sheppard and Cleary describe, and the cost has been tremendous. Power and control have factored heavily into these situations just like it did with male perpetrators. I've also had men dear to me affected by violent and unbalanced women.

    From my point of view, I simply can't agree with a sweeping generalization that domestic violence by men is always different from domestic violence by women. To me that point of view reinforces the myth that domestic violence by women is always less serious or threatening. If we're serious about ending domestic violence, then we need to eradicate all forms of it. It is more than just physical violence.

    As I pointed out in the article, men may be more physically aggressive and women may be more relationally aggressive. Of course there can be differences and that is reinforced by academic studies of the subject. But that doesn't mean it is always the case, and denying the deeds of women who do practice violence in any form minimizes their impact on victims.

    It is from challenging real-life experiences with both violent men and violent women that I write. Given how strongly I feel about defending victims and survivors I have no problem speaking out about the abuse perpetrated by both genders. The victims of both genders deserve protection and justice.

    Some may term it evil, some pathology, some bad choices, some selfishness, some human nature. However we choose to explain it, and you're right that I do touch on both the theological and psychological since the latter helps us understand what factors into the commission of evil, we shouldn't tolerate it. I'm sure that no matter what we think about this book or these authors, we can agree on that.


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