Abused wives, husbands, girlfriends, and boyfriends represent one of the uglier aspects of our society. Only a small percentage of such cases is ever brought to light. The abuse—physical and sexual as well as verbal and emotional—may continue for years. The abused spouse or friend can be found at all socioeconomic levels, and in all educational, racial, and age groups. Not even Christians are immune.
The abuser often masters the “art” of the put-down, foul and abusive language, and threats. At times this abuse is so destructive of personality that the victim feels deserving of any physical battering which follows.
The victim of abuse is characterized by low self-esteem, depression, and a variety of stress-related disorders and psychosomatic illnesses. He or she feels trapped and vulnerable, confused and uncertain. It is impossible to objectively assess one’s position or to make decisions. There is a martyr-like endurance and frustration: The victim will often assume responsibility for the abuser’s behavior. The vague hope exists that change is “just around the corner,” and that “someone will soon come and get me out of all this.” At the same time, there is emotional isolation and no real contact with the family.
In the case of a wife, it may take from three to four months of counseling before she can begin to heal emotionally, even after she has been separated from her tormentor. Once she and the children are in a safe place (where the husband cannot reach them) and she has had time to reflect and sort out her feelings, she may be very angry. The abuser of spouse and family seldom changes unless exposed and subjected to legal action.
1. Reassure and encourage. He or she is doing the right thing in talking about the problem. We want to be of help and are happy to listen. He or she is not alone: Many others are experiencing the same bad treatment.
2. Ask questions. It is quite common for abused people to have difficulty in expressing their feelings. Ask:
• How do you feel about the way you are treated?
• How long has this been going on?
• Tell me about your spouse. What is he or she like?
• How do you feel about yourself at this point?
• What do you think you can do about all this?
Based on the background of the abused, and the emotional damage suffered, you may have to formulate other questions. The goal is to lead the victim to healthy self-expression and to a realization of his or her God-given rights as a person and as a spouse.
3. Urge the victim not to feel deserving of such treatment. He or she does not have to be a victim any longer. Even though the spouse blames thevictim and tries to justify the abuse, it is not his or her fault.
4. Stress that he or she doesn’t have to take the abuse anymore. It must stop! He or she must be decisive and firm. The spouse’s conduct is illegal and could even lead to a jail sentence.
5. In order to break the cycle of abuse, the victim must contact a local pastor or family services office and tell the truth about the abuse. They will be able to help the victim sort things out, suggesting legal action if necessary. Separation from the tormentor may be in order.
6. Further counseling and emotional support is a must. Arrangements must be made with a qualified pastor, a Christian professional, or a counseling service. Impress upon the victim that decisions must be made urgently and decisive action must be taken. You may make suggestions, but concrete steps will have to be taken by the victim.
7. Focus on God’s love for the abuse victim. Better than anyone else, God understands what the abused person has been going through. Jesus was abused both verbally and physically! Has the inquirer ever received Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord? If not, share Christian Biblical Counsel: STEPS TO PEACE WITH GOD. If the response is affirmative, share Christian Biblical Counsel: ASSURANCE OF SALVATION.
8. Encourage the person to start Bible reading and study for solace and spiritual strength. Offer to send Your New Life In Christ Bible Study to help get him or her get started.
9. Explain the benefits of a good church relationship for the victim and the family. Emotional and spiritual support will be forthcoming as a result of corporate worship, Bible teaching, fellowship, and witness. Counseling might also be available.
10. Pray for strength and understanding, committing the abused person to God’s special love and care.
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame” (Psalm 34:4–5, NIV).
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5–6).
“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal” (Isaiah 26:3–4, NIV).
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7, NIV).
Other suggested Scriptures:
Billy Graham Christian Worker’s Handbook; World Wide Publications, 1984, 1996