Psalms 82: 3, Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Is abuse only abuse if it is physical? Does it take a woman being beaten by her husband to say she’s been abused by him? Often that is the perception but, when talking to abuse survivors, it is the verbal and emotional abuse that they usually cite as having been the toughest to deal with. Physical abuse never happens in isolation. There is always some form of emotional and verbal abuse that accompanies it. Domestic abuse in any form is all about control: the abuser doesn’t just want to wound, he wants to control and to destroy.
Verbal abuse takes apart its victim bit by bit. It eats away at her until she is no more. Some abusers never beat their partners; it isn’t because they care enough not to, it is because they don’t have to. Some abusers are so skilled with words as weapons that they can intimidate, humiliate, put down and threaten without ever lifting a finger towards their partners. In short, they are controlling them and destroying them.
Verbal abuse is immensely destructive: its victims feel helpless, less than, unimportant. Long-term effects of verbal abuse include feeling broken, being unable to trust, incapacity to make decisions, failure to believe in themselves or in anyone else. The stress that accompanies such abuse can have far reaching physical effects.
So why does the abuse victim listen? Couldn’t they fire back? Ignore the accusations? Refuse to believe the garbage that’s spewed on them?
Put yourself in their place for a moment: Imagine being attacked for every little thing you do or say. Imagine regularly being told that you are stupid, ugly, unimportant, lazy, selfish, no good, evil, cruel. Imagine not being able to escape it. Imagine listening to it day after day, year after year, decade after decade. Over time, the cruel words start to define you.
Now imagine that such a woman has come into your fellowship. She’s hesitatingly told you her story of verbal abuse. She’s scared. She’s alone. She has no clue how to protect her children, how to protect herself, how to even keep on going. What are you going to do?
What would Jesus do? We like to ask that, don’t we? Now answer it.