The abusive person is found in all socioeconomic levels, in all educational, racial, and age groups. There are abusive women as well as abusive men. The following could be applied to either. Though there are similarities in the characteristics of the abuser, we shall briefly list three categories:
The Spouse Abuser
Although case histories vary, there are similar threads running through each. The spouse abuser:
• Has a very “low boiling point” and is able to vent the anger only through the abuse.
• Has little self-esteem, often feeling like a failure.
• Relates poorly to people.
• Is jealous, and accuses the mate of being nonsupportive or unfaithful.
• Tries to control all the spouse’s activities and even spies on him or her, believing that such behavior actually promotes the good of the family.
• Often offends without feeling, and admits no guilt on the emotional level even after admitting the problem.
Abusers tend to justify themselves, either feeling that their partners goad them to the point of abuse, or denying that they are abusive. Frustration will trigger abuse: Since the person can’t punch his or her boss at work, he or she takes it out on the spouse and children at home. Alcoholism and drug abuse are sometimes causes of the explosive mistreatment.
The Child Abuser
Most of the above symptoms are present in the child abuser. Add to this that the abuser is very demanding, wanting to be obeyed blindly and immediately. He or she is extremely impatient and often vents frustrations—the hurts and pains of his or her own childhood—on the children. Such parents’ expectations are far too high for their children, so they berate them or put them down. Often the verbal abuse, accompanied by foul and obscene language, will be so devastating that the children begin to passively accept the physical abuse, feeling that they deserve it. They become victims. Alcohol and drugs are involved in many cases.
The Sexual Abuser (Incest)
NOTE: Girls are not the only ones suffering sexual abuse; there is much abuse of boys as well.
The characteristics of the spouse abuser are generally true of the sexual abuser. He or she is emotionally isolated, although appearing to be emotionally whole. He or she seems to be passive, but exercises a growing, rigid control over the child’s actions. He or she is callous, egocentric, self-indulgent, and sees people only as objects. Alcohol and drug addiction are often related to incest.
Sexual abuse is usually long-term and repetitive, accompanied by intimidation and coercion. When confronted, the abusive adult will deny involvement or responsibility and tends to blame the victim. In all probability, the abuser was also sexually abused as a child.
A spouse who has failed to protect a child from sexual abuse (when actually aware of it) will remain passive and, more often than not, support the spouse’s denials or rationalizations. When caught, the offender often promises “not to do it again.” Such promises are not to be trusted!
From these three descriptions, you can readily understand that dealing with such an individual is difficult. However, perhaps the following will be helpful.
1. Speak in love. Do not be judgmental or accusatory. As you are able to get the conversation around to it, let the Word of God convict the abuser.
2. Assure the abuser that he or she has done the right thing in admitting the problem. You are happy to talk with him or her because the Bible has answers to all human problems, especially those regarding family relationships.
3. Stress that he or she must be willing to face the reality of what he or she has done or of what is happening. Spouses and children have the God-given right to be treated decently and with love and concern for their highest welfare. The abuser must realize that he or she is destroying them. Such actions are punishable by law. But God can help bring control over this behavior.
4. Ask the person if he or she has ever received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Share Christian Biblical Counsel: STEPS TO PEACE WITH GOD.
NOTE: The abuser must be willing to confess the abusive behavior as sin and look to God for correction and deliverance. God will forgive sin; this is why He sent His Son to the cross. If appropriate, present Christian Biblical Counsel: ASSURANCE OF SALVATION.
5. Suggest Bible reading and study. The Bible has answers to all problems of human behavior. Offer to send Your New Life In Christ Bible Study, which will provide a good starting point for serious study.
6. Encourage prayer. If there is any rapport left in the family, prayer will help restore the broken cords of relationship.
7. Recommend finding a good, Bible-teaching church. There, the teaching of the Bible and fellowship with God’s people can be healing and corrective factors.
8. Suggest maintaining a close contact with the pastor of the church. The pastor can continue to counsel and monitor behavior in the family.
9. Recommend serious commitment to professional counseling for both the offender and the family. The abusive person has a serious, often deep-rooted problem which can be helped only through prolonged counseling. The effects on the family should also be treated professionally.
“Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9–11, NIV).
“The Spirit, however, produces in human life fruits such as these: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, fidelity, tolerance and self-control— and no law exists against any of them” (Galatians 5:22, PHILLIPS).
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it. . . . So men ought to love their own 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 the Lord does the church”
(Ephesians 5:25, 28–29).
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4, NIV).
Other suggested Scriptures:
1 Peter 3:7
The Billy Graham Christian Worker’s Handbook; World Wide Publications, 1984, 1996