BCC Note: Today’s blog was first posted at Julie Ganschow’s Biblical Counseling for Women blog site. The BCC is re-posting it with Julie’s permission. You can also read the original post here.
Millions of us watched the video in horror of a national football player punching his then-girlfriend in an elevator, rendering her unconscious. We watched him drag her limp body halfway out of the elevator and drop her on the floor before someone else appeared in the video, hopefully to come to her aid.
The two married the day after he was indicted on an aggravated assault charge in this case.
The new video was expanded footage from what had previously been released. The first video earned the football player a suspension. The most recent expanded video ended his football career.
His wife released the following statement regarding the recent events, “I woke up this morning feeling like I had a horrible nightmare, feeling like I’m mourning the death of my closest friend,” (she) wrote. “If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you’ve succeeded on so many levels. Just know we will continue to grow and show the world what real love is!”[i]
I do not know this woman, but I have met many like her over the years through my biblical counseling ministry. Women in abusive relationships don’t want to believe the man they love is really the monster other people tell her he is. Women in abusive relationships tell themselves it is unusual to be slapped, punched or harmed by their husband or boyfriend, even when it happens all the time. Women in abusive relationships will often support their abuser, standing up for him against the flood of criticism that comes his way. Women in abusive relationships will accept the blame for his actions against them while justifying and rationalizing his abuse.
Abuse in a relationship has often been going on for quite some time before it is exposed and the woman has grown accustomed to covering and making excuses for her bumps and bruises. She has learned the signs of impending violence, and has become skilled at “walking on eggshells” around her man. She tries to soothe him, pacify him, keep him happy and content, all vain attempts at preventing the next beating.
She says he loves her. She says she loves him. She says he is a good man with a good heart. Here is truth: An abuser does not love the person he is abusing. Regardless of any words that come out of his mouth, this is not love.
Here are some things you need to know:
Abusers are manipulative, and use guilt, shame, and fear to control their victims. It is a common practice of an abuser to shift the blame for their actions onto their victim saying things like, “If you would have kept your mouth shut I wouldn’t have slapped you.” “If you were a better wife you wouldn’t need to be put in your place all the time.”
Abusers will shame their victims, and be highly critical of their physical appearance, intelligence, and abilities. They may tell their wife or girlfriend how “lucky” she is to have a man like him, one who “loves” and cares for her despite her numerous flaws. Fear is a typical tactic used in all abuse situations. Intimidation is one method of keeping her silent about his abuse. Warning her if she tells anyone the beating will be worse next time, that no one would believe her anyway, and that he will divorce her and leave her with nothing are common threats of an abuser.
Abusers understand power, control, and anger. Men who abuse their girlfriends or wives will often limit their access to money, friends, and other family members. They have to have control over virtually every area of her life. Any questions about these issues are considered challenges and are met with anger, threats, or emotional manipulation.
Abusers are selfish and self-focused. The abuser wants all of his desires met all of the time. He does not usually care about what she wants or needs in the relationship. It is all about him. He thinks very highly of himself and expects his girlfriend or wife to cater to his every perceived need.
Abusers believe they have a “right” to abuse another. Any challenge to his authority is perceived as giving him the right to dominate. When he beats on his woman, he is exercising what he believes is his right to get her in line, and force obedience. Some men will abuse their wife or girlfriend if he thinks she is not demonstrating proper worship and gratitude for him.
Abusers love themselves. Secular sources promote the false idea that an abusive person has low self-esteem but nothing could be further from the truth. Any person who is willing to treat another human being with such hatefulness and callous regard for the purpose of meeting their own wants, needs, and desires thinks very highly of themselves already. He loves himself and his expectation is you will love him as much as he does.
“However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself…” (Ephesians 5:33).
I am sad to say emotional and physical abuse also takes place in Christian marriages, including those of pastors and other church leaders. While all abuse is unacceptable, abuse in Christian marriage is a special kind of heinous considering marriage is to exemplify the relationship of Christ and the Church.
“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31-32, NASB).
Abusers will often use headship as an acceptable reason for abuse. This is a tragic way for a man to use the leadership position God has given to him. Male leadership in the home is not intended to be a benevolent dictatorship. A wife has the responsibility to voice her thoughts and opinions on matters relating to the marriage and family. She is a God-given gift to her husband in this way and this is part of her role as his helpmeet. A husband who refuses to listen to his wife and abuses her for challenging his authority (i.e., speaking to a situation) is an ungodly fool.
“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7, ESV).
Abusers will use submission as reason to allow abuse to continue. I have been told a wife cannot expose abuse because it is not submissive. Submission does not mean doormat. It does not mean subject yourself to being hurt. Submission does not mean accept being hit, kicked, punched, threatened or assaulted. A husband has no biblical standing to use a failure to submit as justification for abusing his wife. A wife is not to submit to her husband if he asks her to sin, her primary honor and obedience is to God. No man’s authority supersedes Gods authority. A man is sinning when he tells his wife to remain silent about abusing her.
“Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them” (Colossians 3:18-19, ESV).
Abusers do not love their wives as Christ loves the Church. “In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body” (Ephesians 5:28-30, ESV).
It is common for an abuser to be remorseful after he has beaten his wife or girlfriend. He may cry and beg forgiveness, he may promise never to do it again. Unless he is truly repentant and experiences changes within the cycle will continue and most likely escalate over time.
Women, you do not have to stay in an abusive relationship. It is not ungodly or unsubmissive to seek help, no matter what you have been told by your abuser or anyone else!
If a man physically assaults his wife or his girlfriend she is obligated by law and by the Bible to call the police, have him arrested, and press charges. Christians are required to work within the framework of the law of the land, and arrest is the provision that has been made for physical abuse. It can be a frightening step to take, but it is necessary!
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience” (Romans 13:1-5, ESV).
During his absence, collect all the important information and documents you can find (Social Security cards, birth certificates, bank information), access enough money to hold you over for a while, and line up a safe and secure place to stay. Purchase a different cell phone and leave your old one behind so he cannot track you. Leave him a note telling him you are safe and will contact him when you think it is safe. Take these steps for your protection as he will likely be enraged when he is released from jail.
There are numerous other precautions you will need to take before contacting him, so I also recommend you meet with a counselor who understands abuse as soon as possible.
I strongly urge informing the leadership of your church about the abuse as one of the next things you do. If he is a Christian, the church has an obligation to intervene in your husband’s life and attempt to help him repent and change (Matthew 18:15-20; James 5:19-20).
So much of what we share on social media is silly and unimportant, but abuse can be an issue of life and death. Therefore, I am asking you to share this post with every woman you know. Because abuse is a hidden sin in many families, you have no idea whose life you will touch or save by sharing this information.
[i]http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2014/09/09/questions-over-who-knew-and-saw-what-when-put-nfl-boss-in-hot-seat/ accessed 09-09-2014