Written by Dr. Wayde Goodall
Is there anything I can do when there is abuse of a family member?
A. What is abuse?
Abuse is harm or injury. It takes many forms.
1. Physical abuse is the easiest to recognize. Physical abuse includes such things as hitting, burning, or cutting a family member. This kind of abuse may also include not giving food, water, clothing, or shelter.
2. Sexual abuse is another terrible sin in families. Evil adults sometimes force sexual relations on children. But even the sexual act between husband and wife can be abusive when it is forced, violent, or unlike God's plan.
3. Verbal abuse causes mental and emotional harm. People use harsh words to make a family member be silent, feel inferior, or become afraid. Verbal abuse includes calling someone an ugly name, cursing, or making threats. The hateful words of verbal abuse harm family members by causing them to think in wrong ways about themselves and others. Verbal abuse causes a person to have an unhealthy, unhappy life. Those who suffer from abuse often struggle with shame, anger, and low self-esteem.
B. Why do some abuse?
Most abusers have common things in their past. One commonality is that they grew up in a family where abuse was frequent. As children, there were three common experiences they saw or heard and felt.
- First, their father or mother harmed or shamed them.
- Second, their parents abused each other.
- Third, their mother was not safe. They saw that she was abused in the home and unable to protect herself.
Seeing and feeling abuse has a great effect on children. Abuse in the home causes children to feel angry, weak, afraid, and insecure. They become angry if a father abuses the other. But they may also despise the mother for not protecting herself. Children follow the examples they see in the home. They learn to act like their parents. From the father who abuses, they learn to abuse others. And from the mother who is abused, they learn to accept abuse.
C. How can a family overcome abuse ?
Help can come in several ways.
- Prayer. The door of heaven is the first door that believers should knock on to find help for problems. Our heavenly Father invites His children to turn to Him for help. "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Heb. 4:16).
- Asking for help! The spouse and children must speak the truth. Help seldom comes when abuse is a family secret. So, family members must reveal the abuse to others who can help. Then, when those outside the home hear the truth, they must affirm it. They must not make excuses or deny the husband's sinful actions. At times, the larger family of the husband or wife can help find a solution. Sometimes it may be best for a wife to return to her parents with her children until a solution is found. If the husband is a believer, the church must talk to him about this problem. Church elders must try to help him solve the problem and not condemn him. The church must do all in its power to lead this believer to a place of repentance.
It is the responsibility of the pastor to rebuke those who abuse family members. The church must teach that all abuse is wrong. Husbands are to love their wives as they love themselves, and be gentle with them. God did not make woman from a man's foot, to be walked on. Nor did God create woman from man's head to rule over him. The Lord made woman from man's rib, near his heart. This shows us that God's plan is for a man and woman to live side by side in love. They are joint heirs of the grace of God. As we studied earlier, a man should love his wife as Christ loves the Church, and Christ never abuses His bride, the Church.
- Repentance. The abuser must repent. He or she must show repentance by stopping all types of abuse. Words of repentance are not enough. The bad behavior must be replace by good behavior that honors God and builds each family member.
- Counseling. The abuser and those who have been hurt must find counsel outside the home. Broken emotions must be healed. The abuser must find help to learn how to handle his or her emotions in a godly way.
The content of this article is used by permission of "Faith & Action Series" and Dr. Wayde Goodall. Please learn more about them at www.faithandactionseries.org and www.worldwidefamily.org.