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Helping victims of domestic abuse: 4 pitfalls to avoid

SOURCE: Dr. Diane Langberg/Careleader.org

To understand domestic abuse properly, let’s start with the word abuse, which comes from the Latin word abutor, meaning “to use wrongly.” It also means “to insult, violate, tarnish, or walk on.” So domestic abuse, then, occurs when one partner in the home uses the other partner for wrong purposes. Anytime a human being uses another as a punching bag, a depository for rage, or something to be controlled for that person’s own satisfaction, abuse has occurred. Anytime words are used to demean or insult or degrade, abuse has occurred. And anytime there is intimidation and threats and humiliation, abuse has occurred.

Domestic abuse is something you as a pastor may encounter, or it may be a “silent sin” within the church that goes unseen. Either way, it is a reality, and one for which we must be prepared. But how do we do this? How can we prepare to minister to victims of domestic abuse? Below, I share four common pitfalls of pastors and leaders, then conclude by explaining how the church is called to act in these situations.

Pitfall #1: Not realizing the frequency of abuse

We need to realize just how frequently abuse happens. We are surprised by it in the church, but statistically 20 percent of women in this country will experience at least one episode of violence with a husband or partner.

That’s almost one-third of women, and that includes women in the church.

20% of women in this country will experience at least one episode of violence with a husband or partner.

Further, more than three women are murdered each day by their husbands or boyfriends.

Or here’s another statistic: pregnant women are more likely to be victims of homicide than to die of any other cause.

That is astounding. And again, those numbers don’t change when you survey women within the church.

Pitfall #2: Not calling abuse what it really is

One of the most important things we can do is call abuse what it really is, because people have a tendency to rename abuse into other things. For example, an abuser might say, “I was upset from a bad day at work … which is why I turned the table over, broke the dishes, and hit my spouse,” or “It was a mistake.” Abusers use words to minimize what has been done and make it seem normal. And unfortunately, those trying to help do the same thing, saying things like “Can’t you forgive so-and-so for that mistake?”

But domestic abuse is not a mistake. It is abuse; it meets the definition of abuse. So we have to call it what it is, because we are called to the truth. We have to call things by their rightful name. By changing the wording, we diminish the gravity of the sin.

Pitfall #3: Encouraging submission despite abuse

Sadly, many women have been beaten, kicked, and bruised, and then return home in the name of submission. Worse, many of these women have been sent home in the name of submission. But submission does not entitle a husband to abuse his wife.

Unfortunately, this instruction is one of the biggest mistakes pastors and church leaders have been known to make. So many women are sent home by church leaders to be screamed at, humiliated, and beaten, sometimes to death. Their husbands can break their bones, smash in their faces, terrify their children, break things, forbid them access to the money, and all sorts of things, but they are told to submit without a word and be glad for the privilege of suffering for Jesus.

Pitfall #4: Protecting the institution of marriage instead of the victim

Domestic violence is a felony in all fifty states. So, to send people home and not deal with it, not bring it into the light, and not provide safety is to be complicit in lawbreaking, which is also illegal. In sending women home, the church ends up partnering in a crime. But it is not the church’s call to cover up violence. Paul says in Ephesians 5 to expose the deeds of darkness so the light can shine in. That’s the only way there is hope for truth and repentance and healing.

I also find one of the things that confuses Christians is we think that if we take the wife and children out of their home to bring them to a safe place, for example, we are not protecting “the family.” We say that we have to protect the family because it is a God-ordained institution, which it is. But what we forget is that God does not protect institutions, even ones He has ordained, when they are full of sin.

It’s easy for us to forget that truth, and particularly when we know those who are abusive, we tend to want to believe them. We don’t understand how incredibly deceitful and manipulative they are, deceiving first themselves and then others. We think we can tell when people are lying—even though the Scriptures say we are all so deceitful, we can’t even know the depths of it. But we are deceived into thinking that they wouldn’t do something so severe. And while we think we are doing the right thing by believing or trusting them, we are actually completely opposed to Scripture.

The calling of the church

The church is called to be the church. What that means is that we are called to protect the vulnerable and the oppressed; that’s all through the Scriptures. And we are called to hold others accountable, despite the tough road to repentance, even if they are our best friends.

So when a pastor hears from a woman that she is being abused in her home, the first step is to find out what that means. It could be verbal abuse, or it could be that her life is in danger, and she and her children need to be taken out of the home and put in a safe place.

Unfortunately, though, not all victims of domestic abuse feel that they are able to leave, a source of frustration for many caregivers. The vast majority of women in these situations love their husbands and want their marriage to work, and many times, the husband assures her that he won’t do it again. She wants her husband, so she keeps going back. So while we want to ensure her safety by not sending her back to an abusive home, we also want to give her the dignity of being able to make her own decision, which he does not give her.

