If you’ve watched detective shows or read crime stories, you know a “tell” is a quirk or mannerism that demonstrates an individual is lying.
Although abuse is characterized by secrecy, here are some things to look for in a friend or family member that, collectively, may indicate an abusive relationship:
- The word, “just” is overused: “It was just an argument.” “I just pushed her a little.” “He just does that when he gets angry.” Just is a minimizing, or buzz, word for domestic abuse.
- An abuser will place more emphasis on his reputation and other’s perception of him than the incident or state of those he’s harmed: “I don’t want you to think….” “It’s not what it looks like.” “Don’t tell….”
- One individual (the abuser) does most or all of the communicating. He dominates by interrupting, making excuses and speaking for the other, expressing anger, or playing the victim.
- The relationship moved incredibly quickly from its beginning to a permanent, or serious, commitment.
- The relationship is clouded by confusion. Something is wrong, but there is little to no obvious evidence of the problem.
- Over time, the victim has extinguished relationships with friends and family for multiple reasons. She is, both socially and practically, isolated from others.
- An abuser does not take responsibility for failure in any way, shape or form. It’s always the fault of someone or something else.
- An abuser is openly disrespectful of the victim, telling embarrassing stories at her expense, laughing at her, or making her the object of criticism and sarcasm. Victims, on the other hand, seldom speak against their abuser publicly or privately. When/If they do, take them seriously.
- An abuser destroys objects or items of sentimental value to the victim. He may pose it as an “accident” or necessity but it always happens to her stuff, never to his.
- Physical abuse results in unexplained bruises, cuts, welts, slow physical responses (i.e. due to sore muscles, strain, injury); inappropriate clothing (sunglasses, long sleeves, turtleneck sweater); extreme make-up, sleepiness, fatigue.
- A victim may grow less active in community or church activities and less gregarious over time. Changes may be due to other circumstances, but it’s worth asking questions and providing an opportunity for her to share.
- The victim displays anxiety, apprehension, fear or withdrawal in the presence of the abuser.
- A victim is in almost constant contact with her abuser via text or phone, or she is anxious to meet a deadline.
- There is limited access to a vehicle (“I don’t drive….) and money (“No, I can’t.”)
- A loss of personhood and personal choice often results in depression, suicidal tendencies, drug or alcohol use, an inability to make decisions, and/or loss of interest in daily activities or interests.
- Because of constant coercion and manipulation a victim makes constant apologies, is apprehensive and confused, expresses helplessness and hopelessness.
- A victim of domestic abuse will often cancel appointments at the last minute, repeatedly, and/or be late for work and other appointments.
The most important part of being a friend or family member that cares is not to fix the problem, but to believe the victim and encourage her safety. You cannot do it for her. Please don’t seek help without her permission–you may put her in harm’s way. Be there. Pray. Intercede. Speak truth. Don’t slander her abuser; be Christ in all ways.
Because it’s so very, very difficult to see past an abusive relationship, the book Sanctuary focuses on a woman’s identity in Christ. He alone is her hope, her confidence, her motivation to love, honor, and choose Him over and above her husband. Christ will keep her. Focusing on Him will also prevent falling back into harmful patterns of thinking and behavior. Jesus is the answer.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:3-9 ESV