What Constitutes Physical Abuse in a Marriage?
There seems to be a stereotype within society that says, “If my husband ever hit me, I would leave.”
There are two generally underlying assumptions behind that sentiment:
1. Physical abuse is the line most people believe they would draw when it comes to abuse
2. Physical abuse = hitting
First, I wish more people understood their inherent value as a person. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard something along the lines of, “I wish he would hit me so I could leave!” My friend, your mind, your heart, your emotions – the person you are on the inside – is every bit as valuable as your exterior body. You don’t need to wait until someone hurts you on the outside before you can walk away from the harm they are causing you. You can walk away from someone who has demonstrated a pattern of hurting you on the inside too.
Second, I’ve found that many people are surprised when they learn that many of the things they’ve experienced are considered physical abuse.
Lundy Bancroft, in his book, Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, says the following:
“Has he ever trapped you in a room and not let you out? Has he ever raised a fist as if he were going to hit you? Has he ever thrown an object that hit you or nearly did? Has he ever held you down or grabbed you to restrain you? Has he ever threatened to hurt you? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, we can stop wondering if he will ever be violent; he already has been.”
Here are some more examples of physical abuse that go beyond hitting:
-Depriving of sleep
-Refusing access to medical care
-Forcing/locking out of a house or vehicle
-Refusing to provide sufficient food
-Putting hands around throat
-Wiping boogers on someone
-Cutting off a chunk of hair as a “joke”
Anything that causes harm or disrespect to another’s body, either directly (through direct physical contact) or indirectly (bodily harm as a result of sleep deprivation, lack of food or medical care, etc.) is a form of physical abuse.
Wherever there are other forms of abuse, there is likely physical abuse happening too.
The fact is that if an abuser will use vile words, mind games, and lies to destroy a person on the inside, they’re not too concerned about the well-being of that person on the outside either.
Additionally, emotional abuse affects the body profoundly on a physical level too! Many diseases have proven to present themselves in victims’ bodies as a direct result of emotional abuse they have suffered.
God cares about your soul as well as your body. He desires for people to be safe, whole, and loved on the inside as well as the outside.
Find lots more resources about how to recognize and respond to abuse in Christian homes on this page