What is abuse? According the Webster’s Dictionary abuse is “a corrupt practice or custom, characterized by wrong or improper use or action.” The dictionary also says that abuse is “physical maltreatment and abusive language.” This article will address physical and sexual abuse as well as neglect. When the word abuse is used in this article it will be in reference to each of these.
“Abuse is sin and not only is it detestable to the Lord, but each one of us should be detested by the thought of it.”
Abuse is something that should be taken extremely seriously. Abuse is sin and not only is it detestable to the Lord, but each one of us should be detested by the thought of it. We should be so sensitive to abuse that we long to see the victims removed from the situation. If this is happening in your home you have the right, and obligation, to seek help. If a child / minor (someone under 18 years old) is being abused, adults who are aware of it are required to report it to the proper authorities. If an adult fails to do this they are held responsible as aiding in the abuse, because they allowed it to go on. Abuse should be reported to either Social Services or directly to the local policing authorities.
Minors in abusive situations should confide in an adult who they can trust. This may be a pastor, family member, teacher, counselor, etc… In cases where something must be done immediately they should phone Social Services and / or the police as soon as possible. It is important for minors in this type of environment to know that they can get help. They also need to know that even though it may be a scary experience for them, especially if the abuser is a family member, the Lord will protect them and provide for them.
“The victims should not blame themselves. It is not their fault that the abuse is occurring.”
Many people who have been or who are being abused feel like they are to blame. They may feel like they have done something to deserve being abused. Others feel that they are worthless and that no one cares that they are being abused. Each person is valuable to the Lord and He does not want to see anyone abused. He created each person uniquely. Abuse is never right. The victims should not blame themselves. It is not their fault that the abuse is occurring. No one deserves to be abused.
Anytime abuse is occurring there needs to be a change. The abuser cannot continue to be abusive. In many cases the abuser is continuing negative behaviors that they learned while being abused as a child. This does not excuse their behavior, but it does help to identify the root of the problem and provides some insight for how to deal with it. In family therapy this is called the cycle of abuse. Abuse is passed down from generation to generation without it ever being eliminated. In families where this is happening the cycle of abuse needs to be stopped.
Each family has their own patterns of behavior. This is called the family dance. Each family member fills a role in the family and they learn to interact with each other in the roles that they play. When abuse is present in the family it is necessary not only to change the abusive behavior of the abuser, but also the entire way that the family interacts.
Every family has its own unique way of interacting and families will resist any changes to this interaction. You may be able to relate to this as you think about your own family. You may have experienced a change in the way your family interacts and seen how difficult it is for your family to adjust. This is the same in abusive situations. The abused family members obviously do not want to be abused, but they may not understand how to operate in their family without the abuse. This is why it is so difficult for some people to leave abusive situations.
“Ignoring the abuse only allows the abuse to continue and allows the abuser to continue in his or her sin.”
The abuse must not be allowed to continue. The other family members must align against the abuser and seek help from outside sources. Without help from someone who is not involved in the family’s pattern of behaving it is very difficult for the family to change. Many families hide the abuse from outsiders. This only promotes the abusive behavior. Ignoring the abuse only allows the abuse to continue and allows the abuser to continue in his or her sin.
Abuse causes enormous pain and trauma. Individuals who have been abused should seek the Lord for comfort. If you have been abused it may be helpful to pray for your abuser. You may need to pray for their salvation. You may also need to pray that the Lord would bring you to a place of forgiveness. It is difficult to forgive those who have hurt you, but the Lord can help you with this. Another part of the healing process is finding others who have been able to forgive their abusers. Dealing with abuse in a healthy way is a process. It may take time for you to be able to forgive your abuser, but if you rely on the Lord for your strength and direction it is possible.
It is a good idea for families with abusive patterns of interacting to seek family therapy. Family therapists can help families learn how to relate to each other in a healthy way. Individuals who have been abused may also benefit from individual therapy. There are Christian therapists who can help both families and individuals break the cycle of abuse by replacing those harmful behaviors with loving, healthy ones.
The Child Abuse Hotline can help those who have been abused, those who are being abused, or those who know of someone who is being abused. The hotline also provides support and guidance for people dealing with abuse. Their phone number is (800) 422-4433.