Am I in an Abusive Relationship?
Understanding what an abusive relationship looks like is a key step toward getting help.
But abuse can be hard to spot, especially when it is not easily visible. When we think of abuse, it is common to think of physical abuse because it results in scars and bruises that we can see.
Yet physical abuse is just one kind of abuse that can happen. Abuse can also be emotional, sexual, psychological, financial, or spiritual. For Emily, the abuse she endured was emotional and financial.
Consider this story shared with us from Pastor Dan Schmidt at Faith Church in Texas:
Emily (not her real name) lived an upscale life with her husband and two children. From the outside everything looked fine, but it wasn’t. Emily is a survivor of domestic abuse, but she’s never had to cover up bruises with excess makeup. Her husband had never beaten her down physically. Her wounds were much deeper: psychological, spiritual, and financial. Her husband would have her followed and would track her via her phone. He limited who she could hang out with, what church she could attend, and how much money she could spend at one time. None of these traumas were visible to the naked eye and that’s why he and she were able to hide them for so many years.
Emily was afraid of what her husband might do to her and her children. Friends and counselors advised her to just keep the peace and not do anything rash, but eventually Emily had enough and devised an exit strategy.
She had no money, so she took advantage of her husband’s gambling addiction. Emily encouraged him to take her to the casinos. He would gift her money to play the slots and she’d go off by herself and secretly cash out the chips and pretend like she had lost it all. Doing this, she was able to save up over $14,000 and hide it away where he couldn’t access it.
Finally, Emily saw her chance to get away. She bought a car with $10,000 cash so that her husband would have no control over it, bought a phone that he had no access to, and found a safe place for her and her two children to stay. Emily’s divorce will be finalized in a few weeks.
This dramatic story isn’t a fairy tale or a parable. It all unfolded right before me in the growing mission congregation I serve in Texas. And sadly, Emily’s story is not unique. 1 out of 3 men and women experience domestic violence or abuse.* These are not strangers. These are people we know, love, and minister to.
This is why I’m thankful for Kingdom Workers’ new initiative to train pastors and their congregations to offer support groups to women and men in our communities so that they can break free from the vicious cycle that Satan uses to imprison those who are most vulnerable among us.
If you think you might be experiencing abuse, you can talk to a trusted friend or a pastor about what you are going through.
Learning to recognize what abuse looks like means taking time to research the different kind of abuse that exist. This resource is helpful in learning and understanding the most common forms of abuse that can happen in a relationship.
You can also use the HITS score test to determine if you are in an abusive relationship.
Rate the following questions on a scale of 1 to 5.
1 = never, 2 = rarely, 3 = sometimes, 4 = fairly often, 5 = frequently
- How often does your partner physically hurt you?
- How often does your partner insult or talk down to you?
- How often does your partner threaten you with physical harm?
- How often does your partner scream or curse at you?
A score of 10 or more indicates an abusive relationship.
Where to find help
You can reach out to a trusted friend or pastor, call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or email the Kingdom Workers Empowering Survivors of Relationship Violence program for help at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recognizing the signs of abuse is an important step in giving a name to the traumas experienced by a survivor. It can be hard to talk about domestic abuse and intimate relationship violence in our day to day lives because it is not something we are taught how to discuss. Visit this post to learn how to gain confidence in talking about abusive relationships with your friends and family. Read this post for guidance on what to do if you think your friend or family member is in an abusive relationship or is suffering from domestic abuse.
You can also bring Survivor Support Groups to your church and community by volunteering to be the Support Group Coordinator at your congregation. You can learn more about this opportunity here.
Michelle Markgraf is the Director of Family Support Services at Kingdom Workers. She assists congregations and their schools as they work with survivors of sexual and domestic/dating violence. Before working at Kingdom Workers, Michelle was a volunteer rape crisis advocate and she was the executive director of a rape and domestic abuse center.
*Centers for Disease Control and Prevention