We must also have the humility to involve other authorities like the police, if need be. They are God-given authorities for matters such as these, but it can be a bit of a revolving door. If she wants to report the abuse to the police, go with her to the police. If she needs to file a protection order, go with her to the courthouse. We must walk with her as she makes her decision.

As pastors and leaders, we must not minimize abuse, nor should we teach women that submission means being a punching bag, even a verbal one. We also cannot minimize the gravity of the issue or be naïve to its prevalence in the church. Instead, the church is called to love and protect those who are vulnerable, to walk with them and care for them well.

ANGER: Choose Your Response

SOURCE:   Larry Heath/Living Free

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14 NLT)

Part of making anger your servant instead of your master involves making choices. Make choices about how you will respond when those feelings of anger are rising up in you. Choose to keep your words and your attitude pleasing to the Lord. And ask God to help you do that.

A good place to start is to examine how you are expressing anger now and then prayerfully overcoming the negative responses with positive ones.

Think of the people in your life: spouse, children, parents, employer, coworkers, friends, and others. Have you expressed anger to any of them recently? How? By holding it back? By expressing it indirectly? By expressing it directly? In each instance, how did they respond to your expression of anger?

What can you do to make your expression of anger healthier and more productive?

Set some goals and ask God to help you meet them.

Consider this …

Use these scriptures and others like them to guide you in your goal setting:

  • Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. (Ephesians 4:29 NLT)
  • A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. (Proverbs 15:1 NLT)
  • Gentle words are a tree of life; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. (Proverbs 15:4 NLT)
  • There is more hope for a fool than for someone who speaks without thinking. (Proverbs 29:20 NLT)
  • A fool is quick-tempered, but a wise person stays calm when insulted. (Proverbs 12:16 NLT)
  • Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. (Ephesians 4:26-27 NLT)
  • Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. (Colossians 3:13 NLT)
  • “Do to others as you would like them to do to you.” (Luke 6:31 NLT)
  • Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. (Ephesians 4:2 NLT)
  • “But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” (Matthew 5:44 NLT)

Father, help me be more aware of how I am expressing my anger. Give me the wisdom and strength to make right choices. I pray that anger will be my servant, not my master, and that I will use anger only for God’s glory. In Jesus’ name . . .

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These thoughts were drawn from …

    Anger: Our Master or Our Servant 

15 Effective Ways Clever People Handle Toxic People

SOURCE:  /Lifehack Magazine

Dealing with toxic people is something we all have to confront in our lives at one point or another.

Narcissists, compulsive liars, sociopaths, manipulators, gossipers, and those wallowing in self-pity are just a few examples of toxic people. Toxic people always find a way of worming their way into people’s lives, and creating drama and anarchy in order to manipulate a social circle to suit their needs. Often they will apply a ‘divide and conquer’ strategy, in which they sow the seeds of instability, in order to make themselves seem essential to a social group. The actions of toxic people usually stems from an innate insecurity that compels them to drag people around them into their vacuous hole of insecurity and instability; not only can toxic people ruin your life and hinder your progress, but they can put you at risk of dragging you down to their level and turning you into a toxic person as well.

Luckily, there are a number of ways to avoid letting toxic people rule your life, employed by clever people who have usually dealt with toxic people in the past.

1. They ignore attention seekers

Often toxic people compulsively seek attention at all costs. Even if it’s somebody’s birthday, toxic people will always find a way of making everything about them. It usually begins with small actions, interrupting people or talking over them, being unnecessarily loud or obnoxious, or acting out. Usually, if they do not get the attention they crave, their actions become more drastic,starting arguments, throwing a tantrum or acting destructively. Good social cohesion relies on everybody getting their chance to talk, joke and have fun. A social circle should never revolve around one person. If this is the case, the best course of action is to pay little or no attention to that person, and instead spend more time with the quieter and more reserved members of the group.

2. They do not trust or share secrets with gossipers

Toxic people will share deep secrets with people just to seem momentarily interesting and they will frequently judge or gossip about people behind their backs. If you meet somebody who does this, do not be fooled into thinking that they are gossiping with you because they like you or trust you. They will just as easily betray your trust. Toxic people will often talk behind somebody’s back to you in the hopes that they will agree with them. They will then go and tell the other person what you said. This creates friction between two people, leaving the toxic person in the middle holding all the cards. It’s a divisive and manipulative method of gaining friends or power in a social group. Do not take the bait.

3. They spend a lot of time with trustworthy and loyal friends

In contrast to the point made previously, clever people will develop a strong support network of loyal and trustworthy people. They know that they do not have to be everybody’s friend, and not everybody is deserving of their friendship. In turn, they reward their friends loyalty and trust by showing that it works both ways. Clever people know that true friendship and fidelity is one of the rarest and most valuable commodities you will ever have in life, and they will not allow this to be corrupted by toxic, negative and untrustworthy people.

