For Women Who May Be In An Abusive Relationship

Domestic Abuse includes any kind of verbal, physical, sexual, and spiritual abuse which desecrates the image of God created in the other person. An assault on one of God’s image bearers through domestic abuse is an attack on God. To ‘desecrate’ means ‘to treat (a sacred place or thing) with violent disrespect. – adapted from the Association of Biblical Counselling

Domestic Abuse includes intimidation, manipulation, humiliation, isolation, threats, insults, force, sexual or physical coercion or harm, verbal degradation, financial control, and using Scripture against another person, used to maintain control over another person in an intimate relationship. Abuse does not respect the value inherent in another human being.

The Canadian Women’s Foundation explains:

Abuse takes many forms. The harm you experience may be physical, sexual, emotional, financial, or spiritual. Sometimes the abuse follows a pattern, sometimes it doesn’t. The abuse may happen every day or occasionally. It doesn’t matter – abuse is always wrong.

Strange as it sounds, sometimes it’s hard to recognize you are being abused. Many abusers say things like, “You are useless,” or “You made me do this,” or “It’s your own fault,” or “You deserve it.” All of these statements destroy your self-confidence and blame you for the abuse. The experience of being abused causes emotional harm that makes it difficult to see what’s really going on.

Smith & Segal provide the following questions to help you identify if you are experiencing abuse:

Your Inner Thoughts & Feelings:
Do you:
• feel afraid of your partner much of the time?
• avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner?
• feel that you cannot do anything right for your partner?
• believe that you deserve to be hurt or mistreated?
• feel emotionally numb or helpless?

Belittling Behavior:
Does your partner:
• humiliate or yell at you?
• criticize you and put you down?
• treat you so badly that you are embarrassed in front of your friends and family?
• ignore or put down your opinions and accomplishments?
• blame you for his own abusive behaviour?
• treat you as property or a sex object, rather than as a person?

Violent Behaviour or Threats:
Does your partner:
• have a bad and unpredictable temper?
• hurt you, or threaten to hurt or kill you?
• threaten to take your children away or harm them?
• threaten to commit suicide if you leave?
• force you to have sex?
• destroy your belongings?

Controlling Behaviour:
Does your partner:
• act excessively jealous and possessive?
• control where you go or what you do?
• keep you from seeing your friends or family?
• limit your access to money, the phone, or the car?
• constantly check up on you?

The more you answer “yes” to these questions, the more likely it is that you are in an abusive relationship.

The Cycle of Violence

It is important to recognize that domestic abuse can take place in a cyclical pattern that includes the following recurring stages:

1. Tension Building
• Tension starts and steadily builds
• Abuser starts to get angry
• Communication breaks down
• Victim feels the need to concede to the abuser
• Victim feels uneasy and a need to watch every move

2. Incident or “Acting Out” Phase
• Any type of abuse occurs: Physical, Sexual, Emotional, Spiritual

3. Honeymoon or Reconciliation Phase
• Abuser apologizes for abuse, may beg forgiveness
• Abuser may promise it will never happen again
• Abuser blames victim for provoking the abuse
• Abuser denies the abuse, or claims it was not as bad as the victim remembers

4. Calm Before the Tension Starts Again
• Abuse temporarily slows or stops
• Abuser acts like the abuse never happened
• Promises made during honeymoon stage may be met, for a time
• Abuser may give gifts to victim
• Victim believes or wants to believe the abuse is over or the abuser will change