Abuse against women is commonplace, often subtle and is perpetrated in many different ways. A man who batters and abuses a woman does it to gain and maintain control over her. Physical violence is not the only form of domestic abuse that battered women experience. An abusive man will also uste the following tacticts to exert his power over her:
- Dominance – Abusive men need to feel in charge of the relationship. They will make ecisions for you and the family, tell you what to do, and expect you to obey without question. Your abuser may treat you like a servant, child or even his possession.
- Humiliation – An abuser will do everything he can to make you feel bad about yourself, or defective in some way. After all, if you believe you’re worthless and that no one else will want you, you’re less likely to leave. Insults, name-calling, shaming and public put-downs are all weapons of abuse against you as a woman and designed to erode your self-esteem and make you feel powerless.
- Isolation – In order to increase your dependence on him, an abusive man will cut you off from the outside world. He may keep you from seeing family or friends, or even prevent you from going to work or school. You may have to ask permission to do anything, go anywhere, or see anyone. He may further isolate you by showing contempt for those you love and care about.
- Threats – Abusive men commonly use threats to keep their victims from leaving or to scare them into dropping charges. Your abuser may threaten to hurt or kill you, your children, other family members or even pets. He may also threaten to commit suicide, file false charges against you or report you to child services.
- Intimidation – Your abuser may use a variety of intimidation tactics designed to schare you into submission. Such tactics include making threatening looks or gestures, violent yelling, smashing things in front of you, destroying property, hurting your pets or putting weapons on display. The clear message is that if you don’t obey, there will be violent consequences.
- Denial and blame – Abusers are very good at making excuses for their behaviour. They will blame their abuse and violence on a bad childhood, a bad day, and even on the victims of their abuse. Your abuser may minimize the abuse or deny that it occurred. He will commonly shift the responsibility onto you. Somehow he will try to make you and everyone else believe that his violence and abuse is your fault.
Emotional abuse is any nonphysical behaviour or attitude that controls, intimidates, subjugates, demeans, punishes or isolates another person by using degradation, humiliation or fear. Yelling, screaming and name calling are all forms of emotional abuse, as are more subtle tactics such as refusing to be pleased with anything, isolating an individual from family and friends and invalidating another’s thoughts and feelings.
Examples of emotionally abusive behaviours include:
- Humiliating and degrading
- Discounting, distorting and negating
- Accusing and blaming
- Withholding affection and emotional support
- Withholding financial resources
- Dismissive, disapproving contemptuous looks, comments or behaviour
- Giving the “silent treatment”
- Threatening harm to an individual’s pets, pssessions or person
The effects of emotional abuse are often debilitating. They include depression, confusion, difficulty concentrating and making decisions, overwhelming feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and poor physical health.
It’s important to distinguish between emotional abuse and an occasional outburst of anger. Everyone has a bad day once in a while and responds with a harsh or negative word. Emotional abuse is an ongoing pattern of behaviour designed to control, manipulate and subjugate another that usually occurs behind closed doors.
Verbal abuse is difficult to identify and regrettably can be a common type of abuse in some marriages. Not all words that are meant to hurt are “ugly words.” Someone skilled at verbal abuse can damage your self-esteem while, at the same time, appear to care deeply for you. The use of words to punish is a very covert attempt to control and regardless of how loving your spouse may appear to be, verbal abuse is wrong and can be just as harmful as physical abuse. Below are some common signs of verbal abuse:
- Being called names by your spouse. Any negative form of name calling is unacceptable. If you feel that it is a put down, then it most likely is. There are names that are ovbious and, without question abusive. Then there are the covert, veiled attempts to put a spouse down that are harder to identify. Verbal abusers love to use constructive criticism to beat a spouse down. If your spouse is constantly criticizing you “for your own good”, be careful. This is the most insidious form of verbal abuse.
- Using words to shame. Critical, sarcastic, mocking words meant to put you down either alone or in front of other people.
- Yelling, swearing and screaming. I call this the “walking on egg shells” syndrome because you are living with someone who goes verbally ballistic for very little cause.
- Using threats to intimidate. No threat should be taken lightly, even if your spouse tells you they are only joking, especially if it causes you to change behaviours or to feel on guard in the relationship.
- Blaming the victim. Your spouse blows his / her top and then blames you for their actions and behaviour. If you were only perfect they wouldn’t lose control!
- Your feelings are dismissed. Your spouse refuses to discuss issues that upset you. They avoid discussion of any topic where they might have to take responsibility for their actions or words.
- You often wonder why you feel so bad. You bury your feelings, walk-on-egg-shells and work so hard at keeping the peace that every day becomes an emotional chore. You feel depressed and have even wondered if you are crazy.
- Manipulating your actions. The persistent and intence use of threatening words to get you to do something or act in a way you find uncomfortable. This form of verbal abuse is common at the end of a marriage. If your spouse doesn’t want a divorce they will say whatever it takes to play on your emotions to get you to stay in the marriage. All in an attempt to get you to comply with their desires, regardless of what is best for you as an individual.
Physical abuse is the use of physical force against another in a way that ends up injuring that person or putting him or her at risk of being injured. When someone talks of domestic violence, they are often referring to physical abuse. Physical abuse ranges from physical restraint to murder. Physical assault or physical battering is a crime, whether it occurs inside or outside the family. The police are empowered to protect you from physical attack.