4. They avoid manipulative people

Manipulative people will ruin your life. They will callously manipulate your feelings in order to make you act in a certain way to further their goals. Compulsively manipulative people often have few redeemable qualities, so it is worth avoiding them altogether. In order to avoid them however, you must first recognize the signs of a manipulative person. Do you find yourself constantly feeling strong or unstable emotions when they are around; anger, irritation, sadness, or inadequacy? Do you often question why they might have said something? Do you get the suspicion that you’re being deceived? If so, it is likely that the person is trying to toy with your emotions, and are best avoided.

5. They allow liars to trip themselves up

Toxic people will often lie compulsively, not just to others, but to themselves. They will often perform mental gymnastics to convince themselves that their lies are reality. Unfortunately, lies are actually very hard to keep up. Recounting a true event is relatively easy, but keeping track of a bunch of made up stories is difficult. Liars end up exposing themselves over time, by contradicting themselves with other lies.

6. They do not get involved in petty feuds and drama

Most people like to keep arguments solely in the realms of themselves, and whoever they are arguing with. Toxic people aren’t like that, they love to air their dirty laundry in public, and when an argument breaks out, they want everybody to pick a side. It doesn’t matter if you’re involved or not, it barely matters if you even know the two people involved, a toxic person will not allow you to remain neutral. Often fights between one or more toxic people can be cataclysmic, and it’s the innocent bystanders caught in the cross fire that will suffer the most. There are six words that will save you from being sucked into the storm in a teacup that comes when toxic people argue; “It’s nothing to do with me”.

7. They stand up to bullies

This is perhaps the most important way of handling a toxic person. Standing up to bullying wherever you see it. Most decent people will help the helpless, defend the vulnerable and assist those who need it. Toxic people prey on anybody they consider to be weak. It could be somebody whose a little shy, socially awkward, or even somebody who lacks physical prowess. Toxic people will bully and take advantage of anybody who they think won’t stand up to them, which is why it’s so important to stand up to toxic people, not just for yourself, but for others around you.

8. They ignore insults

Insults come in many forms, but the most cleverly-disguised insults are actually disguised as compliments. “I’d never have the confidence to wear that.” “You’re so funny, and you don’t even realize it!” “You’re such a nice person.” These are just a few thinly veiled insults that will leave you wondering what they actually meant, which in turn leaves you seeking approval, and ultimately

9. They do not indulge self-pitying people

Toxic people will often put on a mask of helplessness in order to trick and manipulate people, or emancipate themselves from responsibility. You’ll often hear a toxic person saying that they can’t pay you back because they can’t find a job, and they can’t find a job because they haven’t got any qualifications, and they haven’t got any qualifications because their teachers mistreated them at school, etc. There is always a reason for their failure which is out of their hands, and it is always up to you to sort it out. And if you don’t, well, then you’re just the same as everybody else whose mistreated them throughout the terrible ordeal that is their life.

Some level of self-pity is totally healthy, after a nasty breakup, a death in the family or something similar, but there is always a point where you have to grow up and accept responsibility for your own destiny, because it’s nobody else’s job but yours. Self-pitying people live in a vacuous maelstrom of misery, and make absolutely no effort to effect any change in their lives. Avoiding self-pitying people and refusing to justify their apathy is not only good for them, but will stop you from being sucked into their depressing world of self-perpetuating failure.

10. They demand straight answers to their questions

Toxic people will often go out of their way to give arbitrary, vague, non-committal or misleading answers to questions. Just ask anybody whose ever been involved in the criminal justice system. The lengths a toxic person will go to avoid giving a satisfactory answer are incredible. This is done not just to withhold information, but also to prevent anybody from telling them they’ve backtracked later. The trick to getting around this is to present them with only closed questions, that is, a question with a yes or no answer. This will force them to make their intentions clear, and prevent them from playing mind games with you or others.

11. They do not indulge narcissists

Narcissists love themselves. Or perhaps more accurately, they love the idea of themselves. They are often so deluded in their own favor that they genuinely lose touch with reality. Narcissists will often fish for compliments, often by pretending that they do not feel so highly about themselves. They will often take numerous pictures of themselves and constantly seek comment on them. The best way to deal with a narcissist is to simply ignore their insatiable appetite for gratification. You do not have to criticize them or try to make them feel bad, but by simply ignoring them, you will help to remind them that we are all human, and our lives are all equally meaningful.

12. They will tell them when they are at fault

Toxic people will do almost anything to absolve themselves from blame. Even if they are clearly at fault, they will justify their actions by bringing up something somebody else has done. Handling toxic people cleverly means telling them they are at fault, and refusing to accept their excuses. This can be difficult to do when they are being evasive, but ultimately it will help them to grow.

