As I sit, trying to somber myself to write this last chapter of my Colors of Abuse series, I am unable to stay serious. Instead I am overflowing with joy and gladness of spirit, knowing that God is working out all of this pain to glorify His name and bring us freedom and joy!
It is such a glorious miracle to watch the transition from mourning to gladness, from brokenness to wholeness, from weeping to laughter, from emptiness to fullness.
I’ve told you about my friend Liz and bits of pieces of her history with her abusive ex-husband. What I have not told you is that she has found so much joy and freedom, is a completely healed and new person, is officially divorced and is currently serving with YWAM in sunny Australia, preparing for a life of missions work. How incredible is our God, that He has taken her from such a place of deep, seemingly hopeless pain, into a blissful freedom of adventure, serving His kingdom!
No matter how dark the night may seem, the morning is brighter than we could ever imagine.
Now back to the matter at hand: identifying physical and verbal abuse.
The reason I left these two types of abuse for last is because they are always accompanied by emotional and/or psychological abuse, so it is critical to understand the dangers of those types of abuse before analyzing the effects of physical and verbal abuse. (If you missed my articles on emotional and psychological abuse, I definitely recommend reading them here and here.)
So at first glance, physical and verbal abuse seems easy to identify, right?
Physical abusers may exhibit any of the following actions:
Hitting, kicking or shoving
Biting or scratching
Tying their partner down or locking them in a room
Using weapons (knives, guns, blunt objects) to inflict harm or threaten to inflict harm
Inflict pain on animals or other people as a way to control their partner
Verbal abusers may exhibit any of the following actions:
Call their partner names
Use profane language in anger
Utilize screaming or shouting
Jokingly put down their partner around other people
Since emotional and psychological abuse is also present, it is extremely difficult to identify this behavior as wrong because we can become blinded by the abuser’s lies, believing we deserved or earned the abuse, or swayed by the periods when they are charming and sweet, thinking that if the abuser receives more compassion and love, their abusive episodes will subside.
Physical and verbal abuse is also often accompanied with overwhelming amounts of fear which can paralyze the victim. Your significant other is supposed to love, respect and cherish you, and seeing the person you love try to physically harm or use extreme language towards you is a severe shock. These types of episodes can often cause feelings of detachment, feeling constantly on guard, or even burying the memory.
Another aspect of these types of abuse that I think is worth mentioning is the fact that physical and verbal abuse very often happens to men. It’s natural in our conversations about abuse to assume a man may be the abuser because of the stories we hear - and the fact that an overwhelming majority of the abusers of reported domestic abuse are male.
I think the reason this happens is because men see themselves as the caretakers and protectors in relationships, therefore it can be difficult for them to understand that their partner is willingly hurting them - or in other words, that they need to be protecting themselves from their partner. So for years they may deny that abuse is happening, simply because it conflicts with their image of themselves as the strong protector.
My heart goes out to men who are victims of abuse. It is difficult enough as a woman to identify abuse, and we as women already understand how often it happens. But men rarely realize abuse can happen to them too, making it difficult to identify the situation and ask for help.
Remember, God has destined you for a life of freedom, love and joy, not a life of terror, shame and loneliness. It is God’s will for you to be in a loving, respectful and kind relationship. It is not God’s will to teach you to “be better” through the pain of abuse. Even in this moment, God is preparing the way out for you, creating a clear path for you into His arms of grace and love, handcrafting the adventure that is your future, free from abuse.
You are not powerless. You are not weak. You are not wicked.
You are powerful.
You are strong.
You are clothed in the righteousness, grace and love of Christ.
And soon, you will be free.
If you believe you may be a victim of physical abuse, or if you believe someone you know is being abused, please call the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, which is available 24/7, for more resources on how to keep yourself safe, how to leave, and how to seek legal help.