In this article I will give only a few problems associated with domestic abuse, just to draw attention to this scourge in our homes. Also, since most cases of domestic abuse involve the man as the abuser, I will for simplicity’s sake refer to the abuser as he and the target as she. The four “shades” of abuse I’m going to briefly address are:
By the time the abused spouse seeks help, the pattern of verbal and spiritual battering has become deeply ingrained in the marriage and family. As one might imagine, this kind of abuse takes its toll on the target.
It often leaves the person feeling vulnerable, ashamed, and without any confidence in one’s ability to see things objectively. Without question, the target has less courage to establish and enforce safeguards for what she will and will not accept or for what she will and will not do in response to the abuse.
The abusive spouse is usually quite skilled at masking their true nature to anyone outside of the immediate family. The person is often admired and respected by outsiders. Put another way, the only person(s) to ever witness and be on the receiving end of the abuse are the spouse and children.
It is entirely likely the people who are asked to help will be incredulous and unbelieving when they are given details of what really goes on in the home. Many times, the wife (who is most often the target) will be told to submit more or find ways to please him.
Other times, she will not be considered a reliable source of information, often because she has become an emotional mess. Sometimes she is given counsel like Job and told that she must have done something to cause his behavior.
Often when the abused spouse asks for help, the abuser will be very adept at pointing out the obvious: he is not the only sinner in the marriage. At that point, unless the helper understands the dynamic of abuse, all possibility of helping will be lost.
The only way this dynamic changes is when the abuser becomes more concerned and devastated about the sin of abuse. Any attempt to push blame onto the target of abuse is an attempt to avoid responsibility for what is happening in the family.
Put another way: In order for real, lasting change to occur, it must be the abuser who is reporting and confessing what is happening in the home.
Another common outcome of asking for help is that, once outsiders are aware of what is happening, the abuser will become more subtle in the way he abuses.
For example, instead of calling his bride names that could be considered profane, the abuser will instead call her things like hypocrite or accuse her of stirring up strife if she dares to complain.
Instead of calling her a shopaholic he will instead call her a poor steward of God’s resources. The focus, for those who try to help, is often on the outward behavior. This will also be true for the abuser.
He will want to focus on behavior that is outward. However, this is a bunny trail since the problem, as we know, isn’t found in what the person does. It is found in where the person gets the motivation to do what he does. It’s a heart problem.
Keep in mind that the issue of domestic abuse of any kind has been and, in my opinion, continues to be a difficult subject for churches to address. Most people do not want to discuss it. I am beginning to believe that part of the problem is that this particular type of abuse is widespread, including in our churches.