Five Areas of Abuse, Without Lifting a Hand

Last week we began to discuss how to identify an abuser. I hope the information was helpful for you. Sometimes when we are in the middle of something it’s difficult to see what is happening. Today I want to point out the five areas an abuser uses without ever lifting a hand to strike his victim.

In addition, while you’re reading, I’d like for all of us to ponder what we are allowing to be done to the children in the homes of abusers. Are we perpetuating another generation of pain when we sense something is off or witness behavior that is unsettling, yet we remain silent?

photo by Jackson Simmer

Again, I want to thank Natalie Hoffman for her wisdom and insights, which were gained from 20 years of living with an abusive husband. I am learning so much from her and others in a Domestic Violence class I am taking.

Denial of Responsibility

I mentioned last time that this is the #1 sign of an abuser: nothing is EVER their fault. However, there are subtle ways in which he denies. For example, he will:

  • Minimize – ‘You are so sensitive!’ ‘Why do you make a big deal out of everything?’
  • Justify – ‘My phone died, so it’s not my fault I couldn’t call you.’ ‘I got stuck in traffic! What could I do about that?’
  • Mutualize blame – ‘We BOTH need to change. We BOTH have problems.’
  • Blame shift – ‘If YOU hadn’t made me so mad, I wouldn’t have (drank, hit the wall, watched porn, etc.)
  • Project onto her – blame her for doing what he himself is doing; EX.: having an affair, hiding money, etc.


Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to realize and accept that your spouse tells lies and half-truths very convincingly. In fact, he tells them so well that sometimes he begins to believe them himself!

Akin to this fact, usually an abuser leads a double life. For example, he may be a revered leader at your church and in the community, but indulge in child pornography at night. (See the story of Rev. Jimmy Hinton and his Pastor father, who was later revealed to be child molester.)

Gaslighting is a third area of deception, which is especially harmful to their victim’s mental health. (A marriage counselor needs to be very alert to this.) Gaslighting is repeatedly denying his victim’s reality. For instance, he promises to do something for her, but doesn’t do it. After a time, she brings it to his attention. He then heatedly denies that he ever made the promise.

This scene plays out so often that the spouse begins to doubt her sanity.

Photo by Carolina Heza

Inability to Empathize

Interestingly, an abuser cannot join his partner in any pain or rejoicing. He is actually offended when his spouse is experiencing an emotion that doesn’t match his own. On the other hand, if he can gain something from her behavior, he has the ability to mimic empathy.

In keeping with any narcissist, an abuser puts his own interests ahead of hers, (another reason why he cannot empathize with her needs.) He is sullen when she is happy and chronically unavailable when she needs him.

Photo by Fuu J E

Desire For Power and Control

Abuse, itself, is about power and control. It’s never about the bruises inflicted. Furthermore, if an abuser’s theology supports a power control model of male and female relationship, he will claim greater power and leverage as ‘God’s design.’

An abuser may not control his partner at every level, but he disrespects any boundary she attempts to have. In addition, she is never allowed to say no to him without consequences.

Photo by Anete Lusina

Mind Control

From the beginning, an abuser seeks out a sensitive person, a woman who is a people helper. He will mirror her qualities to entice her. However, after they marry, his genuine qualities will be revealed and he will use her qualities against her. Soon, she won’t know the man with whom she is sharing her life.

This man will withhold praise while criticizing and demeaning her. In public he will speak highly of her unless she dares to challenge him or speak against him. Then his rebuke will be will be swift and brutal.

Consequently, a victim learns to doubt her own judgments. In addition, to save herself the pain of repeated humiliation, she will back down when he speaks his opinion and/or changes the narrative of a conversation.

Without counseling, even after she leaves him, his voice will be in her head for a long time.

Remember – abuse is a cycle. The bad behavior and the good behavior are both in play to keep his victim guessing. It also serves to keep her under control. For instance, he may take the kids to the park after he exploded in rage at the ‘messy kitchen.’ Another example: he may bring her flowers after he humiliated her in front of a friend.

Photo by Aaron Burden

The Bible and Abusers

If you have been in a conservative church for very long, you have heard a sermon on Malachi 3:16 along the way.

For the Lord God of Israel says
That He hates divorce,
For it covers one’s garment with violence,

Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously.

That was the New King James version. This and earlier versions have been used for decades to force women to stay in abusive marriages. However, newer translations carry a completely different implication than earlier translations.

“For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her,[a] says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.” ESV

The fact is, God hates oppressors of any kind. The type of oppressor he is addressing in Malachi is the husband who decided he wanted a new wife simply because he was tired of the old one. Unfortunately, this meant she would be destitute.

God was not pleased with this scenario. In fact, He hated it.

God hates injustice and oppression both inside and outside the people He calls His own. Isaiah and Jeremiah are full of incidents of God’s wrath at His own people for oppressing the needy or weak among them. (See Isa. 10:1–4; 30:12–14; Jer. 6:6-8; 9:6–11.)

God hates abuse of any kind.

There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:16-19)

Sounds like someone we’ve been describing, doesn’t it?

Does that sound like someone you want to be friends with?  Or someone who is a healthy person with whom you want to be in any relationship? Does it sound as though God approves of this type of person??

What Now?

If you recognized your marriage or relationship in this blog, you have some decisions to make. None of them will be easy. However, I pray for your courage to move forward to safety. There is hope…always, there is hope in Jesus and the truth of His Word.

I have included a relationship test by Leslie Vernick, which may further help you see more clearly your status in your marriage/relationship. It might be easier if you can print it out.

You’ve likely felt isolated for a long time. Perhaps you have sought help from a pastor or friend before to no avail.

This time can be different. You do not have to do this alone.

Natalie Hoffman’s organization, Leslie Vernick, Give Her Wings – all provide assistance for women (Christian and non-Christian) in abusive relationships wanting to leave. There are likely Christian counselors in your area, but make sure they are familiar with domestic abuse.

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

National Dating Abuse Hotline 1-866-331-9474; 866-331-8453; OR

TEXT: loveis to 22522

I'm interested in what you think!