In one of our premarried classes we invited guest speakers to address our hopefuls. The couple shared their story which involved long standing emotional abuse – and subsequent recovery from almost certain divorce. It is easy to identify physical abuse because it is so obvious, but not necessarily so with other forms.
We all probably know the cycle of abuse.
The perpetrator acts out and alienates the victim. The victim withdraws, and perhaps threatens to leave. Then the perpetrator may blame and threaten the victim for causing the problem, but eventually “repents” and asks forgiveness and swears to never hurt them again. There may be true intentions to change, but at some point they lose it, and the cycle repeats. I have seen this, and probably so have you.
In this scenario the abuser knows that they have a problem, but feels unable to fully control themselves. Getting help is hard because it involves a lot of shame. Usually they get help when the victim finally holds a boundary, or they cross paths with the legal system and are required to deal with it. Often the abuse is accompanied by alcohol or drug problems.
What makes it doubly hard is when the abuser is in denial of his/her problem. They may be continuing a family pattern, so it feels normal to them. Sometimes what is less clear is what really constitutes abuse.
Is raising your voice in an argument abuse? Is stubbornness to act or make changes abuse? Is not listening to your partner abuse? Is refusing to cook or do housework abuse?
Both Nan and I have heard women claiming emotional abuse simply because their partner does not agree with them. We don’t classify that as abuse. Not agreeing is normal for any relationship.
We have discovered that abuse is not gender specific – it can come from either men or women. And what is unopposed is the truth that it destroys relationships and families. Although anger is the most obvious indicator, that is not always the case. Sometimes it is rigid control. At the root is usually unresolved childhood or adolescent issues.
Do not allow this relationship destroyer to continue — it is not God honoring. Face it and get help.
If you are unsure if you or someone else you know is being abused, or unsure if you are being abusive, go over the following list of the several faces of abuse. It is quite extensive and covers, physical, spiritual, sexual, financial, emotional and immigrant abuse.
Evaluate the Abuse Level in Your Past or Present Relationship
Abusive behavior in relationships is a common problem. This checklist helps you evaluate the abuse level in your past or present relationship. If you are concerned about the abuse level you are experiencing, please call your county’s domestic violence agency.
Abusive Behavior Checklist
- Frequently blames or criticizes you
- Calls you names
- Ridicules your beliefs, religion, race class or sexual preference
- Blames you for “causing” the abuse
- Ridicules/makes bad remarks about your gender
- Criticizes or threatens to hurt your family or friends
- Isolates you from your family and friends
- Abuses animals
- Tries to keep you from doing something you wanted to do
- Is angry if you pay too much attention to someone or something else (children, friends, school, etc.)
- Withholds approval, appreciation or affection
- Humiliates you
- Becomes angry if meals or housework are not done to his/her liking
- Makes contradictory demands
- Does not include you in important decisions
- Does not allow you to sleep
- Repeatedly harasses you about things you did in the past
- Takes away car keys, money or credit cards
- Threatens to leave or told you to leave.
- Checks up on you (listens to your phone calls, looks at phone bills, checks the mileage on the car, etc.)
- Tells people you suffer from a mental illness
- Threatens to commit suicide
- Interferes with your work or school (provokes a fight in the morning, calls to harass you at work, etc.)
- Minimizes or denies being abusive
- Abuses your children
- Breaks dates and cancels plans without reason
- Uses drugs or alcohol to excuse their behavior
- Uses phrases like “I’ll show you who is boss,” or “I’ll put you in line”
- Uses loud or intimidating tone of voice
- Comes home at late hours refusing an explanation
- Makes all the decisions about money
- Takes care of all financial matters without your input
- Criticizes the way or amounts of money you spend
- Places you on a budget that is unrealistic
- Prohibits your access to bank accounts and credit cards
- Refuses to put your name on joint assets
- Controls your paycheck
- Refuses you access to money
- Refuses to let you work
- Refuses to get a job
- Refuses to pay bills
- Causes you to lose your job
- Pressures you to have sex
- Pressures you to perform sexual acts that make you uncomfortable or hurt you
- Directs physical injury toward sexual areas of your body
- Puts you at risk for unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases
- Withholds sex or affection
- Calls you sexual names (“whore”, “bitch”, etc.)
- Tells anti-woman jokes or demeans women verbally/attacks your femininity or masculinity
- Accuses you of having or wanting sex with others
- Forces you to have sex with others
- Threatens to disclose your relationship when you did not want it known
- Forces you to view pornography
- Pressures you to dress in a certain way
- Disregards your sexual needs and feelings about sex
- Accuses you of being gay if you refused sex (for heterosexual relationships)
- Spreads rumors about your sexual behaviors
- Forces you or refuses to let you use birth control
- Makes unwanted public sexual advances
- Makes remarks about your sexual abilities in private or in front of others
- Rapes and sexually assaults you
- Husband or wife uses religious values to “rule over” their spouse.
- Requires that the wife submit to the husband in everything. Husbands who are spiritually abusive will twist and misinterpret this teaching by using “God” to control their wives.
- Makes victims dependent upon the will of the perpetrator.
- Makes the victim feel incapable of doing anything on his or her own without the help of the abuser.
- Victims lose confidence in themselves and in their standing with God apart from the perpetrator. And they become subjugated and emotionally enslaved to the abusive spouse.
- Demonstrates disrespect for privacy and personal boundaries.
- Exhibits control-oriented leadership, in effect, lording it over you.
- Demands submission and unquestioning loyalty and obedience.
- Rejects uncomfortable questions.
- Guilt, fear, and intimidation are used to control and manipulate you.
- Spouse claims that questioning him/her is akin to questioning God.
- Makes you feel guilty about your children
- Uses children to relay negative messages
- Uses children to report on your activities
- Uses visitation to harass you
- Threatens to take custody of your children
- Threatens to kidnap your children
- Pushes, grabs or shoves you
- Slaps you
- Punches you
- Kicks you
- Chokes you
- Pinches you
- Pulls your hair
- Burns you
- Bites you
- Ties you up
- Forces you to share needles with others
- Threatens you with a knife, gun or other weapon
- Uses a knife, gun or other weapon
- Prevents you from leaving an area/physically restrains you
- Throws objects
- Destroys property or your possessions
- Drives recklessly to frighten you
- Disregards your needs when you are ill, injured or pregnant
- Abuses you while you are pregnant
- Forces you to abort or carry a pregnancy
- Lies about your immigration status
- Tells you that they have the ability to have your immigration status changed
- Threatens to withdraw/not file the petition to legalize your immigration status
- Tells you that the U.S. will award the children to them
- Tells you that you have abandoned your culture and become “white” or “American”
- Stops subscriptions or destroys newspapers and magazines in your language
- Tells you that U.S. law allows abuse as long as it is in private
- Threatens to report you to INS if you work without a permit
- Takes money you send to your family
- Forces you to sign papers written in a language you do not understand
- Forbids you to learn English or communicate in your native language
- Harasses you at the only job you can work at legally in the U.S. so that you will be forced to work illegally
- Calls you a “mail order bride”
- Alleges you had a history of prostitution on legal papers
- Tells you that U.S. law requires you to have sex whenever he/she wants it