|Effects of Non-physical Abuse
Notes: 1. This web page is not intended to thoroughly cover the subject.
2. Although sexual coercion can also be categorized as physical abuse,
it may be included under the non-physical abuse heading because in the
marital setting there may not be any visible bruises or broken bones.
Effect on the Abuser
The more the abuser’s tactics work for him, the more he’s likely to escalate his abuse. It’s like an addiction. He has to
increase the domination in order to get the rush he did earlier. The things he’s demanding aren’t necessarily what he
wants, the same as a rapist isn’t doing it for sex. Both are doing it for power. This is why he can demand one thing one
day and a month later can demand the opposite, or he can increase the original demand.
What happens to a man who escalates his abuse and increases his power? Is he more manly? No, he’s not. He’s acting
like a two year old throwing a temper tantrum, or a 7 year old who is unable to accept that someone has a viewpoint
different from his own. As he gets his way, he learns that laws or rules don’t apply to him, and he learns to expect
privileges that he denies to others—especially his wife. Basically, he never matures. Instead of developing in character
and becoming a man, his character and motives remain on the developmental level of a child.
Cost to the Abuser
The obvious cost to abusive men is the possibility of spending time in jail, or otherwise having to deal with the law or other
men who won’t put up with his behavior. But there are other costs as well.
Dominated wives tend to be unhappy. As the saying goes, if Mom/wife isn’t happy, nobody’s happy. Also, an unhappy,
resentful, or angry wife may appear passive, but underneath will find ways to be aggressive or harmful to her husband,
but without his knowledge. (Perhaps this is why so many denominations teach that if all forms of anger, including
resentment, are not gotten rid of immediately or before going to bed, the person has sinned. And of course, the wife’s
apology and letting go of rightful indignation, would be likely to lead to sex—which serves the domineering husband’s
selfish interests—and thus keep the issue of his insulting and demeaning treatment of her from being confronted.)
There is also the danger of the husband either killing his wife and/or children, or of one of them killing him. If his intent is
to make sure his wife does not leave him, he has chosen the wrong behavior. Many abused wives do leave, with or
without their church's blessing. And many abused children choose to have nothing to do with their abusive parent, or
keep their children from ever seeing the children's grandfather. These are long-term losses. Abusive husbands/dads
frequently fight for primary physical care of the children, win it in court, and continue to abuse the ex-spouse through the
children. These children move to their mother's house as soon as they are allowed, and not only have minimum contact
with Dad, they also do not trust him or value his input.
Wives and children generally do not bond emotionally with their abusers, so the husband ends up isolating himself from
his family. Or he will “bond” with a child or with more than one child in order to work against their mother and to drive a
wedge between them. The end cost is the abusive man’s children will not grow into healthy adults, and are more likely to
end up in jail, divorced, or otherwise maladjusted in society, all of which could embarrass or distress their dad or even
sully his reputation if he isn’t able to successfully put the blame on his wife.
Another cost is medical bills. Abuse puts extreme stress on the recipient of the abuse, and even on the onlookers. That
stress is likely to cause physical, mental, or emotional problems in the wife and children that will need to be treated.
Effect of Abuse on the Wife
The effects on the wife are many. Loss of self-esteem, constant self-questioning, stress and disease as a result of
stress, loss of loving relationship with her husband, loss of trust, super vigilance and tension, extra difficulty dealing with
the children because they are either bullies, rebels, and disrespectful or fearful, depressed, and anxious. She may
experience depression and/or constant fear because she never knows when she is safe, which tends to lead to anxiety
and panic attacks. She’ll experience extreme loneliness from the isolation or limited connection with friends or other
sources of feedback, and the emotional/mental/spiritual damage she develops may take the rest of her life to recover
from. The lack of resources she needs to help her deal with life in general and abuse in particular, further hampers her
ability to deal with the abuse and to recover from it. One of the possible stress diseases is post-traumatic stress
syndrome, that causes her to relive the trauma months or even years later. It is very difficult to overcome and tends
recurs again and again long after the abuser is out of her life.
