Yes, it certainly can. Often, verbal or other types of non-physical abuse are not considered abuse. However, consider this brief definition: Domestic or intimate partner violence/abuse is a pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors by an adult — male or female — including physical, sexual, and psychological attacks, as well as economic coercion used against current or former intimate partners.
Domestic abuse can take many forms and they all should be taken seriously. Here are some examples of abuse that are not necessarily physical:
Verbal abuse involves belittling, demeaning, or threatening speech that is meant to manipulate or coerce one’s partner or spouse. Verbal abuse often carries the threat of physical violence, but not always.
Sexual abuse includes coerced sex through threats or intimidation or through physical force, forcing unwanted sexual acts, forcing sex in front of others, and forcing sex with others. But it can also be accomplished by withholding sex and intimacy as a means of control.
Psychological abuse can involve isolation from others (including family and friends), excessive jealousy, control of activities, verbal aggression, intimidation through destruction of property, harassment or stalking, threats of violence, constant belittling and humiliation, threats of physical violence or harm, creating a situation of total economic dependency, and financial enslavement.
Domestic abuse is a one-sided relationship where a spouse regularly seeks to control and punish his or her partner. The most common sort of spousal abuse is that of the husband toward the wife. The abuse can take many forms: verbal, physical, psychological, sexual, and financial. These are the primary methods a man uses to dominate his spouse.
Regardless of the form of abuse, there are no easy answers for a wife whose husband regularly abuses her. Financial concerns, intimidating threats, personal doubts, and a husband’s ability to hide the abuse or make her feel responsibile (when she most certainly is not) are just some of the factors that leave hurting and scared wives feeling cornered with few, if any, options.
As trapped as a wife may feel, she is always free to choose the option of love. Sadly, however, too many have been taught that showing love means that a wife should passively tolerate her husband’s abuse. Love is misunderstood as getting along and not upsetting one’s husband. But a weak, fearful, compliant response usually enables her husband in his abusive patterns. Meek compliance on her part is not best for either of them. Nor does it serve the larger good of a godly marriage. Therefore, it’s not loving.
The Bible says that showing genuine love is to “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good” ( Romans 12:9 NIV). In other words, a loving reaction is both compassionate and strong. Although her husband may not see it this way, an abused wife can show that she cares for her husband by sending the strong and consistent message that she will give him consequences for his abusive words and behavior.
A consequence is something that a wife decides to do. It’s not something that she tries to make her husband do. Consequences vary depending on the seriousness of the situation. For instance, a verbally abusive episode (although still serious) often calls for her to simply end the conversation after informing her husband that she won’t continue to talk with him as long as he remains controlling or disrespectful. Situations involving physical abuse may require calling the police and pressing charges. In other cases where there is a longstanding and oppressive pattern of emotional/verbal abuse, legal separation and even divorce are legitimate options to consider, but only as a last resort.
An abused wife shouldn’t expect the situation to turn around quickly. Many abusive husbands apologize and act remorseful, but a wife shouldn’t be misled. An abusive husband’s quick remorse is often just another ploy to regain control. Other men don’t apologize at all and resist admitting the harm they are causing. They continue to minimize their sin and put the blame on others. It frequently requires an abusive husband to undergo an extended time of his own personal suffering before he will come to his senses and begin the long and difficult process of understanding and owning the damage he’s caused. Therefore, a wife committed to loving her husband should be prepared to stand her ground for a long period of time while her husband learns necessary lessons from the consequences he is suffering for his sinful behavior.
An abused wife shouldn’t try to give consequences without help. Confronting her husband without a plan or physical protection can be a grave mistake. It will likely cause her husband to feel threatened. He is used to being in control and giving him negative consequences takes that control away. Therefore, a wife should prepare for the possibility that her husband could resort to physical intimidation and violence to regain control. She needs a plan that would help ensure her safety For example, having several friends present at a point of confrontation, having an escape plan or an alternate place for her and her children to go stay, notifying the police, obtaining a restraining order.
A wife has no assurances that his suffering the consequences will wake up her husband, end the abuse, or resolve their marital problems. She can, however, begin to love as Christ loved as she gradually begins to rest in the fact that God desires what is best for her. It may take a fairly long time to really believe this, but God is there to empower her to show love, to comfort her with love, and enliven her with a purpose for her own life no matter what happens ( Psalm 23:4 ). Her heart can begin to gain a growing confidence and peace that says, “I’m not totally powerless. I’m free to love. And although it may not work out between my husband and me, I am confident that it will work out between God and me.”
Pornography is a serious problem that is only getting worse. We live in a world of technology that some are taking full advantage of to make pornography more readily available than ever before. And as the pornographic industry continues to expand, more and more people are becoming enslaved to looking at sexually graphic images.
How can a person know if they’ve become trapped in an addiction to pornography? One of the surest signs is that you keep returning to something you know is wrong. If you have promised yourself over and over again that last time would be the last time — and it never is — then it’s likely that you’ve given yourself over to an activity that you believe you can’t live without.
A person who has become addicted to pornography will also identify with a number of the following statements:
- I regularly seek out pornography.
- I have an increasing need to view more pornography.
- I have a pattern of spending large amounts of time looking forward to viewing pornography.
- I shift between the extremes of feeling that my problem is either out-of-control or under control.
- I’ve noticed a pattern of neglecting work, social, family responsibilities in order to view pornography.
- I have a pattern of lying to conceal my struggle.
- I have a pattern of breaking my promises to stop.
- I have a pattern of minimizing the extent of my struggle.
- I have suffered serious consequences as a result of looking at pornography such as financial debt or the loss of my marriage or job.
An addiction to pornography is a serious matter. The more you minimize it the more it will master you. If you suspect that you are addicted, stop kidding yourself. You can’t deal with this alone. You need to seek help. Let your secret out. At the very least, tell a “trusted” friend or wise pastor that you have a problem with pornography that feels out of control. Confiding in someone is scary for sure, but you have the assurance that “he conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
If you don’t consider yourself addicted to pornography, you should not assume that you can occasionally dabble in sexually graphic images. First, any watching of pornography, whether it occurs once or a thousand times, is wrong and harmful (See the ATQ article Is a Man Harmed by Looking at Pornography?). Second, anyone who lustfully looks at pornography is in danger of getting hooked.
Trust is a universal struggle. All of us wrestle to some extent with trusting others because of painful experiences with betrayal. When the source of that betrayal is someone close to us, it can be especially devastating ( Psalm 55:12-14 ). Nowhere is this more true than when a child or teenager is sexually abused by a family member, close family friend, or some other trusted authority figure. Seduction and sexual exploitation by trusted individuals creates an environment for a lifetime battle with distrust.
Perpetrators of sexual abuse often prey on their victim’s longing for connection and love. They lure susceptible individuals into their snare by showering them with personal affection and kindness. Having won their victim’s confidence, abusers look for the chance to take advantage of their trust by sexually abusing them and eventually casting them aside like a worthless object.
Since a victim’s longing for love and connection is what set the stage for the abusive situation, they grow suspicious of anyone who arouses their deep longings for intimacy. In their mind, it may be another setup. The more those deep longings are aroused (no matter how well-meaning the other person might be), the more fearful the victim is that the trapdoor of abuse will spring open again. Consequently, a victim of abuse struggles deeply to trust anyone, especially those who express kindness and care.