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Isaiah 42:3-4a — “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope.”
They are all around us.
These people are bruised. They have had blood vessels broken under the skin from the impact of being hit. They are bruised reeds.
They aren’t completely broken but they are devastated and depressed.
Their once bright flame of life is now just smoldering. The light inside has almost been snuffed out. And often they cover up the injuries, hoping no one will notice.
There is shame over something not even their fault. So often we miss the opportunity to reach out to these hurting victims of domestic violence. Some of them limp right by us and we don’t even notice.
The victims are from all walks of life. They are the young, old, educated, illiterate, rich, poor and of every race, religion and nationality.
October has been designated National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I was in a day-long domestic violence training this past week in Kingsport, Tenn.
I heard stories that broke my heart, and we were encouraged to break the silence about this subject that isn’t talked about. So, today I light a candle in remembrance of those who face abuse day in and day out. And I offer light to those who have suffered abuse in the past.
Many of you know family members, friends and those in your community who are victims. And, we must find ways to offer help, hope and healing.
Domestic violence is a learned behavior. Too often, children who have been abused grow up to abuse others. They learn from the abuser that this is a way to have power over others.
This violence is a vicious circle. The cycle must be broken.
This type of relationship begins like a honeymoon. It is all sweetness and light.
The abuser will do, say or promise anything.
“I love you more than you’ll ever know.
“I’m no good without you.”
“No one will ever love you like I do.”
There are flowers and candy sent. Expensive meals, extravagant gifts. The future abuser works to put on a good front before family, friends and community. Often, they will come to church, putting their best face forward.
Yet, even in this honeymoon period, there are signs and hints of future abuse that are too often minimized or ignored. The abuser starts to isolate the victim from family and friends.
“I love you so much. Don’t you want to spend time just with me?”
“Don’t go to work today. I need you.”
“Why would you want to be with your friends when you could be with me?”
“Your parents don’t understand you like I do. We’re moving to another state.”
In stage two, the abuser starts to find fault with everyday occurrences. The freshly cleaned house isn’t clean enough. The yard isn’t mowed well enough. The dinner is too hot or too cold. Phone calls may be monitored. Controlling behavior increases.
The abuser tells jokes at the victim’s expense. There are put-downs.
“You are nothing without me.”
“I can’t believe I ever saw anything in you.”
“You are not being submissive to me.”
“You wouldn’t have anything if it weren’t for me."
“If you ever leave me, you’ll be sorry.”
Victims start feeling afraid and often blame themselves. It is like walking on eggshells. The pressure builds and builds. It is like a simmering pot or a pressure cooker turned up on high with no way for the steam to escape.
Stage three is an explosion. It often includes devastating words, hitting, kicking, sexual assault. In a new relationship, it may be less severe. Just one hit or one calling of names. Doors are slammed and the abuser is gone for hours.
But later on, the cycles escalates. The abuse lasts longer. There may be need for medical care. Then the abuser makes excuses:
“If you weren’t so ugly, if you had gotten home on time, this wouldn’t have happened. Where were you anyway? Who were you with? You were suppose to have my dinner fixed on time. If you hadn’t done that, this wouldn’t have happened. It’s all your fault.”
But, because of the shame, the victim may just cover up the injury.
Some victims will try to seek help. They may avoid telling family members, which increases the isolation. Sometimes the victim actually leaves for a period of time.
But, then the abuser will call, crying and begging for forgiveness. “If you will just come back and forgive me, this will never happen again.” Flowers, candy, gifts are sent.
If the victim returns, the honeymoon period will start all over again. It is a vicious, ugly cycle.
If the victim doesn’t return, there is often extreme danger involved. Some of the victim's favorite items are destroyed. The cell phone is cancelled. The car, which has been placed only in the abuser’s name, is reported as stolen. Credit cards are cancelled. All money is removed from the bank. And if there are children, they are caught in the middle and used as pawns.
I cover this topic knowing some may be upset by it. But it must be brought out into the light for healing. I urge you to listen when a victim comes to you for help. Pray with that person. Help that one to find a way to escape.
It is never God’s will for a person to stay in an abusive relationship. Let a married person know that with the first hit, the marriage covenant was broken.
Please do not advise a victim to go back for reconciliation. It usually takes years of professional counseling and prayer to change the heart and mind of an abuser.
I wish that I could say that the courts of this land always work to bring justice to the abusers and help to victims, but all too often the victims are put into situations where they cannot afford to get adequate legal help. Often the child support is cut off, the victim has no place to go, the legal battles go on for years and the lawyers and judges just wish these people would go away.
Too often, the victims give up and go back as a last resort, only to lose their lives or the lives of their children in the process.
Something must be done. We must do what we can to help the hurting and work to change laws, bringing some justice in this land.
This is what the Lord Almighty says, as recorded in the book of Amos: “Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.”
For heaven’s sake, reach out in the name of Jesus to bring hope, help and justice. Some of the bruised reeds are holding on by a thread. Some of the flames of life are barely flickering.
You can be the presence of Jesus, reaching out to offer a listening ear, a caring heart, a helping hand and a place of safety. Don’t turn away. It may be their last cry for help.
According to 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a., “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trust, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Hope for Healing.Org
153 E. Broadway Blvd. #11, Jefferson City, Tenn. 37760