Physical abuse includes:
- Pushing, throwing, tripping
- Slapping, hitting, punching, kicking
- Grabbing, choking, shaking
- Pinching, biting
- Holding, restraining, confinement
- Assault with a weapon
- Burning or freezing
- Throwing things
If you are or have been physically asaulted, do not put up with it. Get help immediately. Staing around will only empower the abuser to continue his abuse putting yourself and your children at risk. Do not trust the abuser not to assault you again, no matter how convincing he sounds.
Financial or Economic Abuse
Financial and Economic abuse is a type of domestic violence in which the abuser uses money as a means to gain power and dominance over his victim.
- A woman who is abused in this way will ask the abusive man for money and he may deny her or give her money that is not sufficient enough to buy or purchase everything that she needs for the family. She may have to beg him for everyday necessities such as food, health care items (medicines), diapers or bills. The money he does give will generally have to be accounted for.
- A financially abusive man will prevent a woman from being employed causing her to be totally dependant on him. If the abusive man allows his partner to work, she has to give all her eranings to him.
- In many cases the abuser will put all the bills in their partner’s name and at the same time the abuser will not allow his or her partner to see the bank statements, bills or any other money transaction that may happen.
- Many financial and economic abusers are not good with money and he will end up destroying the credit of his partner.
- Some domestic abusers who are not good with money may force his or her partner to do illegal acts for money. There are also abusers who will use any money brought in for children through welfare, child support checks or monetary gifts on themselves.
- The abuser who refuses to work will put the entire burden upon their partners to keep the household running. And the money which is brought in by the working victim is mashandled and used in wrong ways. In many cases, if the household item or bills fall behind, the abuser blames the victim.
Alcohol and Abuse
Alcohol and drugs are often seen as a “cause” of domestic abuse, but this is a myth. While alcohol and drug use are a definite problem when used by the perpetrator, it usually only makes the situation worse. The use of alcohol in itself does not lead to violence. Many men are abusive whether they have been drinking or not and many people drink without becoming violent. However, men may still blame their biolent behaviour on being drunk and it can be used as another excuse for their battering behaviour.
When both partners have been drinking or using drugs, the violence tends to be even more severe, and the woman may be less able to protect herself. The abuser (and others) may blame the woman, if she herself has been using drugs or alcohol and when she reports the abuse, the police and other agencies are likely to take her less seriously.
Many women use alcohol or other drugs to help them cope with the abuse; and there is also evidence that some women are introduced to substances by their violent partners in order to increase their control over them.
Domestic abuse and sexual assault are not due to a loss of control brought on by excessive drinking. These crimes are about gaining and maintaining control by using any means, including violence. Using alcohol as an excuse is just a denial by the batterer to take personal responsibility for his violence.
Alcohol is one of several risk factors related to sexual assault and dating / intimate partner violence. It is often the medium perpetrators use to slip date rape drugs to their victims. Alcohol can lower inhibitions, making it easier for a perpetrator to ignore boundaries. Intoxication makes it more difficult for a victum to guard against an attack.
To reduce that risk:
- Don’t accept drinks from someone you don’t know.
- Never accept a drink in an open container or leave your drink unattended.
- Try to avoid conflicts or arguments if you or your partner were drinking.
- Don’t mix sexual decisions with alcohol.
- When you feel uncomfortable with someone’s drinking, try to leave the situation safely.
- Don’t go off with people you don’t know when you have been drinking.
Hope and Healing
Women are precious creations from the hands of God, and are to be loved, protected, cherished and respected. No matter what you are told, no man has the freedom or right to abuse a woman. There is no excuse.
The principles that follow will help you break the cycle of abuse in your life and begin your healing journey:
Tell yourself the truth. Denial is a hallmark of abuse. Admit that you have been the victim of abuse and recognize the damage it has done. Embrace the reality of knowing that even though you have been abused, you are a woman worthy of great respect and no one has the right to continue to abuse you. You are important, you are valuable and there is One who loves you. This is one of the first and most important steps to healing.
- Set appropriate boundaries. Boundaries affirm to the abuser that you are not placing yourself in a position to be abused anymore. Most often that means that you must remove yourself from the abusive relationship. You may have to do this because setting boundaries will make the abuse intensify or take another form. Be safe. When taking this step, it is very important to find someone who will support you. You will need to find someone who has experience with domestic violence like a trained counselor or someone from you local domestic abuse shelter. Setting boundaries is a vital step to your healing so approach it cautiously and make sure that you have support.
- Develop healthy relationships. It is a critical step to your healing to seek support from friends, family, and ideally your church. Healthy relationships are ones of mutual respect where you are treated as a person of worth. Friends, family members and counselors should acknowledge the fact that you have been abused and that you are not to be blamed for it. They should be willing to support and / or help guide you in your decisions. Support groups led by a trained professional are wonderful sources of healing and comfort. Building healthy friendships and relationships is key to becoming a healthy while survivor of abuse.
- Forgiveness is never denying or excusing the damage caused by abuse. It is giving up your right to seek revenge and retaliation. When you forgive it frees you up to focus on your new life and who you want to be. Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. Forgive your abuser and yourself, if need be. There is a God who will deal with everything else.
Though these principles may be easy to understand, they can sometimes be difficult for you to put into practice. It is alright to need help. Now may be the time that you need help from above. Never give up because you are a woman of worth and abuse is always wrong!