Are you walking on eggshells?
If you feel like you are walking on eggshells...
... you may be suffering from domestic abuse, which is persistent or recurrent behavior by an intimate partner that causes physical, sexual or psychological damage, or causes the victim to live in fear. It is not just marital conflict over particular issues (which can be conflict between equals). Abuse is about power over – one party tries to control the other.
- coercively controlling you in many subtle ways
- threatening and intimidating you unjustly
- making you think you're crazy (gaslighting you)
- ignoring your ‘no’
- swearing frequently, despite your requests that he not use foul language
- devaluing, belittling or disrespecting you
- treating you like a servant
- restricting your contact with family and the outside world (isolating you)
- blaming you for problems that you did not create
- lying and denying that abuse has happened (re-writing history)
- distorting scripture to justify abuse
- threatening suicide
- controlling the money and disregarding the financial needs of the family
- physical violence such as pushing, shoving, hitting, punching, smashing things (may not be present)
- sexual abuse including coerced sex and marital rape
- being very possessive, treating you like he owns you
- recruiting allies in the church and your friends and family so they take his side and are less likely to believe you
- Psalm 55 gives a good description of abuse.
Domestic abuse can be very frightening, confusing and damaging to the victim and to children.
Many victims of domestic abuse are women. Most women victims report higher levels of fear than male victims. Over their lifetime, one in every four women experience unlawful violence (physical or sexual) at the hands of an intimate partner 1 . The rates are similar across the US, Canada, Britain and Australia. This rate is for violence that would constitute a crime; it does not include the other (more pervasive) kinds of abuse.
The Bible says the husband is head of the wife as Christ is head of the church — this means a husband should self-sacrificially love, cherish and protect his wife. Abuse and coercive control is done to exercise power over the other. Christian husbands should uphold their wives with 'power under', not intimidate them with 'power over'.
The Bible says the gracious attitude of a wife may turn a husband to Christ. Wives are told to do good to their husbands (1 Pet. 3:6), but enduring persistent abuse does not do any ‘good’; it is damaging to everyone. The abuser only becomes further ingrained in sin and is neither rebuked nor made accountable. The victim’s life is sorely corroded. Children’s development is damaged by the bad modeling they receive and by the fear, secrecy and denial.
Scripture commends unavoidable suffering for the sake of the gospel, but most domestic abuse occurs irrespective of whether the victim witnesses to the gospel, or to any other spiritual beliefs for that matter. No amount of our suffering can redeem the wicked — only Jesus’ death does that.
The Bible says what to do when a brother sins (Mat. 18:15-17; 1 Cor. 5:11; 2 Thess. 3:6, 14-15; 1 Tim. 5:20; 6:3-5; 2 Tim. 3:1-5). The first ‘good’ we are told to do for a sinning brother is to rebuke him. We should cultivate a readiness to grant forgiveness to our offender, but we do not have to actually extend that forgiveness until he genuinely repents (and shows consistent behavior that proves his repentance is not fake or superficial). Even God requires repentance before He forgives!
Repentance for abuse is not just being sorry or apologizing. It means complete confession as to what the sin was, and being deeply offended by the sinful action — seeing it as vile and repudiating it. And although the injured one should be ready to forgive, this does not have to mean trusting the person again. The other person must earn our trust, by demonstrating in his behavior that he is truly reforming. John the Baptist told the Pharisees and Sadducees (who were outwardly moral people, but inwardly deceitful): Bear fruits worthy of repentance.
If there is no genuine repentance on the abuser′s part, then reconciliation will be a sham.
If you are a victim of domestic abuse, you are not to blame. You do not have to face it alone. Breaking the silence can be hard, but it is commanded in scripture (Mt. 18:15-17; Eph. 5:13). Often your gut feeling will tell you who is likely to be non-judgmental and compassionate towards you if you break the silence. Keep trying till you find someone who believes and can help you. If you are believed it is easier to take action.
- United States National Institute of Justice / Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (1998), "Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey".
- Statistics Canada (1993), "Violence Against Women Survey".
- British Crime Survey (1996), "Domestic Violence: Findings from a new British Crime Survey self-completion questionnaire," Home Office Research Study 191.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics (1996), "Women’s Safety Australia".
© 2014 Barbara Roberts
This is a free resource and may be reproduced so long as all the foregoing text is unchanged.