13. They are not won over by false kindness

There is an old African saying “Beware of a naked man who offers you a shirt.”
Effectively, it means that you cannot accept something from somebody who is in no position to give it. Namely, compliments and gestures of love. Toxic people will often try to win over certain people by showering them with compliments. This is often done because they want something from you, or you present some kind of a threat to them. You may notice that they are not nearly so complimentary of others around them, perhaps they are rude to customer service staff or abrasive towards strangers. Do not be fooled into believing that this person genuinely likes you, or that they are actually a nice person. They are just trying to get something from you.

14. They are in control of their own emotions

Toxic people will try to manipulate people’s emotions to engineer a social group to suit their needs. In order to avoid this, clever people make sure that they are aware of the emotions they are feeling, and the root causes of why they are feeling them, in order to ensure that they are the only person in control of them. This is easier said than done. Controlling one’s emotions takes years of mental discipline, so for the majority of us, it is better to avoid situations that may cause us to act irrationally, or feel emotionally unstable. For example, an argument or discussion which flares your emotions may be best carried out through written -rather than spoken- word. This gives you a chance to properly process what is being said, and provide a coherent and controlled reply, rather than an emotional outburst.

15. They focus on solutions, not problems

Toxic people are often the first to place blame when something goes wrong. They do this to emancipate themselves from having to make any effort to right the wrong. It’s very easy to hate stuff and to blame people, but it’s much harder to make it change. Clever people will circumvent the power of a toxic person by looking for a solution to a problem, rather than just focusing on the guilty party. They will help to put something right, whether they had any part in it or not. This shows that they are compassionate, protective and loyal, and on a long enough timescale, this will always beat toxic people. Blaming somebody for a problem shows that you are afraid of confronting it; helping to resolve a problem shows real leadership.

How to Respond When Your Kid is Dealing with Bullies

SOURCE:  All Pro Dad

Two things come to mind when people hear that I was bullied when I was younger. The first thing people think is: You’re an NFL offensive lineman, how were you bullied? And second, Why didn’t you just beat the snot out of the kids who bullied you?

It’s shocking to most, but I didn’t always have the 6’6, 320 lb. frame that I now carry. I grew up an undersized, funny-looking kid with a vocabulary that exceeded my age and the age of my peers. With a ton of freckles and bright red, spiked hair, I was a perfect candidate for kids to pick on. Dads, I want to challenge the common response and advice given to sons when they share their experiences of dealing with bullies at school, and share with you some helpful ways you can communicate and encourage your son.

Be a voice for your son

Often kids who experience bullying don’t have an advocate. I grew up with three sisters and not a ton of great friends. I spent a lot of time by myself. When I started to get picked on, I didn’t have an older brother to stand up for me or protect me. I wish I had that when I was younger, an advocate, a voice to stand up and stop the bullying I experienced. Don’t assume the bullying will stop after having a conversation with your son about “toughening up” or sending an email out to a teacher. Often it takes serious involvement with the school or program where your son is experiencing the bullying.

Keep a record of names and experiences

Often teachers or authorities don’t always catch or see everything that happens. They might be oblivious to certain issues and altercations. When it’s time to go to a teacher, principal, coach or authority about the problem, it will be helpful to have your son’s experiences written down in detail.

Fighting only creates more problems

Teaching your son to use his words to resolve conflict will prepare him for adulthood and the many complications that come with working in a business environment.  If you encourage your son to fight or return abusive talk, it will likely translate to adulthood and hurt him in the long run. Encourage your son to use his words, rather than his size, strength, or ability to fight.

Growing up, my father knew I was going to be a man of great size, even while I was smaller than all the other kids. After a day at school where I was bullied or picked on, my dad would remind me of the importance of using my words. He knew that there would soon be a day that I was no longer the smaller kid, and when that day came, I needed the skill set of using my words, rather than my size because of the danger that comes with being bigger than everyone else. You have a tremendous opportunity to teach and cultivate your son during his difficulties. Encouraging him to fight back will only cheapen those opportunities and rob your son of some important life lessons.

Affirm your son’s identity

Bullying attempts to strip the individual of his identity and self-worth. If your son struggles with low self-esteem or low self-worth affirm his identity as your son. Remind him of his gifts, his talents, and the things he does that make you most proud. Assure him of the great things he will accomplish, and the great plans ahead of him.

Help your son realize that everyone hurts

We can’t expect kids to go through hardship, or suffering, or abuse, and expect them to come out the other side normal. It’s hard enough for us as adults to wade through and endure hardship. Whether there is abuse at home, an absent father, drug issues, depression, anxiety, gang-related issues, their brains don’t have the ability to digest and wade through these things. When kids come from environments that don’t have control, they’re going to want to respond in ways that give them control.

