HOW ABUSE ESCALATES –
Information for those who desire to help women, who are still in abusive relationships, and are seeking counsel.
HOW ABUSE ESCALATES
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
Black eyes, cuts, chipped teeth
Burning with hot drinks, cigarettes, etc.
Causing serious falls
Hitting with objects
Back injuries, paralysis
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
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
Incest with children
Death of victim