Coming: Series 2 – Why the Abused Stay; Series 3 – Why Abusers Abuse; Series 4 – Helping the Abused
We all occasionally lose our tempers, but within a short time we realize the damage we’ve done and broken-heartedly ask for forgiveness and a restored relationship.
Marital abuse is in a completely different universe.
It is not an anger-problem, submission issue or lack of good communication skills. Emotional/mental abuse is just as painful and will be covered in post #3. Using physical force to harm or endanger another is assault (attempt/threat of violence) and battery (unlawful/unpermitted touching, violence) and is a crime, whether it occurs inside or outside the home (Christian or non-). The police have the power and authority to protect their citizens from physical attack. Search the web for “domestic violence” (see a variety of sites below) and you will readily find that abusers follow well-documented and predictable patterns.
It’s all about control
An abuser will do whatever it takes to get and maintain control over his wife and children. (Granted, some wives abuse, but 95% of victims are women.+) He demands that his wants be met as first priority over the needs of his wife or child. For example, his small child appears crying and bleeding from a fall, and the abuser will yell, “Be quiet and wait ’til I’m done talking!” then continue ‘pontificating’ for another 20 minutes . . . and feel no guilt. Or his heavily-laden 9-months pregnant wife may be sitting in the next room, yet he will command her to get him a drink … while he is leaning against the frig door!
Can’t she just say “no”?
Remember, she doesn’t live in the normal world. Any hint of disapproval or refusal will be his excuse to push, manipulate, damage a favorite object or pet, put his fist through a door, pull hair, threaten with a weapon, restrain, insult, slap, punch, etc. If he professes to be a Christian, the cruelty is multiplied because he will typically pull a verse out of his arsonal and twist its meaning to insist that if his wife would be more submissive to his headship, he wouldn’t have to be violent. He maintains that it is his job as the leader to make sure she submits and to punish her “rebellion”. (We will be untwisting his verses in a future post.) He will often control sadistically. Telling his wife to “jump!”, she meekly inquires, “How high?” Then he purposefully changes the rule of how high after she has jumped. Fear, guilt, shame, demeaning, isolation and intimidation are his favourite weapons to wear her down and keep her under his thumb, but when manipulation doesn’t work, he often chooses violence. The longer the abuser is allowed to continue his sinful behaviour, the worse he gets. Keep in mind my introductory post “No One Knew” – one woman every week dies at the hand of her violent husband/partner in Australia. 38% of murdered women were killed by their “intimate partner.”*
Sexual abuse includes any situation in which you are forced to participate in unwanted or degrading sexual activity. Even by a spouse, this is an act of criminal aggression and violence. Australian law lists 5 unlawful methods of coersion and 2 of them are using intimidation and position of authority.
It is Still Abuse If . . .
– the incidents seem minor (obviously leaving dirty work clothes on the floor is not a correct definition of abuse)
– he’s only been violent once or twice (it will increase). It only takes one conviction for a prison sentence. It only takes one act of violence to cause physical injury and the obliteration of trust.
– the assaults stop when she becomes passive and surrenders her right to express herself, to move about freely, to see others, and to make decisions . . . when she gives up her personhood in exchange for not being assaulted. (not to be confused with Biblical submission – see future posts)
Abuse is never acceptable. Our next post will explore the well-known “cycle of abuse”.
Some of the many resources
Maybe you need help now or want to learn all you can or maybe you want verification of what I’m saying. Here are some of the helplines and websites on this subject:
Australia: call the National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1 800 200 526 for a world-wide list of helplines, crisis centres and shelters
USA: call the National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1 800 799 7233 (SAFE)
UK: call Woman’s Aid – 0808 2000 247
Canada: all the National Domestic violence hotline – 1 800 363 9010
Leslie Vernick (excellent; Christian)
A Matter of Basic Principles by Don Veinot, Joy Veinot and Ron Henzel and recoveringgrace.org for those influenced by Bill Gothard’s teachings on submission and “the umbrella of protection/authority”