Inherently, in human nature, we try to exert our control over weaker beings. So, when we see kids who are oppressing other kids, there are always internal reasons for why these kids are doing that. Everyone hurts, everyone has struggles. When we encourage our son to develop empathy for those around him, it will greatly help him respond well.

Are You in an Abusive Relationship?

SOURCE:  Justin and Lindsey Holcomb/familylife.com

Editor’s note: Although this excerpt is addressed to women, we know domestic abuse happens to both men and women. If you believe you are in an abusive relationship, please seek godly counsel from your pastor or a counselor. Depending on your particular situation, you may also need to seek legal protection and make a safety plan. For a more complete exploration of what Scripture has to say about abuse, please read the Holcombs’ entire book, Is It My Fault: Hope and Healing for Those Suffering Domestic Violence.

An abuser typically has a well-stocked arsenal of ways to exert power over you.

When the abuse first begins, many women in abusive relationships aren’t sure if what they are experiencing is abusive. In fact, one of the biggest hurdles to addressing domestic violence is that very few victims self-identify as experiencing abuse. Many think abuse happens to “those women” and don’t want to have the stigma of being one of “those women.”

The most telling sign that you are in an abusive relationship is living in fear of your spouse. If you feel like you have to walk on egg shells around him—constantly watching what you say and do in order to avoid a blowup—your relationship is unhealthy and likely abusive. Other signs include your spouse’s belittling of you, his attempts to control you, and feelings of self-loathing, helplessness, and desperation.

An abuser typically has a well-stocked arsenal of ways to exert power over you. He may employ domination, humiliation, isolation, threats, intimidation, denial, blame, and more. What’s more, he is often creative and strategic in when—and how—to put these to their most effective use.

None of this is your fault. Your abuser is the only one to blame.

And because he is so good at deceptively wielding control, it can often be difficult to discern if you are being abused. From the perspective of outside observers, these signs of abuse may be cut-and-dry. But for those trapped in the cycles of abuse, making sense of these complicated relational dynamics—especially when the relationship is intimate—can be suffocating and confusing.

If this is where you find yourself right now, here are some ways to discern if your relationship is abusive.

What the abuser does: eight common profiles

Some abuse victims may be so confused by the relational dynamics in their relationship—understandably so—that they need to hear stories and common experiences from others in order to make sense of their own. Some find it helpful to identify domestic abuse by understanding the common profiles of abusers—and recognizing their partner among them.

Since abuse is defined by an abuser’s behavior—not yours—we’ll start with identifying just that. Here are eight categories or personas abusers commonly exhibit:

  1. Bully
    • Glares
    • Shouts
    • Smashes things
    • Sulks
  2. Jailer
    • Stops you from working and seeing friends
    • Tells you what to wear
    • Keeps you in the house
    • Charms your friends and family
  3. Head worker
    • Puts you down
    • Tells you you’re too fat, too thin, ugly, stupid, useless, etc.
  4. Persuader
    • Threatens to hurt or kill you or the children
    • Cries
    • Says he loves you
    • Threatens to kill himself
    • Threatens to report you to social services
  5. Liar
    • Denies any abuse
    • Says it was “only” a slap
    • Blames drinking, drugs, stress, overwork, you, unemployment, etc.
  6. Bad father
    • Says you are a bad mother
    • Turns the children against you
    • Uses access to harass you
    • Threatens to take the children away
    • Persuades you to have “his” baby then refuses to help you care for it
  7. King of the castle
    • Treats you as a servant/slave
    • Says women are for sex, cooking, and housework
    • Expects sex on demand
    • Controls all the money
  8. Sexual controller
    • Sexually assaults you
    • Won’t accept no for an answer
    • Keeps you pregnant
    • Rejects your advances and allows sex only when he wants it rather than when you initiate

Belittling behavior

Does your spouse:

  • Yell at you?
  • Embarrass, insult, criticize you, call you names, or put you down?
  • Treat you so badly that you’re embarrassed for your family or friends to see?
  • Put you down, but then tells you that he loves you?
  • Ignore or belittle your opinions or accomplishments?
  • Blame you for his abusive behavior?
  • Use any mistakes you made in the past against you?
  • Not allow you to disagree?
  • Ignore your feelings and ideas?
  • Tell you that you are a bad parent or threaten to take away or hurt your children?
  • Act like the abuse is no big deal, tell you it is your fault, or even deny doing it?
  • See you as property or a sex object, rather than as a person?

