Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Breaking the Orbit of Abuse

This is a post I'd rather not write but I must. That's because in spite of the fact that we'd like to think that abuse only happens in marriages and homes that are overtly dysfunctional, that's not true.

Abuse is often a secret. Abusers don't usually abuse other people. Usually it's just their own spouse or kids. Unlike a lot of popular thought abusers can usually look and sound wonderful when they need to. And what spouse wants anyone to think that their home is a mess? Kids who are abused are typically threatened with their life if they tell anyone.

Abusers can be religious, Christian, even church leaders. Sometimes abuse is actually carried out based on erroneous beliefs that their spouse or child is not acting appropriately enough and must be punished accordingly by them. Of course abuse is often physical or sexual, but sometimes it's emotional or verbal making it easier to mask but no less harmful.

And it's wrong to assume that all abusers were abused themselves.

However, it's often difficult to get an abuser to face his or her abuse because they don't believe their actions are abusive. "Oh, I get a little angry now and then," or "Sure, I push the kids hard but I'm just trying to be confident they do their best," or "I was just joking! I'm a kidder, you know," are often the mantras of abusers.

But there's not enough room in a post like this to discuss all the causes, signs and results of abuse. I simply want to talk about breaking the cycle if you sense or know there is abuse in your home. An excellent book by Lundy Bancroft called Why Does He Do That? is worth getting if you're not sure and you need some solid insights and research to help you know. And while this book talks about men who abuse, women are not exempt.

So how do you start to break the cycle once you know there's abuse in your relationship or home? First of all, you must continue to accept that the abuse is real. As I suggested above, abusers are manipulators and they will do everything they can including feign religious conversion to keep you from doing anything to disrupt their control and patterns. Don't assume that because they were able to change for a day, week or month that they will no longer abuse.

Second, get help. You cannot deal with this alone because your perspective is likely skewed. Connect with a counselor, pastor, small group leader or support group to help you take the wisest next steps. If you can get the abuser to become a part of the helping network that's a plus but again remember he (or she) can easily change long enough to pretend that they've really made progress or aren't really that bad.

Third, make safety a high priority. Have a safe place to go if necessary. If you need to leave your home for awhile do it. You may have to call the police and make a statement that you mean business. If your children are being harmed in some way get them out of the situation now, even if it's only temporary. Don't make the mistake of thinking, "Oh, maybe tomorrow night things will be better." They won't be better even if they appear that way.

Fourth, remind yourself often that the abuse is not really about you. No, none of us are perfect, but the abuse being heaped upon you is not your fault. It's the abuser's problem and they will have to deal with it one way or another.

It's essential that you make a move when abuse comes into your home. You can take the first step in breaking this cycle even if it is hard. Start now. Trust God to walk through this with you and to bring the people alongside that you need to help.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

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