In Control

Following on from my previous reading experience, In Control was suggested to me by one of my clients (thank you so much!). The murder of Noor Mukaddam by Zahir Jaffer took everyone by shock. How could this happen, everyone asked. Could she not have saved her life? Why couldn’t anyone see any red flags in this man?

What is is about these men that makes them maniplative, control freaks, violent and murderers? In Control answers all these questions and a lot more.

The author, Jane Monckton Smith is a professor of Public Prosecution in the UK and she developed a program of assessing and understanding risk of homicide and domestic abuse. her program is being used widely by the police force and other professionals. She also assissts the police in high profile murder and complex cases.

Since the book covers the cases in the UK, it was alarming to read about cases where women were not being helped or shamed into being at fault, primarily because the “male culture reimained dominant.” So while we may split up countries into first world and developing nations, the male dominated culture is prevalent world over.

According to Smith, the vast majority of murders fall into two main broad categories:

  1. Men who kill other men in violent confrontations
  2. Men who plan to, and kill, their partners or former partners
    • Intimate Partner Homicide is one of the biggest categories as well.

Statstitics in the UK show that the biggest danger to a man is another man, and to a woman, a man whom she is or has been in an intimate relationship. “Women and children are seen only as supporting characters in these evenrs an das s uch their characters are simplified, with victim-blaming tropes replacing all complexity.”

She also talks about Coercive Control, where a woman is scared to call for help or run away because she knows the man has a strong control over her and can hurt or kill her, so she remains silent.

What Smith has found in her studies and research is a pattern of coercive control that these men follow. She has developed an 8 stage Homicide Timeline, that if applied, can help women see the men they are with and potentially save themselves from any chance of being abused or killed.

Each of these chapters is explained in details, with real life case studies, and helps us see how to look out for red flags in the bahvaiour, moods and langauage the men have. She talks about Vincent, who she had an encounter with, and shares what he had to say:

“I just snapped!”

“They think I’m the bad one. It’s not fair!”

“Even my mother, she didn’t like me. She never treated me right.”

“No one takes my side, no one sees how things affect me.”

Vincent’s crime of passion, as described in the book, only shows what went on in his mindset and even after killing a woman, he felt he did right and expected to be treated like a celebrity by the media. His lack of empathy was also telling.

Smith goes on to talk the Three Questions women need to ask when they are in a relationship:

  1. Are these behaviours part of a pattern?
  2. Is tis pattern malking someone change their daily routine?
  3. Is someone fearful as a result of these patterns?

Homicide Timeline

Stage One: History- a history of control or stalking

  • occurs before two people meet and form a relationship
  • Red Flag: they have a history of control, possessiveness and jealousy
  • if we accept their control today, we will have to accept that control will be a part of all their relationships
  • personality disorders: those who have anti-social disorder can be manipultive, deceitful and uncaring
  • narcissism is associated with coercive control and domestic abuse
  • it is a myth that a woman can control a man’s violent behaviour through they way she speaks behaves and dress. it’s a myth.
  • it has been seen that when a system is supportive to women, women will engage with the system more
  • this stage is all about history; does the man have any history of stalking, control or violence? are they the type who wants to win? are they routinely jeaous or possessive?

Stage Two: Early Relationship- the committment whirlwind

  • this stage is when a controlling person finds someone they want to be in a relationship with and they try to moe things very, very quickly, or they may be very persistent.
  • it’s important to keep the speed of relationship slow and steady to give women time to think
  • it is a time when both parties may be idealising each other, and forming associations and dependencies that may be hard to break away from
  • controlling person will speed up the relationship, to the point where applying brakes becomes hard for the other partner; spiltting up is made difficult
  • men who kill their partners often say “if I can’t have her, no one will.”
  • Red Flag: don’t mistake a partner’s jealousy for you as love