Controlling behavior

Does your spouse:

  • Act excessively jealous or possessive?
  • Withhold affection as a way to punish you?
  • Control where you go, what you do, and demand your whereabouts?
  • Keep you from seeing your family or friends?
  • Limit your access to money, the phone, or the car?
  • Withhold basic necessities (food, clothes, medications, shelter)?
  • Make you ask for money or refuse to give you money?
  • Restrict you to an allowance?
  • Prevent you from working or sabotage your job?
  • Steal from you or take your money?
  • Constantly check up on you?
  • Control your plans and friends?
  • Stop you from seeing your family or friends?
  • Force you to drop charges?

Violent behavior or threats

Does your spouse:

  • Hit, kick, slap, choke, burn, shove, shake, drag, bite, push, punch, or physically harm you in any other way?
  • Throw things at you?
  • Have a bad and unpredictable temper?
  • Threaten to hurt or kill you?
  • Threaten to take your children away or harm them?
  • Threaten to commit suicide if you leave?
  • Intimidate you with guns, knives, or other weapons?
  • Destroy your property or belongings?
  • Threaten to kill your pet?
  • Force, threaten, or coerce you to have sex?
  • Destroy your belongings?

Three kinds of abuse

There are different kinds of abuse but all of them are wrong. To help you take inventory of your unique situation, let’s consider three different kinds of abuse:

Physical
When we talk about domestic violence, we are often referring to the physical abuse of a spouse or intimate partner. This means using physical force against someone in a way that injures or endangers that person. Physical assault or battering is a crime, whether it occurs inside or outside the family. The police have the power and authority to protect you from physical attack. And you have the right to protect yourself and your children, if you have them.

Sexual
Any situation in which you are forced to participate in unwanted, unsafe, or degrading sexual activity is sexual abuse. Forced sex, even by a spouse or intimate partner with whom you also have consensual sex, is an act of aggression and violence. Sexual assault includes rape, but it also includes coercion, intimidation, or manipulation to force unwanted sex. We define sexual assault as any type of sexual behavior or contact where consent is not freely given or obtained and is accomplished through force, intimidation, violence, coercion, manipulation, threat, deception, or abuse of authority.

Sexual assault is a display of power by the perpetrator against the victim. It is not a product of an “uncontrollable” sexual urge. In fact, it is not actually about sex at all; it is about violence and control. Perpetrators use sexual actions and behaviors as weapons to dominate, control, and belittle another person.

If you feel as though you are being pressured into sex or that you are doing something that you do not want in order to placate your spouse, then let us tell you now that your feelings are valid and that it is abuse.

Emotional
Most people can identify physical abuse—pushing, hitting, kicking—if it is happening in their relationship. Emotional abuse, on the other hand, is not always so easily spotted.

It’s harder to pinpoint exactly what’s wrong, and easier to minimize what’s really going on. It doesn’t leave you bleeding or bruised. The neighbors can’t hear it (not always) through the walls. But emotional abuse is no less destructive than physical abuse, and it is no less wrong.

The aim of emotional abuse is to chip away at your feelings of self-worth and independence—a violent process, in that it degrades you and your sense of God-given worth. If you’re the victim of emotional abuse, you may feel that there is no way out of the relationship, or that without your abusive partner you will have nothing.

So how can you identify if what you’re experiencing is emotional abuse? There are several ways. Emotional abuse includes verbal abuse such as yelling, name-calling, blaming, and shaming. Isolation, intimidation, and controlling behaviors are also signs of emotional abuse. Sometimes, abusers throw in threats of physical violence or other repercussions if you don’t do what they want.

Emotional abuse also includes economic abuse such as withholding money and basic necessities, restricting you to an allowance, sabotaging your job, and stealing from you or taking your money.

These are just some examples. But if you don’t see your particular experience listed here, use this as a general guide: Does your partner do something deliberately and repeatedly that puts you down or thwarts your plans? If the person who is supposed to be providing love, support, and guidance is keeping you in a situation where you are constantly made to feel inferior, you aren’t in a healthy relationship.

Your thoughts and feelings

The descriptions above are focused on your spouse’s behavior, which are all the telltale signs of abuse. These next questions are for you—to determine how you feel regarding this behavior. The more “yes” answers here, the more likely it is that you’re in an abusive relationship.

Do you:

  • Feel afraid of your spouse most of the time?
  • Avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner?
  • Feel afraid of your spouse’s temper?
  • Feel afraid to disagree?
  • Feel that you can’t do anything right for your spouse?
  • Believe you deserve to be hurt or mistreated?
  • Have to justify everything you do, every place you go, every person you talk to in order to avoid your spouse’s anger?
  • Feel afraid to leave or break up because your spouse has threatened to hurt you, himself, or someone else?
  • Avoid seeing family or friends because of your spouse’s jealousy?
  • Wonder if you’re the one who is crazy?
  • Feel emotionally numb or helpless?

