#17 The walls have ears

This expression refers to the practice of cutting listening cavities into palace walls. It is believed to have come from a story about Dionysius of Syracuse (430–367 b.c.), who had an ear-shaped cave cut and connected between the rooms of his palace so that he could hear what was being said from another room.

Nowadays wall cavities have been replaced by modern technology. There are a plethora of devices which enable perpetrators of coercive control & stalking to exert their power without anyone noticing.

Below is a story about a fictional couple Gaynor & Vinnie. As you read consider these questions.

What are the risks? 

How might Vinnie’s grip of control escalate? 

Do you think this form of abuse is becoming increasingly common?

How might Vinnie respond if Gaynor discovers the truth?


Gaynor, 47 & Vinnie, 48, are a fictional couple. They were introduced by a ‘friend of a friend’, & set up on a blind date.

Gaynor had been single for 2 years after a difficult divorce & was mum to 3 young children. She was ready to start dating again  & had met a few men through online dating, but none of them sparked her interest.

Vinnie had been divorced for 5 years, & had a teenage daughter. He’d had a few relationships, & would later say they were all ‘crazy’. 

Gaynor & Vinnie met for a coffee for their first date. Vinnie was awkward & a little shy, Gaynor liked this, she’d been used to men who were very charming, promised her the world & subsequently let her down. Vinnie was tall, attractive but seemed uncomfortable, his posture stooped & out of practice in the dating scene. Gaynor took the lead asking questions & initiated conversation, she felt super confident. 

After the date, she wasn’t sure if there had been a spark, but shortly after Vinnie sent her lots of messages & told her how much he’d like to see her again.

She felt excited, & liked that he was a bit different to previous partners & quite shy.

With parenting responsibilities & work, finding a free date to meet up again was difficult, but over the next few weeks they spoke on the phone & messaged daily. Vinnie was very open about his feelings & when they finally met up he seemed more relaxed.

After the 2nd date things moved quickly & Vinnie was very keen to take things further. He could be quite intense, & Gaynor would get swept away with the romance, then back off when she felt a little smothered. She asked him to slow down as she wasn’t ready to move too fast.

Vinnie would say he understood but then would sulk & go quiet. Gaynor didn’t have the energy to play games & would leave him sulking. This would be followed by long text messages telling her how deeply he felt about her, how he couldn’t imagine life without her & she was ‘the one’.

This left Gaynor feeling guilty, & she gradually allowed Vinnie to persuade her to speed up the pace, despite her instinct telling her differently.

Gaynor prided herself on maintaining some boundaries. She wasn’t ready to introduce Vinnie to her children & remained firm on that.

They agreed to spend every other weekend together when their children weren’t at home. Gaynor often felt like there was little opportunity to see her friends & when she did, Vinnie would arrange to tag along.

Vinnie was a mechanic, & he was very handy, always offering to do odd jobs for Gaynor & her friends. They liked him & enjoyed the benefits of having someone like Vinnie around. If Gaynor shared any doubts, they’d laugh it off telling her how lucky she was.

Vinnie also had skills in IT that Gaynor was completely unaware of. During a weekend stay when her kids were with their dad, Vinnie had offered to help decorate Gaynor’s bedroom. Whilst she nipped out to get the paint, Vinnie installed devices under her bedside table & phone charger.

This enabled him to listen in & he downloaded all messages from her phone onto his.

He’d also offered to service her car ‘ready for winter’ & whilst doing it, he’d installed a tracker.

Whilst Gaynor felt she was control of their relationship, it was actually Vinnie who had full control monitoring her EVERY move.

He knew what time she went to bed, listened to her conversations with her children, read all her messages & could trace her location whenever they weren’t together.

He would often ‘test’ Gaynor interrogating her about her day, who she’d spoke to, what she’d done.

She just felt Vinnie was really interested & cared about her. For Gaynor it felt refreshing to have a partner who was happy to take things at her pace, but remained really interested in EVERY aspect of her life.

Gaynor was pleased she’d pushed those instincts down, ignored that inner voice.

After so many failed relationships she didn’t trust her judgement & knew she’d done the right thing by listening to everyone else & giving Vinnie a chance.

She was completely unaware of the risks.

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