(Adapted from Family Life Today/A Weekend to Remember)
You Are Not Alone
When you are abused, you feel desperately alone. You may think, Why me? Other women don’t have this problem. Something must be wrong with me. And you may feel so ashamed that this is happening to you that you don’t want anyone to know about it. But the truth is that many wives suffer some form of domestic abuse regardless of racial, religious, educational or economic backgrounds.
According to the American Medical Association, husbands and boyfriends severely assault as many as four million women every year. One in four women will experience some type of spousal abuse during their lifetime. Many of these women feel trapped, anxious, afraid, and helpless. Some feel they are to blame – that if they could just do better at pleasing their husbands, they could change their situations. Others don’t know what to do, or where to go to get help. Most suffer in silence, hiding their situations from family and friends because of the shame and embarrassment they feel. Or perhaps they fear others will not believe them.
No, you are not alone. But there is hope! Many women have taken bold and courageous steps to seek help, to find freedom from abuse, and to begin the journey toward to a new life. Some have even seen their abusers find the help they desperately needed to stop their destructive behavior and to experience healing and recovery in their own lives. Some couples, through the help of intervention and a structured recovery process guided by pastors or qualified counselors, have been able to experience healing and reconciliation in their marriages.
Yes, it is true that change does take time, a lot of courage, and a great deal of support, but change can happen. And if you are in an abusive situation, change must happen.
What Is Abuse?
A crucial first step in this process will be to acknowledge and understand the abuse occurring in your marriage. Abuse means to mistreat or misuse someone. People abuse others to dominate or control, or to prevent others from making free choices.
There are several different forms of abuse:
*Emotional or psychological abuse: Mistreating and controlling someone through fear, manipulation, and intimidation, and by attacking that person’s sense of self-worth. The abuser seeks to make his wife feel afraid, helpless, confused, and worthless. This form of abuse includes: name-calling, mocking, belittling, accusing, blaming, yelling, swearing, harassing, isolating from family and friends, abusing authority, withholding emotional support and affection, and betraying trust.
*Physical abuse: Assaulting, threatening, or restraining a person through force. Men who batter use physical violence to control women – to scare them into doing whatever they want them to do. Physical abuse includes: hitting, slapping, punching, beating, grabbing, shoving, biting, kicking, pulling hair, burning, using or threatening the use of weapons, blocking you from leaving a room or the house during an argument, driving recklessly, or intimidating you with threatening gestures.
*Sexual abuse: Behavior that dominates or controls someone through sexual acts, demands or insults. Sexual abuse includes: making you do sexual things when it is against your will, when you are sick, or when it is painful; using force (including rape in or out of marriage), threats, or coercion to obtain sex or perform sexual acts; forcing you to have unprotected sex, or sex with others; treating you like a sex object, and calling you names like “frigid” or “whore.”
Facing the Facts … And Facing Your Fears
Denying the abuse or the impact of abuse may have helped you to cope with the problem until now. However, denial is also the very thing that will hinder you from breaking the cycle of violence in your life, and from experiencing peace and freedom from abuse.
Facing the fact that you are being abused or battered by your husband, and that his behavior is not normal, can stir up deep emotional feelings – especially fear. You must acknowledge these fears in order to face and deal with the problem. In her book, Invisible Wounds – A Self-Help Guide for Women in Destructive Relationships, Kay Douglas writes, “Unacknowledged fears play on our minds and sap our confidence until we have no energy left to deal with the problems at hand. The way out of fear is through it.” She goes on to say, “As we face and feel our vulnerability, our fear may increase in intensity for a brief time. Then it begins to diminish. When we know what we are dealing with, much of the power of that feeling goes. We move through fear to a calmer, stronger place within. Having faced the worst, we are free to put our energy into coping creatively with our situation.”
It’s Time to Make the Right Choices
You do not deserve to be abused, nor are you to blame for the abuse that you have suffered. Abuse of any type is wrong, and if you are in an abusive situation, the first step toward new life and freedom is to recognize that there is a need for a change in your life. Change can be difficult, and in some cases, change can be frightening. However, in any type of an abusive situation, change is absolutely necessary for your own well being.
Remember, abuse is about power and control. You may be experiencing verbal or emotional abuse now. But if changes are not made to resolve your current situation, then when your husband begins feeling as if he still does not have enough control, the abuse will escalate into more violent forms. According to some authorities, when abusers hit or break objects or make threats, almost 100 percent resort to physical battering. What might be verbal abuse now could turn into physical abuse down the road. No form of abuse is acceptable!
Contrary to what you may believe, you are not powerless! You are a worthwhile person and you do not have to continue to accept the mistreatment of your husband. You have the power to make your own choices.