Sometimes it’s easy to spot a battered woman. Other times it’s not so easy. Since 1 in every 3 women is a victim of domestic violence, it’s good to know what to look for. While marriage is meant to be a loving, secure, protective relationship, not every relationship is that way; signs of abuse often show up when couples are dating.
We were coming back back from our “School’s Out!” first trip to McKay’s Used Bookstore, and the weather insisted we roll the windows down. As we rounded the corner for home, I heard a commotion on the sidewalk over the chatter of the kids in the back seat. A woman with her purse over her shoulder was jogging away from a man grabbing at her and yelling. In passing, I could see she was crying and shouting back at him as she picked up her pace to a full, fearful run down the hill. I turned around and pulled over. (The kids called Jeff to fill him in on the details and keep an open phone line.)
I approached her on the sidewalk; her pursuer stopped to watch us. I stepped closer, and he took some steps back. M welcomed my presence as she struggled to catch her breath. Another car pulled over, and a woman jumped out to tell me she had seen the events and called the police. I whispered a prayer of thanks. God saw it all. As we three stood together and waited, M told us about her boyfriend, his anger, the alcohol, the shoving and the hitting in the car, and her fear. She sobbed out hopes that this relationship wouldn’t be like her others. She called a relative to come get her, saying she didn’t want to be a burden to her family. No one had to pull out a check list to see M is a battered woman.
What makes an abused woman stay with an abusive man? Why is it so hard to break away from domestic violence? Why are some women drawn to men who misuse them? Does God see women trapped in abusive marriages and relationships?
These are big questions. Hard questions. No easy answers. My work with women is punctuated regularly by women who stare downward, telling me in shaky voices about their stories of abuse by men they love. It’s too much for one blog post on a Marriage Monday, but because I know God drew my eyes to M as she ran down the street for safety, and He wanted me to hear her cries through my open car windows, I know I need to share this today. If you feel trapped and wonder if you’re a “battered woman” or if you know someone you believe is abused, ask yourself these questions.
Signs of Domestic Abuse
- Do you feel afraid for your man to find out something you’ve done?
- Does he say/do you feel like he is the only one who will take care of you?
- Does he keep you away from your family and friends?
- Does he insist that you keep your conflicts private?
- Do you find yourself saying or hear him saying that his anger is “your fault?”
- Does he call you derogatory names?
- Do you feel psychologically, emotionally, mentally, or physically fragile around him?
- Do you feel like he makes all the decisions and needs control?
- Does he hide financial or other decisions and refuse to explain them to you?
- Do you accept roughness (squeezing/pushing/pinching/shoving) as normal & make excuses for it?
Marriage is not supposed to be rough, selfish, or hurtful. Though we are imperfect, our goal is to learn to love each other well. God makes His plan for couples clear:
“So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,” (Ephesians 5:28-29).
Men are to love their wives as themselves, to cherish them like Jesus does the church. It’s a learning process, but a husband is to have a loving heart.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, I encourage you to take the 3 steps I’ll share tomorrow in Part 2.