What is a flying monkey?
As it relates to intimate partner violence/domestic violence a flying monkey is someone that an abusive person uses to justify and support their abuse and to continue the destruction of their victim, even if they are not in the same room.
For example, there are innocent people who do not see the abuse. An example of this might be a church member who sees the partners going to church and there is this mask of how amazing their relationship is and how devoted they are to the church, and they just look perfect. For people that see that on an ongoing basis, it is really hard for them to know or believe that there is domestic violence going on. Should the victim reach out, they may be told that they are over-exaggerating or they cannot even imagine that would happen and they are not believed. This is an innocent flying monkey.
Then there are those who see the abuse and purposely ignore it or overtly support it. For example, it could be family members that brush the abuse under the rug, or it could be family members that your partner has learned from or the abusive partner has learned from, that this is how you treat your romantic partner, and so then there might be some overt support for it. In addition, it could be us as therapists. If we do not do the assessment and we do not know, we could also be doing harm and be a flying monkey.
So, flying monkeys are those innocent people who do not see it, they do not have the education, and they do not know of the abuse, and then there are those who see the abuse and purposely ignore it or overtly support it.
This Ask the Expert is an edited excerpt from the webinar, The Thin Line: Assessing for Domestic Violence in Couples Therapy, presented by Sybil Cummin, MA, LPC, ACS.