Reflect on your spouse’s abusive behavior. Do you see him in these descriptions? Can you see evidence that the behaviors were deliberate, controlled, or planned? Does he act differently toward you when there are other people around? How has he attempted to stop your resistance to his abuse? Does he treat others with respect, while treating you with disrespect?

Take a look at your own experience to get clarity on your situation. Our hope is that as we spell out the nuances of what you may be experiencing, you will be able to call it what it is, plain and simple—abuse.


 

Bullying: What Parents, Teachers Can Do to Stop It

SOURCE:  American Psychological Association

Questions for bullying expert Susan Swearer, PhD

Susan Swearer, PhD, is an associate professor of School Psychology at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln (UNL) in the Department of Educational Psychology. She is also the co-director of the Nebraska Internship Consortium in Professional Psychology; co-director of the Bullying Research Network and was recently a visiting associate professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School. Dr. Swearer is a licensed psychologist in the Child and Adolescent Therapy Clinic at UNL, and is a consultant to National School Violence Prevention Initiative, The Center for Mental Health Services, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Technical Assistance Consultant Pool. She has presented dozens of keynotes and workshops on bullying across the United States.

APA. The news of late seems to be filled with terrible stories about youngsters being bullied, even to the point of suicide. Has bullying become more prevalent or more severe, or is this a case of over-reporting by the media?

Dr. Swearer. We don’t know if bullying has become more prevalent or more severe in recent years. We don’t have national, longitudinal data that can answer this question. What we do know is that bullying is a problem that reaches into the culture, community, school, peer groups and families. The extent of the problem will vary across different communities and schools. In some schools, physical bullying might be particularly prevalent, whereas in another school, cyber-bullying might be particularly prevalent. In some schools, there may be a lot of bullying and in other schools, there may be very little bullying. The media are reporting cases where students commit suicide as a result of being bullied because these cases are so tragic and in some cases, have resulted in lawsuits against the bullies and the schools. We should remember that Dr. Dan Olweus, the Norwegian researcher who started studying bullying in the early 1980s, did so partly as a result of three boys, ages 10 to 14, who committed suicide in 1982 as a result of being bullied. Sadly, this is not a “new” problem.

APA. If a parent or teacher suspects a child is being bullied, what are the most effective steps he/she should take to protect the victim?

Dr. Swearer. Parents and teachers MUST intervene when they see bullying take place. First, they must tell the student(s) who are doing the bullying to stop. They need to document what they saw and keep records of the bullying behaviors. Victims need to feel that they have a support network of kids and adults. Help the student who is being bullied feel connected to school and home. Students who are also being bullied might benefit from individual or group therapy in order to create a place where they can express their feelings openly.

APA. Who is more at risk for suicide if bullied? In other words, are there personality traits or markers that parents and teachers should look for when they know a child is being bullied?

Dr. Swearer. There really is no “profile” of a student who is more at risk for suicide as a result of bullying. In the book Bullycide in America (compiled by Brenda High, published by JBS Publishing Inc. in 2007), mothers of children who have committed suicide as a result of being bullied share their stories. Their stories are all different, yet the commonality is that the bullying their children endured resulted in suicide. We do know that there is a connection between being bullied and depression, and we know that depression is a risk factor for attempting suicide. Therefore, parents and educators should look for signs that a child is experiencing symptoms of depression.

APA. You have been conducting research on a program called “Target Bullying : Ecologically Based Prevention and Intervention for Schools” that looks at bullying and victimization in middle-school-aged youth. Your findings suggest there are certain psychological and social conditions that fuel bullying. What are they and what are the best interventions to stop the cycle?

Dr. Swearer. I have been conducting research on bullying since 1998 and during this time, I have become increasingly convinced that bullying is a social-ecological problem that has to be understood from the perspective that individual, family, peer group, school, community, and societal factors all influence whether or not bullying occurs. The question that I ask students, parents and educators is: “What are the conditions in your school (family, community) that allow bullying to occur?” The answers to that question are then the areas to address for intervention. We write about how to do this in our bookBullying Prevention and Intervention: Realistic Strategies for Schools (by Susan Swearer, Dorothy Espelage and Scott Napolitano, published in 2009 by Guilford Press). Interventions should be based on evidence. Since bullying will vary across schools and communities, each school in this country ought to be collecting comprehensive data on bullying experiences. Then, schools can use their own data to design effective interventions in order to change the conditions that are fueling the bullying in their own school and community.

APA. From your research, what can you tell us about who becomes a bully? Are there different types of bullies? And if someone is a bully as a child, how likely is it that he or she will continue to bully into adulthood?