Stage Three: Relationship- dominated by control

  • stage three is all about making sure a partner is compliant and trapped withing a relationship
  • two pillars that kick-starts an intimate relationship Jealousy Code and Loyalty Code
  • jealousy code is basically when a man expresses jealousy and wnat their partners to avoid doing anything that makes them jealous; excessive jealousy is a warning sign
  • loyalty code is an effective methods used by the men to remove or control the influence others may have on their partners; partners may be asked to see less of their friends or pretend to like their partners in public.
  • gaslighting is very common in this stage
  • chronic fear keeps the victims managing their behaviour, even if the controlling person isn’t there
  • victims will spend a lot of time trying to convince their partners they are devoted and loyal because this will help keep things calm and safer.
  • men will feel entitled and this feeling may come from narcissistic tendencies or the way the culture has brought up such men
  • there is a difference between immediate fear and chronic fear
  • victims learn quickly what happens when they don’t comply with their partners: abuse
  • routine and rituals is evident in this stage; it is an early warning system for the perpetrators that their control is being challenged
  • any change on the part of the women is seen as disloyalty and challenging to the man’s control
  • separation is seen as a trigger point for controlling men
  • web of control; multiple layers of control often come into play such as financial control, use of children to prevent a woman leaving
  • violence is not spontaneous- it is almost always planned, rational and sadistic
  • revenge porn happens when women attempt to leave

Stage Four: Trigger- an event to challenge control

  • trigger stage: something has changed for the controlling person, they may lose someone they feel they are entitled to
  • control is seen as a “right” by these men
  • tipping point or trigger isn’t simply jealousy
  • men resort to murder moreso than women, as men are taught that they “own” women and women are taught they are “ownership of men”
  • most control issues come from somewhere: abadonment, fear of victimisation or insecurities
  • men to some extent blamed their past for their present selves, which take away responsibilites; they blame the victims for their crimes

Stage Five: Escalation- escalting control or the advent of stalking

  • stage five is all anbout what happens when a controlling person is faced with a trigger, and how they try to claw back control
  • when change happens, like a separation, chances of suicide rises where men sees suicide as a final view of everything
  • one of the most dangerous categories of stalkers are ex-partners
  • FOUR model to determine whether someone is a staler; Fixated Obsessive Unwanted and Repeated
  • it’s good to listen to your instincts
  • in most cases, victims will know their stalker
  • stalking and coercive control are twin behaviours
  • not all controlling men will reach this escalation stage; three things can happen
    1. relationship may be resinstated and everything circles back to stage three
    2. relatiionship may stay broken and controlling person will go back to stage one looking for another victim
    3. neither of these things happen and relationship moves to stage six

Stage Six: A change in thinking- a change of focus

  • stage six is about the time when escalation no longer serves its purpose and the controlling person has changed their thinking about their strategy
  • strategy changes from attempting to keep their partners to destroying their partners for leaving
  • suicide threats from controlling people in such a situation are a concern

Stage Seven: Planning- planning a homicide

  • there are those who plan to get away with murder, and some who don’t
  • professionals will not generally accept that murder happen on a whim; there is always some sort of planning that went on
  • internet searches on how to murder is very common
  • psychosis is sometimes obvious and is a clear defence
  • drug and alcohol misuse are sometimes considered explanations for murder

Stage Eight: Homicide and/or suicide

  • too often there is a voyeuristic interest in the killers; the taking of a life can become taking of an entire history or legacy

Unfortunately, in Pakistan we have a penchant to blame the victims. Whether it’s a woman who was raped on the motorway, or an engaged couple in a hotel room being harrased, or even Noor Mukaddam herself, the blame always goes towards these women. She should have known better, she should have dressed more conservatively, she should have stayed home. This mindset needs to be challenged. It’s about time we start questioning the kind of men we are bringing up in our scoeity. Men who think rape is fine and justified, men who think they have a right to harrass a woman, or even men like Zahir Jaffer who think their privlige, power and wealth can help him get away with murder.

As I was reading this book, I could literally place Zahir Jaffer in place of Vincent, for Zahir Jaffer also displayed the tendencies for a murderer. He has confessed to raping, killing and beheading Noor. He confessed to taking away her phone. He lied to her parents about Noor’s whereabouts. He has mentioned he killed because she didn’t want to marry him. He couldn’t bear to lose his control over her. He couldn’t face the separation. So what did he do? He tortured her. He raped her. He killed her. He beheaded her.

At the time of his arrest, it was established that he was sane and mentally stable. So this was clearly a planned murder not something that happened in the spur of a moment. Zahir Jaffer is a complex case to study as he has had a history of violence behaviour.

Research shows that when men tell stories of their offending, we are quick to empathise, and when women tell their stories, we are quick to make negative judgments. Sadly, we still have people who are sympathising with Zahir and blaming Noor for her own death. Which is why it’s important to change our mindsets and look at the hard realities right before us: men murder. While it may take generations for this mindset to change, to not blame victims for the murder, we can always enlighten ourselves and help any potential victims from becoming the next person to be murdered.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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