Due to social and mainstream media, domestic abuse is no longer as “hush-hush” as it was once before. Technology and increased social awareness have made it possible to alert the authorities of abuse or even suspected cases of such.
Despite this, the majority of such cases still remain under the radar as the victims or other family members choose to keep quiet or they are not fully aware if they are being abused. This should not be the case, however, as domestic abuse is a very serious situation that should be addressed immediately.
Domestic abuse occurs when an abusive family member (perpetrator) tries to control another by means of force. This may be through coercive control (e.g. intimidation, isolation); emotional, physical or sexual abuse; or other forms of harassment.
Such abuse is not limited to one type of person or to one place. It may occur to the wife, husband, children, or other family members, regardless of socio-economic background, ethnicity, age, religion or location.
It is a very terrifying situation to be in which is why it is important to know if abuse is taking place and what to do about it.
How to Tell if it is an Abusive Relationship
For many people, the idea of abuse is pretty straightforward. If someone hurts you physically or takes advantage of you sexually, then they are abusing you.
There are, however, other forms of domestic abuse that victims do not recognize since said forms do not follow the usual idea of an abusive relationship. Hence, the victims or their loved ones might not seek immediate help since they are not sure if abuse is really taking place.
These other forms of abuse are also used in conjunction with physical and sexual abuse as the perpetrator wishes to control the emotions and actions of their victims so help cannot be sought out.
Based on the “Power and Control Wheel” used by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, the following are other indications of an abusive relationship:
1. Coercion and Threats
A common way of controlling a victim at home is to coerce or threaten them. Once afraid, the victim becomes more submissive to whatever the perpetrator wishes. Threats of violence are the most common of these, but they are not the only ones.
In some situations, the abuser may threaten the victim by revealing secrets that could embarrass them (e.g. past sins or mistakes) or get them into legal trouble (e.g. past crimes, illegal entry into the country). Another threat is to take something important away (e.g. heirlooms) or destroy something important if demands are not met. Threatening to leave the relationship (e.g. breakup, divorce) or a threat of self-hurt (e.g. self-injury or suicide) are other forms of coercion to get their way.
Intimidation is another form of control. Scary looks or gestures (e.g. clinching fists) are used to frighten a victim. Intimidation may also be through actions like smashing or throwing things or even hurting pets. The carrying around of weapons or pointing a weapon at a person is another method to intimidate and control a victim.
3. Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse is a big controlling factor that perpetrators use. The people around, however, are not always aware that this is a form of domestic abuse as there are no bodily injuries. Victims themselves are hesitant to report this to authorities or others as they may be branded as being “overly sensitive” to harsh words and criticism.
While it is common for family members to have arguments and criticize one another, a constant barrage of name calling, insults, and other ways of emotional bullying are forms of control to destroy the victim’s confidence and self-worth, making them more submissive and unable to leave the relationship or assert their will within the relationship.
Isolating the victim is another method. Here, the perpetrator isolates the victim from the world around them. It may begin by controlling the victim’s time such as requiring them to be at home directly after work or school.
This then spreads to preventing the victim from seeing other friends or family, including phone calls or online chats. In the end, the abuser becomes the main person in the victim’s world.
5. Blame and Denial
Abusers also use blame and denial to confuse the victim. This may occur when the victim starts confronting the abuser about their actions. The abuser then denies the actions, saying that the victim is exaggerating or imagining things.
If not, the abuser may instead try to reverse the situation and say it is the victim’s fault for why something occurred (e.g. I yelled at you because you made a mistake; Your whining caused me to smash the cup; It’s your fault for why you got hit).
In the end, some victims end up believing that they are to blame for the abuser’s actions. If not, some victims start thinking that maybe they really are crazy, imagining things that aren’t there.
6. Using the Children
In order to control the victim, some abusers (usually the man) may use the kids to control the other. As most mothers are afraid of losing their children, the domestic abuser may threaten to harm the kids or take them away. This is a form of manipulation to ensure the mother is willing to go along with whatever the abuser wishes, for the children’s sake.
But again, it can also be the man who is the victim. A stepmother, for example, may threaten the husband’s children to get her way as well, especially if the husband works far from home.
7. Male Privilege
In many households, the traditional setup is followed where the husband works while the woman takes care of the home. If the relationship is healthy and there is respect and understanding, there is nothing wrong with this setup.
However, when “male privilege” or “being the man of the house” is used as a means to control the woman, then that is abuse. Many times, the man may claim that he must lead in ALL aspects of home life, ignoring the woman’s input as if she is inferior – physically and mentally. In the end, the woman becomes solely dependent on the man for decisions big and small, which is wrong.
8. Economic Abuse
A form of abuse that is very tricky to detect is economic abuse. As a necessity in life, the withholding of money is another form of controlling the victim. The abusive spouse with earning power (which is usually the man but can also be the woman!) takes control of all the family finances. The victim is left with a minimal amount, oftentimes meant to accomplish household errands.
Because only one spouse is in charge of the money, it then becomes difficult to leave or to make separate decisions as the fear of not having a home or not being able to care for the children comes into play. The victim thus loses their personal freedom and is easily manipulated by the abuser, especially if the victim has no work experience or lacks education.
What Needs to be Done
Domestic abuse is a scary and tricky situation to be in. Sadly, many times a victim is not even sure if they are being abused.
However, if there are direct physical or sexual threats to a person’s life or other household members’ lives, especially the children, then quick and decisive action should be taken immediately. This may mean leaving the home for a safer place (e.g. relative’s or friend’s home) and contacting the police.
Seek Help from a Christian Counselor
While the police may be able to put the perpetrator behind bars, they will not be able to deal with the psychological and spiritual wounds left behind. The different forms of manipulation take a toll on a victim’s mind, making them feel incapable and unworthy, causing mental issues like anxiety and severe depression.
In worst case scenarios, this may result in the victim eventually dropping the case against the abuser because they feel “lost” without them. Or in other situations, the victim just ends up finding another abuser instead since they were brainwashed to now depend on somebody else.
A Christian counselor can help heal these inner conflicts with God’s healing words and prayer, allowing the victim to feel whole once more. Such counseling for the family will also allow the children to understand the situation and realize that they are not to blame (which is a real danger in the case of young children!). This may also prevent the children from imitating the abusive actions in the future when they have their own families.
But most importantly, the Christian counselor can help the victim and the family reconnect with God. When abused, many Christians wrongly believe that they are being punished by God; or that God does not care; or that He does not even exist!
This is a big reason why relapse by the victim occurs or why the children end up emulating the abuser since God is taken out of the picture. Spiritual healing is necessary to ensure that the victim and other family members are able to live life the way God intended it to be.
If you or a friend is in a situation of domestic abuse, seek help from the proper authorities and from a professional counselor. God loves you and wants to help and heal you.
“Victim”, Courtesy of Zach Guinta, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Alone,” courtesy of Xavier Sotomayor, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Contemplation”, Courtesy of Khoman Room, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Cuddle time,” courtesy of Jordan Whitt, unsplash.com, CC0 License