Educating Ourselves About Abuse

Photo by Aimee Vogelsang on Unsplash

Abuse can come in many forms. Often we are only familiar with the most egregious cases of physical or sexual abuse. However, according to the “East Riding Safeguarding Adults Board:” there are ten types of abuse. This includes:

  • Discriminatory
  • Psychological
  • Financial or Material
  • Organizational
  • Neglect and Acts of Omission
  • Physical
  • Sexual
  • Domestic
  • Modern Slavery
  • Self-neglect

Religious abuse is another category that I believe should be included in that list as well. Which can include “conveying a cruel, exacting picture of God; threatening with hell; rigidity; deprivation; unreasonable, unhealthy social limitations; tedious, repressive religious prayers and Bible readings” (Schwirzer, 2014). I have witnessed first hand in the life of a client, how strict legalism in our view of God and His gospel can lead someone down a path of depression and hopelessness.

In my own life, it was not until I went through Victim Advocate training at a Center for Abuse, that I realized that someone close to me was experiencing emotional abuse. How many of us have experienced or know someone who has experienced abuse, yet did not know how to properly label the experience? Certainly, it is important to educate ourselves on what the abuse cycle is to be able to identify it in our lives and the lives’ around us.

Abusive relationships usually follow what is known as the cycle of abuse. This typical pattern includes tension, abuse, and the honeymoon stage. During the tension phase, the victim is aware that tension is building in the home. The victim may feel that during this stage they have to keep the abuser from becoming angry. The tension will continue to grow until the explosive or abuse stage. The abuser will often use language, such as“Why would you make me do this to you,” to keep control over the victim. Following the explosive phase is the “honeymoon phase,” this is when the abuser will likely apologize and be sincerely sorry. Both the abuser and victim may truly believe that the abuse will never happen again. According to Envision Counselling Centre, this cycle will continue to repeat itself over and over until eventually the honeymoon phase completely disappears.

Each type of abuse can have lasting effects on the survivor. According to Jennifer Schwirzer in 13 Weeks to Love (2014), abuse can negatively affect the trust-building mechanisms of the brain. Instead of a calming trust someone can develop a constant fear response. This can affect all relationships, especially if abuse was experienced as a child. Distorted thinking can also develop that leads someone to believe they are responsible for the abusive treatment that they receive. Often Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) develops as a result of difficulty processing the memories.

I believe that abuse is a tactic of Satan to weaken and destroy God’s children, as are his many deceptions. So, what does God have to say to those who have been abused? God certainly does not condone violent behavior, as in Colossians 3:19 He says, “Husbands love your wives and never treat them harshly.” God is a stronghold in times of trouble (Psalm 9:9). The Bible states that the Lord is near to those who are brokenhearted (Psalms 34:18). God wants to bring hope and healing who have been ravaged by the effects of sin.

How do you think we as individuals can support those best in abusive relationships? Psychology Today suggests remaining non-judgmental and understanding that there are complex reasons why an individual may stay in an abusive relationship. Expressing your concern for them and asking if they are open to seeking medical attention or calling a local abuse hotline. Offering to help but not forcing your help on them. Calling with encouraging words or sending encouraging texts but making sure to be aware that the abuser could be listening or reading.

This is certainly only the beginning of education abuse. There is much more to understand about its effects and how we can heal from it. My questions for our readers are:

Are there other ideas you can think of to support those we know in abusive situations?

And how do you think we as a church can help rehabilitate abusers?

Miriam Bernstein, MSW
Miriam Bernstein is a social worker who has fallen in love with counseling. Currently she is in Thailand where she works Adventist Frontier Missions. She loves walking with people on their healing journey because of the emotional healing she has received from Christ. You can read more about her current adventures at http://www.afmonline.org/missionaries/detail/4444

 

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