We all occasionally lose our tempers, but within a short time we realise 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 later. 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 twenty minutes… and feel no guilt. Or his heavily-laden nine-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 favourite 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 arsenal 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. And 38% of murdered women were killed by their “intimate partner.”

Sexual Abuse

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 five unlawful methods of coercion and two 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 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.

You can access domestic violence resources here.

this is part 2 of 6 in the series
How to Spot an Abuser

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About Joy Harris

Joy studied elementary education before going on to teach at the primary school level as well as homeschooling for twenty-six years. Joy has touched the lives of thousands through her ministry in state Religious Education, Sunday Schools, and Holiday Bible Clubs as well as through her speaking at various seminars and retreats. Joy is also a gifted musician and has collaborated on multiple recording projects as well as maintaining a private teaching studio for over thirty years. Joy is retired and lives in Cairns, Australia. Joy has seven children, twenty-one grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. You can contact Joy at joy@jasonharris.com.au.


  1. Kez 13 January, 2014 at 5:46 pm - Reply

    I am really loving your writing! I have been waiting for this kind of series from a trusted source for years. Warning signs of abusers, why victims stay, what abuse looks like, etc. Though you are addressing marital abuse specifically, there is so much crossover to other areas of abuse too (such as child abuse, sexual assault, etc) and there is such a need for awareness on it all especially amongst our churches. Thank you for being brave enough to confront these often hushed-up issues! I look forward to the rest of your writings!

  2. steve 10 February, 2014 at 12:58 pm - Reply

    every woman should read this set of posts. I am making sure that my daughters do.

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