Slowly, painfully Jamie, a 23-year-old single woman is recovering from multiple injuries she sustained one year ago. Having had one major surgery, she faces three more as well as months of rehabilitation therapy. Medications cost $500 per month. She has no health insurance to cover her mounting medical bills. Before starting counseling, she had hallucinations and nightmares about her trauma. She still is afraid to be alone.
Jamie was not injured in a severe motor vehicle accident or a stranger assault. She was beaten unconscious then shot by someone she believed loved and cared for her- her (former) fiancé. Now she knows the tragic truth about violence against women. All too often boyfriends or husbands abuse and injure women, sometimes fatally.
WHAT IS DOMESTIC ABUSE?
Physical violence is only a piece of the puzzle broadly termed domestic or intimate partner abuse. According to the American Medical Association, it is an “ongoing debilitating experience of physical, psychological and/or sexual abuse associated with increased isolation from the outside world and limited personal freedom and accessibility to resources.” The exact number of cases is uncertain since many, perhaps most, go unreported but conservative estimates are that one-fourth of women in the United States, 12 million, have been abused.
If your partner (boyfriend, fiancé, or spouse) has ever hurt or threatened to hurt you in any way that was not accidental, you have been abused. Other questions to ask yourself are
Are you afraid of your partner?
Has he forced you to have sex when you didn’t want to?
Does your partner criticize, humiliate, or belittle you, especially in public?
Does he keep you from seeing or talking to your friends or family?
Does he restrict your access to money, food, clothes, or medical care?
A “yes” answer to any of these questions suggests an abusive relationship.
EFFECTS OF ABUSE
Physical abuse can result in multiple, sometimes severe injuries ranging from cuts and bruises to fractures, concussions, knife and gunshot wounds. A current or former boyfriend or spouse kills half of all female homicide victims.
Some effects of abuse are subtler. Abuse victims may suffer from chronic unexplained pain, sleep and appetite disturbances, persistent fatigue, difficulty concentrating, upset stomach, dizziness, and rapid or irregular heart beats. A victim may develop depression, panic attacks or chronic anxiety. The ongoing stress of an abusive relationship may drive her to use drugs or alcohol inappropriately, and even to attempt suicide.
Often, denial creates a barrier to getting out of an abusive relationship. An abused woman may believe she deserves such treatment because her partner has told her she is bad, worthless, or incompetent. She may excuse the abuser’s behavior and blame herself for it. Thus, a woman must recognize that she is being abused and realize that abuse is never justified.
After admitting abuse, her next step is to seek outside help. The abuser may have controlled her life so much that she has difficulty functioning outside the relationship. Once an abused woman confides in her physician, the physical and emotional symptoms can be accurately diagnosed and treated. Emotional support from trusted friends, a pastor, or counselor is needed. Legal advice should be obtained. Report the abuse to the appropriate legal authorities, especially if there is imminent danger of physical harm. In these cases, the courts can issue a protective or restraining order that prohibits him from making contact with her.
Most communities have domestic violence hot lines and services. Check your local telephone book or this web site:
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence- http://www.ncadv.org/;
Hotline number 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224(TTY)
JESUS AND WOMEN
The Bible does not condone abuse of women. Jesus befriended women, respected and protected them, and taught others to do likewise. He ate with them, talked to them, and related to them as equals. Women are people of worth and value in God’s eyes. With His help, an abused woman can end a life of pain and fear and start a new life of hope and dignity.
What the Bible says about women
Taken from the New International Version
A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.
A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Proverbs 31:10, 30
Husbands love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Colossians 3:19
He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord. Proverbs 18:22
Jesus asked her,” Woman, …has no one condemned you? …Then neither do I.” From John 8:2-11
He (Jesus) said to her, “Daughter, Your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” Luke 8:48
It (your beauty) should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 1 Peter 3:4
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