Dr. Swearer. If we conceptualize bullying from a social-ecological perspective, there is no way to “profile” a bully. If the conditions in the environment are supportive of bullying, then almost anyone can bully. In fact, the mother of a daughter who committed suicide after being bullied once told me that the girls who bullied her daughter were just “regular kids.” The conditions in their small town and small school were breeding grounds for bullying. My research has also looked at the dynamic between bullying and victimization. In one study, we found that kids who were bullied at home by siblings and/or relatives were more likely to bully at school. So, you can see that the dynamic is complex and crosses all areas in which we all function – in our community, family and schools. We do know that if left untreated, children who learn that bullying is an effective way to get what they want are likely to continue bullying behavior into adulthood. Thus, it is critical to intervene and stop the bullying during the school-age years.

APA. How is the growth of social media, such as Facebook and mySpace, affecting bullying?

Dr. Swearer. Technology has definitely impacted bullying. What used to be a face-to-face encounter that occurred in specific locations is now able to occur 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Technology—computers, cell phones and social networking sites — are all conditions that allow bullying to occur. One way to protect our children is to limit and/or monitor their use of this technology. I ask parents, “Would you let your 12-year-old daughter walk alone down a dark alley?” Obviously, the answer is “no.” The follow-up question is, “Then why would you let your 12-year-old daughter be on the computer or be texting unmonitored?” Parents and kids don’t realize the negative side to technology and social networking sites.

APA. Are there any other trends you’re seeing through your research that you’d like the public to know about?

Dr. Swearer. I really want the public to be aware of the link between mental health issues and bullying. As a licensed psychologist in the Child and Adolescent Therapy Clinic at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, I and my colleagues have seen an increase in referrals for bullying-related behaviors. Whether students are involved as bullies, victims, bully-victims (someone who is bullied and who also bullies others) or bystanders, we know that in many cases, depression and anxiety may be co-occurring problems. I always assess for depression and anxiety when I’m working with youth who are involved in bullying. Bullying is a mental health problem.

How to Stop Being a Manipulator

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Leslie Vernick

I received many e-mails from readers indicating that they saw themselves as [manipulators]. They were victims of manipulation as well as manipulators, and they wanted to know how to stop this destructive habit.

So how do we stop?

First, you must recognize when you are doing the manipulation and that isn’t always easy. Christine wrote me and said, “After reading your newsletter, I now see I manipulated all of my adult children to come home for Christmas using guilt trips. I wanted them to come home so bad, I just wouldn’t accept no for an answer.”

Manipulators want what they want, and they will go to great lengths to achieve their goals. Often we rationalize that the ends justify the means. But when you regularly manipulate someone, the relationship deteriorates. Even if you got all of your children to comply in coming home for Christmas, they are doing it out of guilt not love, and the underlying feeling is resentment. Is that what you want?

All healthy relationships require the freedom to say no to the other without fear or pressure. When freedom is absent and you don’t allow someone to say no to you or have their own opinion on things without making them feel guilty, pressured, afraid, or stupid, then you can’t have a healthy relationship with that person. Part of good emotional, mental and spiritual health is your ability to tolerate the pain and disappointment when someone doesn’t do what you want. No one always gets what they want, even if what they want is good.

John e-mailed me after the newsletter and said, “My wife says I’m controlling and I never allow her to have her own opinion. I disagree. I just think I’m passionate and assertive, and she avoids conflict. Am I controlling and manipulative like she says? I don’t see it.”

I encouraged him to invite honest feedback from those who know him well. I suggested he ask work colleagues, other friends, family members and children how they experience him and encourage them to tell the truth without fear of retaliation. Most of them said he was intimidating and controlling. John was flabbergasted. He had no idea. Now what?

Once you see you have this tendency to push for your own way, your own agenda and manipulate others to comply, if you want to stop doing it, you must humble yourself and confess this problem. Confess your new-found awareness to God and ask people to give you direct feedback when they feel you are being manipulative toward them.

Old habits die hard and, even when we want to change, we don’t always recognize what we are doing until it’s already done. When you invite feedback, you are asking people to stop you right in the midst of your manipulative tactics which shows them that you are serious about changing them.

Next comes the hardest part. When they give you this feedback, you must stop. You can’t keep pushing, bullying, arguing or guilt tripping. Thank them for their feedback and stop and reflect on your actions. Ask God for his help to see it as well as handle the disappointment of not getting what you want.

If we want to stop destructive patterns, we must have other people who can regularly speak into our lives, because the Bible tells us we all have a tendency to lie to ourselves (Hebrews 3:13, Jeremiah 17:9).

Your friends and family will know you mean business if you practice these four steps:

  • See (become aware)
  • Confess to God and to people
  • Ask for feedback
  • Stop when you are engaging in the pattern of manipulation

They will see you sincerely want to change this destructive pattern. Change doesn’t happen overnight with anything. Even though you see something needs to change, the actual changing takes time, practice and persistence. But I promise, if you practice these steps, you can stop being a manipulator and learn to be better friend, spouse, colleague and parent.

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