Abuse is not limited to secular households, in fact, there are far more abusive faith-based marriages than you’d expect. Below are five types of control and abuse, covert and overt, that are often experienced in cases of domestic violence and abuse of power, as articulated in The Life Saving Divorce by Gretchen Baskerville (Twitter @GGBaskervile).
Physical abuse is the willful infliction of physical pain or injury, such as slapping, bruising, sexually molesting, or restraining. More covert methods also constitute abuse, such as blocking your way, sleep deprivation, physical abandonment, displaying weapons, or giving you drugs or medicine without consent.
Verbal/Emotional/Mental abuse is the infliction of mental or emotional anguish, such as humiliating or threatening language and treatment. More covert methods also are abusive, such as lying, accusing, isolating, blaming, denying, demeaning, ignoring you, or demanding to know where you go and whom you’ve spoken to. Gaslighting also falls under this category. (The term gaslighting comes from a 1944 movie and is now used in psychology to mean chronic manipulation in which the gaslighter (the abuser) causes the victim to question their identity, their judgment, their self-worth, and their perceptions of reality.)
Financial or material exploitation
Financial or material exploitation is another form of abuse, in which the money, credit, or belongings of a spouse are used—or withheld—without their consent. This also includes running up debt, making major purchases, and withholding information about joint taxes, banks, and credit card accounts.
Neglect is the failure of a caretaker to provide goods or services necessary to avoid physical harm, mental anguish, or illness: things such as food, water, clothing, shelter, or medical care. Indifference to your wellbeing falls into this category.
Spiritual abuse is the willful use of religious beliefs to manipulate or shame one spouse into giving control to the other spouse, who “lords it over” their partner, rather than giving each spouse the responsibility to follow a loving God above any other person. It is also spiritually abusive to use religious sayings, scriptures, threats of divine punishment, threatened withdrawal of divine favor/blessing, or negative spiritual judgments about your character to make you remain in a dangerous situation.
People who claim to have a prophetic authority to tell you what to do with your life, or who claim special knowledge about God’s mind and will that “people like you” don’t have (rather than recognizing your ability to hear from God directly) are also being spiritually abusive. Note that spiritual abuse can be perpetrated by one spouse against the other, but it can also be perpetrated by a pastor, religious leader, or an entire religious community, against an individual whose wellbeing is at stake.”
If you are in an abusive relationship and would like to free yourself, please please read our suggested tips for planning prior to separation. If you need more support, please contact TAF.