Dr. Willis Newman, Esmeralda Newman, bible-teaching-about.com
The Bible teaching about spousal abuse is sobering but critical. The violence is often fatal and is always destructive. For any marriage it is wrong, but for the Christian marriage it is also a disgrace.
I genuinely hope this sinful scourge has not reared its horrible head into your marriage with you being either victim or abuser. If it has, then stop it. It is dangerous and deadly.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, in America about 1/3 of American female murder victims are by domestic violence. The number is about 3% of male murder victims. About 11% of all murder victims are by an intimate partner, and about 1,400 women are murdered each year (statistics vary by year).
If you are caught in that brutal trap, there is hope for you. With firm determination, focus, and the power of God, you can gain a new perspective, learn new skills, and have your marriage become what God wants it to be. But it is not easy, it will take time and help, and it will take unwavering commitment by both spouses.
This is an overview of spousal abuse. I urge you to also comb through other studies on this site for help – especially those under Christian life skills, and personal relationships. Most importantly, if there is physical abuse, get help from a competent source. Use the information to help others.
What is spousal abuse? Here is a working definition. It is a pattern of battering, bully like, and intimating behaviors that spouses use to attack each other. Domestic violence is a broader term and includes intimate partners and all members of a household.
Spousal abuse includes physical assaults, sexual rape and molestation, psychological threats, stalking, and economic coercion to terrorize the other. The heart of abuse is to gain and/or maintain power and control over the other spouse. Violence is very effective, especially on the part of men.
Why? Men are generally bigger, stronger, and have been socialized to settle differences by physical force. Then, there is the testosterone stirring up aggression. Women usually fight in other ways, such as gossip, yelling, and less physical ways. However, some women also utilize physical force – thought usually it is believed that women use violence as a defense.
It is difficult to nail down one cause, but here are some causes.
•Learned behavior. Many spousal abusers come from homes where dads beat the daylights out of moms, and the kids think that is the way things are. It forms a vicious cycle where kids do the same thing when they grow up. Some cultures believe that battering is the best way to keep the woman under control.
•Inadequate coping skills. Pressures pour in on people causing stress and anger that the abuser does not know how to manage. Pressures include poor communication or parenting skills, financial problems, conflict and the everyday hassles of life.
•Opportunity. The home is the safest place for abusers to abuse, because the privacy of the home can keep the violence secret.
•Dependency. Spousal abusers sometimes have few supportive relationships, and their deepest relationship is with their spouse. They form an extreme dependency on the victim that expresses itself by possessiveness, jealousy, monitoring, stalking, and violence. These are the ones who won’t let go, punish, harass, and would rather kill than lose the partner.
•Psychopaths. These are the ones without conscience or empathy, driven by excitement and instant pleasure. They can or will kill or maim in an instant, and show no remorse. This condition is a serious personality disorder.
Cycle of Violence
Spousal abuse typically follows a ruthless cyclical pattern. If you and I understand the dynamics of this cycle, we can head off violence before things boil over.
•Tension building. This first phase is where the abuser cannot handle the pressures of life. Stressors keep piling on, and the tension simmers and builds. They begin to be more controlling, and blame the victim when anything goes wrong – and are generally frustrated with life.
•Explosion. Something triggers the abuser, and the tension explodes out of control. After the tension is released, they can get back in control of themselves. However, the victim becomes terrified, hysterical, and emotional – and bruised, bleeding, and battered.
•Remorse and honeymoon. In this phase, guilt, fear, and maybe remorse flood the abuser. Promises are given to never hit again. The victim forgives, and gains a false sense of hope. Unfortunately, this is a cycle. Cycles go ‘round and ‘round.
If intervention does not break up this merciless cycle of spousal abuse, two things will happen. Neither is good. First, the explosions become more intense and fierce. In the beginning, it may be just nasty words hurled at each other. Then, things will escalate to physical force, injury, and perhaps ultimate death.
Some say there is no cure for spousal abuse. I don’t like to think that way. God can make a difference. Here are some guidelines that may bring a changed relationship.
1. Take responsibility. Usually, both abusers and victims tend to deny any problem, minimize the torturous harm, or blame other people. Accept and acknowledge the very serious problem.
2. Refuse violence. A decision must be made that abuse is a wrongful sin no matter what is the situation. The key issue is not when will any perceived or real “unfairness” stop, but rather when will the “violence” stop. Violence will never solve the problem, but only cause undue harm to the children, spouse, and marriage. Just stop. Even cheating does not warrant physical bludgeoning and injury.
3. Accept the Bible’s point of view. Paul says the husband is to love, nourish, and cherish his wife like he does his own body (Ephesians 5:25, 28, 29, 33). No sane husband would beat and bruise their bodies bloody, black and blue – nor terrorize and injure themselves mentally.
Seek Christ, and submit to His will. Jesus said to love others as your self (Mark 12:31), and to treat others as you want to be treated (Matthew 7:12).
4. Get help. Start a long term program of counseling and learning new skills on handling stress, anger, conflict, impulses, and interpersonal relationship through therapy and counseling. Though anger and alcohol may be involved, neither are necessary causes of spousal abuse.
5. Leave. I will probably start a firestorm with this advice. However, if the relationship is so toxic that physical injury is or will occur, then the victim should leave. If you are a victim, your life and that of your children may be in danger. No one deserves to be hit or brutalized by their spouse. Murder and maiming do occur.
Leaving is hard, and it should be done with careful planning, and a safe refuge to run to. Unfortunately, most murders happen in the few months after the victim leaves the relationship. Sadly, in some cultures there is nowhere for the victim to turn for help, and they are assigned to a desperate life of evil terror.
Esmie and I wish you all the best. Remember, that God has not abandoned you (Hebrews 13:5, 6). There is hope for you and your marriage, if you are either the victim or abuser.
Dr. Willis and Esmie Newman
BIBLE STUDY QUESTIONS
1. List and explain at least five principles that can be applied to spousal abuse from Romans 12:17-21).
2. Explain how Mark 12:30, 31 relate to relationships.
3. Explain how Matthew 7:12 relates to domestic relationships. List at least five ways in which you want to be treated.
4. Explain in your own words in a paragraph how husbands should treat their wives (1 Peter 3:7-9) as opposed to spousal abuse.
5. Explain in your own words how wives should treat their husbands from Ephesians 5:22, 33; Titus 2:4; 1 Peter 3:1-6.
6. List and explain in your own words five ways that you can apply 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 to your spousal relationship. Give practical illustrations.
7. Identify five things or stressors in you life that really upset and stress you out. How can you go about changing your response to those issues in your life?
8. How can you better handle those things that set you off in anger?
9. Explain in your own words how Matthew 6:12, 14, 15 relates to spousal abuse.
10. What stands out to you the most in this Bible teaching about spousal abuse? Explain.
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