7 Stages of Abuse

7 stages of abuse, plus resources and tips to help you or someone you know in an abusive situation - PoppySmith.com

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I recently attended a fund-raiser for a Christian Domestic Abuse Ministry.  It was a powerful evening.  Two women shared their personal stories and one man, a former pastor, humbly described his history of domination and abuse toward his wife and daughters.  After they finally moved out, he saw the damage he had done and with a repentant spirit, sought help from this ministry.  His wife and family were in the audience, affirming the healing work God had done. Other incidents have made me aware of this issue and the need for information.


When Dan slapped Wendy for the first time, both of them were shocked. But after it happened repeatedly, Wendy saw that there is a typical pattern that leads to acts of violence.

Because women are usually the victims, I’ll refer to the abuser as male.

Here’s a brief description of what is known as the “Abuse Cycle”:

  1. Rising tension, irritability, fault-finding, and anger often precedes verbal, physical, and other forms of abuse. This attack is intended to assert power and control.
  1. Guilt often follows, particularly at first. There are apologies, promises never to do it again, gift-giving. Later this typically diminishes when the perpetrator sees that his partner is willing to stay. Because he fears others might discover his behavior, he threatens his wife if she tells “their” secret.
  1. He rationalizes and justifies his behavior by saying it was her fault. Often she believes this and makes excuses for him: he was tired, dinner wasn’t ready, she isn’t meeting his needs. She rationalizes that he’s really nice except for those occasions when he’s out of control.
  1. Between abusive episodes, both partners, because of shame, fear, or love, will often attempt to act as if everything is normal between them.
  1. When the tension mounts again, the abuser starts to build a case by focusing on what he doesn’t like and how he’s justified in asserting his power again.
  1. At this point he starts planning when and where to show who is in control. He considers what situation would create the desired effect.
  1. He sets up the situation to attack, often escalating from verbal and emotional destructive behaviors to physical and sexual.

Does a Man Have a Scriptural Right to Attack His Wife?

Ephesians 5:25-33 tells men to love their wives as Christ loves the church and gave Himself for it. There is no Biblical support for a man to abuse the one he promised before God to love and care for.

It is also against the law in the USA to assault anyone – including a wife and children.The Emotionally Destructive Marriage by Leslie Vernick

In her excellent and biblically-based book, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship, author and counselor, Leslie Vernick states truths every woman needs to hear. Here are a few statements from her book for you to think about, pray over, and share with others who need support:

“Women and wives are depicted in the Gospel as equal partners and persons to love, not objects to use or property to own.” 

“Your will is one of God’s gifts to you, and a good relationship with someone is impossible when one of you lacks the power to choose.”

“Start to ask yourself, ‘Does this choice I’m making right now lead me toward greater growth and maturity or more destruction?’ As Moses encouraged the Israelites – choose life!” Deut. 30:19, 20.

“Allowing someone to continually sin against us without protest or consequence isn’t biblical love, its foolishness. It is never in anyone’s long-term best interest to allow them to keep sinning.” 

HOW CAN YOU HELP?

If a friend or relative comes to you, be sure to:

Domestic Violence in the news again - a new series on how we can help at PoppySmith.com

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  • Provide a safe place to talk. Keep confidences!
  • Listen carefully.
  • Believe her story.
  • Give resources to read (Go to Leslie Vernick’s websiteRead her book mentioned above.)
  • Ask her to call you when she’s read the information available.
  • Don’t talk to her husband. You might mean well but this can jeopardize her safety.
  • Do not suggest couple’s counseling—she might say nothing in order to not jeopardize her safety. 
  • Be available to listen and comfort.
  • Give assurance: God cares for you (Psalm 34:18).
  • Abuse is not her fault.
  • Don’t pressure her.
  • Let her decide if and when she will leave.
  • Support and respect her choices.
  • Encourage her to make a safety plan.

Domestic abuse is a painful topic and an even more painful situation to deal with. My prayer is that these past three articles have both educated and equipped you to know what initial steps to take should you, or someone you know, be in this situation.

Let’s Talk: What insights and helps has God given you through this series? I’d love to know! (If you are an email subscriber and want to comment on the actual post, click here to visit the blog and leave a comment.)

    As an international speaker, multi-published author, Bible teacher, mentor, and spiritual coach, it's my goal to encourage women to thrive in their relationship with Christ and in life.

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    4 thoughts on “7 Stages of Abuse

    1. Abuse is also when the husband starts to keep his wife from seeing her family, keeps planting seeds in her mind that her family won’t accept him. Won’t allow her to have lunch with her mother. He takes the phone away and only has a pager so I can only talk to her thru’ him.
      Making excuses every time there is a holiday or anniversary to make sure she cannot attend.
      Using excuses like “our car broke down” Or “I have a migraine”. She was not able to be matron of honor for her sisters wedding because he didn’t want her walking down the aisle with another man.
      Keeping her from recieving letters or gifts her mother has sent. Soon the wife starts to believe her husband that her mother is causing trouble for their marriage. Then for the last 18 years..she is not kept
      in touch with her mother. She is now brainwashed..
      A total control freak.

      • My heart chills when I hear of yet another women whose joy in life has been robbed like this. Thank you for sharing. May the Lord lead you like a Shepard to His healing places. Poppy

    2. After 30 yrs of marriage (2nd time) this man takes my house and post office keys out of my bag and when I cannot find them he tells me “check the post office . Sure enough, they are in the lost and found key box in the post office. Why does he know where they are? My cell phone had disappeared awhile ago, also the same keys. I threatened and did tell his doctor what was going on and saw a clinician (who had more problems then I did). When he found out I told his doctor, the problem stopped. I hide my pocketbook every night. What a way to live!

      • So sorry to hear of this controlling and crazy-making behavior. Talking to his doctor and refusing to keep his “secret” behaviors secret seems to have some impact. Praying God continues to provide wisdom for the situations you face. Poppy