Another effect that women who suffer non-physical abuses experience, but physically abused women almost never
experience, is that her pastor or friends often don’t believe she is being abused because there is no physical evidence of
violence. Or they may think it’s not that bad, or that she’s exaggerating, or that she brought it on herself because of her
non-submission, her assertiveness which is labeled aggressive, her self-assurance or her imperfections. This not being
believed or minimizing her experience because the listener has preconceived ideas, leaves her even more isolated, and
with less much-needed support and resources. A pastor is likely to tell her to submit to her husband, to forgive, to be
more sexually available, to be or do whatever the husband wants her to be or do.
And the courts demand physical evidence or witnesses before they will consider her testimony of abuse credible. Yet
most abuse occurs in the privacy of the couple’s home or vehicle where there are no witnesses. So if the husband is not
physically abusive, the court is likely to award the father primary physical care of the children, which further empowers him
to continue abusing the wife by using their children as a pawn, which is abusive to the children as well. One statistic that
has stuck with me (but which I’m too lazy to look up right now so you can see for yourself. I’ll try to find it so I can quote it
exactly and site where it came from.) is that in the cases where fathers fight for primary custody, they win 75% of the
time. And abusive fathers tend to fight in court for primary physical care of their children. From this information I gather
that most abusive fathers have primary physical care of their children.
Effect of Abuse on the Children
Witnessing and experiencing abuse, whether the yelling kind, the hitting or physical kind, or the
emotional/verbal/spiritual/psychological kind has a devastating effect on children. Whether male or female, they learn
females deserve less respect than males do. Children are likely to copy the actions of one of their parents and either
behave in a dominating/bullying way or be prone to being bullied and becoming a people-pleaser. They may have extra
difficulty making and keeping friends, and may behave in ways that are socially unacceptable. Either way, school is likely
to be unpleasant with some being picked on and others spending time in the principal’s office or even being suspended
or expelled. Their school work—their grades—are likely to be negatively effected, which means they are at high risk for
failing, dropping out, or scoring so poorly they have no desire to go to college or otherwise making the most of their
abilities. In addition, children who experience or witness abuse are prone to stress and stress diseases, too. They are
likely to expect that men are entitled to more privileges than women or children, and are more likely to carry those beliefs
into their own marriages and relationships, and thus continue the abuse and spread it to the next generation.
Children may develop coping strategies that may work some of the time for them as children, but work against them as
adults. For example, a child may “zone out” as a way to not be present when their father is abusing their mother and thus
protect his or her emotional self from harm, but in school may zone out when he or she doesn’t like what the teacher says,
or as an adult may zone out when the spouse makes legitimate requests the hearer doesn’t like.
If a child witnesses a father insisting he has rights no one else in the family has, the child is likely to believe that men are
all powerful and to be yielded to, which makes him or her at great risk to be sexually abused or otherwise taken
advantage of by men, both as a child and as an adult.
Remember, if a couple has three children, and each of those children has three children, and so on, although each child
has the choice to abuse or to respect others, the child who has lived with abuse is more likely to choose abusive or
people-pleasing behavior than a child who was raised by two respectful parents. In addition, as boys from homes where
the man is a “kind” authority, rub shoulders with men and boys with abusive mind-sets, the abusive ideas easily take root
in the seed-bed of male entitlement and authority. The boys from male-authority homes will be more prone to increase
the abuse and domination over their wives. Thus abusive behaviors and attitudes will tend to increase in society and it
will become more and more difficult to find respectful mates. The cost to society is very high, and is partly (perhaps
mostly) to blame for the high divorce rate as abusive men marry again and again. And this is without including the
trauma, injury, and expense caused by physical abuse.
|© Waneta Dawn 2007 Created June 2008
|Effects of Abuse