Red Flags in Dating and Marriage

Information for those who desire to help women, who are still in abusive relationships, and are seeking counsel.

Rarely does abuse remain at the same level of severity. Over time, it tends to increase in its intensity and/or frequency. We see this escalation in King Saul’s abuse of David:

1 Samuel 18:2 Control through isolation
1 Samuel 18:8-9 Paranoid jealousy; anger
1 Samuel 18:10-11 Attacking with weapon
1 Samuel 18:25 Secretly arranging David’s death
1 Samuel 19:1 Publicly announces death warrant
1 Samuel 23:8 Sending an army to stalk and kill David

Psychologists have developed a scale called The Continuum of Violence to show how abuse grows over time (found below). This scale lists abusive actions, starting with the less severe, and progressing to extreme abuse and death. The escalation of abuse might be so gradual that it is difficult for the victim to see what is happening until the abuse has become quite severe. Or she may learn to cope and accept it, becoming numbed to the signs of danger.

Without intervention and specialized help, abuse will rarely cease on its own. Often it worsens over time, becoming more severe and/or more frequent. Many abusers find that wanting or promising to stop is not enough. With specialized domestic violence programs, hard work, commitment, and accountability, some abusers can change their behavior.

It is important to understand that the behaviors listed on the Continuum of Violence scale are called sin in the Bible. It is no wonder that abuse tends to escalate, since sin is a slippery slope that leads to destruction. Praise God that we have a Savior who can change hearts and renew the minds of those who will humble themselves before him, sincerely repent, and turn from their evil ways.

The Continuums of Abuse
Abuse often becomes more severe and/or more frequent over time.
The Continuums of Abuse illustrate how physical, psychological, sexual,and social abuse can progress in their harm and danger.

  • Physical Abuse (in order of increasing danger)
    Holding down, blocking, pinning
    Pushing or shoving
    Shaking or jerking
    Slapping and bruising
    Throwing objects
    Black eyes, cuts, chipped teeth
    Burning with hot drinks, cigarettes, etc.
    Causing serious falls
    Severe beatings
    Broken bones
    Hitting with objects
    Back injuries, paralysis
    Internal injuries
    Use of weapons
  • Psychological Abuse                                                                    (in order of increasing severity and danger)
    “Jokes” or put-downs that demean the victim
    Acting like the victim’s feelings, needs, and ideas don’t matter
    Enforcing rigid roles and rules for women
    Controlling through jealousy
    Isolating the victim
    Insults and name-calling
    Yelling and raging
    Humiliation, throwing food
    Fist through wall
    Threats and intimidation
    Destruction of her property
    Hurting or killing pets
    Displaying guns, sleeping with guns
    Depriving the victim of sleep
    Abuser threatens suicide
    Tries to get the victim to commit suicide
    Threatens to kill her and/or the children
  • Sexual Abuse                                                                                       (in order of increasing severity and danger)
    Anger at women
    Sexual jokes and put-downs
    Embarrassing comments
    Treat woman as a sexual object; sex expected as a duty
    Withholding sex to punish
    Touching victim in ways that feel “uncomfortable” Promiscuity and sexual “affairs”
    Sex after or together with violence or abuse
    Forced by violence or threats into sexual acts the victim doesn’t want to do
    Marital rape
    Incest with children
    Death of victim

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