Hi, Lucy here. I obtained permission from June Hunt and the “Hope for the Heart” ministries to share one of their counseling keys that I found ever so useful. I plan on sharing excerpts from the “Wife Abuse” key each week for the next few weeks. Please feel free to share this information.
This week I’m talking about the stages of Abuse and its Causes, and then next week will be the conclusion where we’ll discuss what Choices we have, Steps to Solution, and some Biblical answers to common questions surrounding abusive behaviour. I hope you find this useful as I have.
~All words below are quoted from the Wife Abuse Counseling Key by June Hunt. Copyright 2001 HOPE FOR THE HEART~
A. Stages of Abuse
Like a runaway train, abuse doesn’t start with a sudden outburst of physical force. Behav- ioral patterns develop in stages that are cyclic, becoming increasingly more violent. Family members who have learned to recognize the signs are controlled by the mere anticipation of expected violence. Unfortunately, the escalating nature of abuse is rarely curbed without intervention and adequate accountability.
“Break the arm of the wicked and evil man;
call him to account for his wickedness that would not be found out.” (Psalm 10:15)
An environment of tension and anxiety marks this beginning phase. The husband communicates his stress or dissatisfaction and blames his wife for all his problems. Passive psychological control is maintained through direct or indirect verbal and emotional abuse, creating a backdrop of impending doom. During this stage many women accept the primary responsibility for their husbands’ unhappiness. Then they adjust their own behavior in an effort to lessen stress in the home.
“For a man’s ways are in full view of the LORD, and He examines all his paths.”
- Brooding and irritability
- Becoming jealous and suspicious
- Using the “silent treatment”
- Withholding emotional support
- Belittling and destroying self-esteem
- Making sarcastic and demeaning remarks
- Accusing or threatening
- Withholding sexual intimacy
- Depriving her of sleep
- Questioning intensely
- Neglecting family responsibilities
The tension which has been building is given full throttle. When violent behavior is unleashed, often family members, outsiders or the police are called in to derail and interrupt the rage. This stage of aggressive behavior doesn’t last long, but outbursts tend to become more frequent and more dangerous.
“An angry man stirs up dissension,
and a hot-tempered one commits many sins.” (Proverbs 29:22)
- Pushing, choking, slapping,
- Breaking and destroying property punching, kicking, etc.
- Throwing objects
- Forcing sexual compliance
- Isolating or confining
- Binding or chaining
- Using weapons
Apologetic c Stage
During this “honeymoon phase,” the abuser becomes contrite, and the wife is soothed with her husband’s loving actions. With a renewed hope for change and her deep desire to have a successful marriage, she extends forgiveness and the cycle occurs again and again.
“The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” (Proverbs 27:12)
- Temporary acceptance of responsibility
“WHAT SHOULD I DO IF MY HUSBAND WAS PHYSICALLY VIOLENT, AND BECAUSE OF FEAR I MOVED AWAY FROM HIM? SHOULD I SEEK A DIVORCE OR GO BACK TO HIM WHEN HE PROMISES TO CHANGE?”
If your husband has not committed adultery, you do not have Biblical grounds for divorce. However, if your husband has not received the help he needs to deal appropriately with his anger, your home will not be safe. Your personal safety (and that of any children) is first in importance. You can remain separated, but be willing to cultivate a heart of reconciliation for the time when your husband may seek help and exhibit genuine change.
“But if she does [separate], she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:11)
- B. Situational Set-Up
A wife should never feel she is the “cause” of her husband’s abuse. He is solely responsible for his behavior and treatment of her, but they both bring certain emotional deficiencies into the marriage which create an unhealthy dynamic of relating. A change in the way each re- sponds to the other is necessary for the cycle to be broken.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)
THE ABUSER THE ABUSED
Low self-worth Low self-worth
Emotionally dependent on her Emotionally dependent on him
Emotionally depressed Emotionally depressed
Believes in male supremacy Believes in family unity
Exaggerated jealousy Exaggerated guilt
Insatiable ego Insecure ego
Short fuse Long-suffering
Explosive emotions Stifled emotions
Lives with suspicion Lives with fear
Fears being betrayed Fears being abandoned
Uses sex to dominate Uses sex to establish intimacy
Displays anger Denies anger
Blames abuse on mate Accepts responsibility for abuse
Believes he is not part of the problem Believes she is the problem
“CAN PEOPLE EVER REALLY CHANGE?”
Yes. God would never tell people to change if they couldn’t.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” (Ephesians 4:31)
The way individuals relate within marriage is often a mirror of the marital relationship they observed within their own childhood home. Behavioral patterns are learned. Ways in which a husband and wife interact within the family structure become the “norm,” resulting in specific sins being generational.
“The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion.
Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished;
He punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”
A. Why Does He Do It?
- He grew up in an abusive home.
- He experienced abuse in childhood.
- He has not been taught how to love.
- He fears losing her.
- He fears she could be unfaithful.
- He becomes angry when she shows weakness.
- He blames her for his low self-esteem.
- He believes abuse demonstrates his power and superiority.
- He wants to feel significant and in control.
- He possesses an unbiblical view of submission.
- He handles stress immaturely.
- He thinks using force is his “right” as a husband.
- He views her as a possession instead of as a person.
“IF SIN IS PASSED DOWN FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION, HOW CAN A PERSON CHANGE?”
Abuse is a matter of the heart! Matthew 12:35 tells us, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.” God promises that those who come to Him will be given a new heart.
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you;
I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)
B. Why Doesn’t She Leave?
- She feels helpless, as if she has no control.
- She doesn’t know that she must not accept abuse, but believes it is normal.
- She has low self-esteem.
- She is manipulated by his threats of suicide.
- She believes she can change her husband.
- She has an incorrect understanding of Biblical submission.
- She doesn’t know she has the right to separate in order to achieve a healthy relationship.
- She blames herself and believes she deserves abuse.
- She wants to protect the family image, thinking that family “problems” are private.
- She feels that “any father” for the children is better than “no father.”
- She fears she can’t make it financially without him.
- She has been isolated from supportive people.
- She fears living alone.
- She is embarrassed by the stigma of depending on welfare or living in a shelter.
- She believes that her husband and children are all she has.
- She has been told that she is insane, and she is afraid that she is.
- She does not know there are organizations and services to help her.
- She trusts his promise to never do it again.
“IF I AM IN A VIOLENT OR THREATENING SITUATION, IS IT ALL RIGHT TO LEAVE?”
In the Bible a hierarchy of submission exists, with God being the highest authority. Scripture reveals that godly people sometimes physically separated from their ungodly authorities. Biblically, we are to submit to our governing authorities, yet David fled King Saul . . . with God’s blessing. Although David was merely one of the King’s subjects, when Saul’s actions became violent, David escaped.
“The Lord was with David but had left Saul. . . . Saul tried to pin him to the wall with his spear, but David eluded him as Saul drove the spear into the wall. That night David made good his escape.” (1 Samuel 18:12; 19:10)
C. Why Should She Leave?
- She finally realizes he will not change if circumstances remain the same.
- She understands that leaving may be the way to get her husband’s attention.
- His threats of abuse are translating into action.
- His abuse is occurring more frequently.
- He has begun to abuse the children.
- She realizes that the children must be protected from abuse, and she wants to prevent the children from adopting his behavior.
- She has found help through friends, family, church or professional organizations.
- She realizes it is not in God’s will to accept abuse.
- She is afraid for her life or the lives of her children.
- She realizes there is a thin line between threats and homicide.
“SINCE THE BIBLE TEACHES ‘WIVES, SUBMIT TO YOUR HUSBANDS,’ ISN’T LEAVING AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND AGAINST THE TEACHING OF THE BIBLE?”
The Bible is not silent regarding the wife of a man who does not control his temper. When one is in danger, temporary separation is appropriate.
“Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered.” (Proverbs 22:24)
“SARAH IS A GOOD EXAMPLE OF A GODLY WIFE (1 PETER 3:5-6), YET
WAS SHE RIGHT TO JOIN ABRAHAM IN DECEIVING THE PHARAOH OF EGYPT (GENESIS 12:10-20), AS WELL AS KING ABIMELECH (GENESIS 20:1-10)?”
No, Sarah wasn’t right. In fact, neither she nor Abraham were trusting God for their safety. This kind of lie and deception brings personal dis- honor and does not glorify God.
“Then Abimelech called Abraham in and said, ‘What have you done to us? How have I wronged you that you have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should not be done.’” (Genesis 20:9)
D. Root Cause
“If I don’t control my wife, I could lose her. I need her in order to feel significant.”
“If I don’t give in to my husband, I could lose him. I need him in order to feel secure.”
RIGHT BELIEF: “Even if I lose my mate, I will never lose God’s love for me. My heavenly Maker has promised to become my total provider. I will depend on Him to meet all my needs.”
“For your Maker is your husband—the LORD Almighty is His name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; He is called the God of all the earth.” (Isaiah 54:5)
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Please feel free to share this post and bring some healing to hurting hearts. Next week will be the conclusion where we’ll discuss what Choices we have, Steps to Solution, and some Biblical answers to common questions surrounding abusive behaviour. Hope you’ll stop by to read that as well. I hope you find this useful as I have. God bless. Lucy