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Abuse – sexual and verbal

Emma points to a harrowing art project:  Project Unbreakable.  Victims of sexual abuse are photographed carrying placards of what their attackers said to them.

It's made me think again of the deeply entwined nature of sexual and verbal abuse.  In both you have, typically (though by no means exclusively), a man wielding power over a woman for his own benefit.  The words of a stronger man are forced on a woman just as his body is - often together.

Here's an excerpt (lightly edited) from an older post I wrote on the awful similarities between both kinds of abuse - He said - She said.

Men are designed to move towards their woman - their one woman, the one they have pledged their life to.    They enter their world for their woman's benefit and not their own.  Men do have have fruitful, life-giving words to bestow (note how often ‘seed’ and ‘word’ goes together in Scripture: Mark 4:14 ; 1 Cor 3:6; 1 Peter 1:23; James 1:21).  The woman is to trust one man and one man only - the one who has pledged his life to her.  She receives her man's approach to be blessed by his words....

In all this we see the parallel between sex and words...

A woman has commonly (I’m tempted to say, universally) been on the receiving end of soul-piercing death-words.  And they have experienced them as violations in a way different to how men would experience those same words.  Stronger men (often fathers) have used their strength to either shout down, belittle, intimidate, out-last or otherwise out-argue them.  There are painful feelings of being bullied and disempowered associated with the words of men.

Don’t men have similar experiences of being silenced by the words of others?  Yes.  Are they painful?  Yes.  But my contention here is that women experience those pains deeper and more sharply.  I could be wrong  but that’s my contention.

Something that’s confirmed my suspicions has been hearing three different women speak about conversations with men.  All three conversations happened in the last month.  And all three women said that the words of the man stronglyreminded them of encounters with their fathers.  “And it didn’t seem to matter what I said, he just kept on making his point… It reminded me so much of my dad – he was clearly in the wrong but he just kept going, bullying me with words.  I was powerless, it made me so angry…

And men for their part use words for their own benefit – not to give life but to self-please.  This weekend I was away with a group of teenagers and youth leaders.  My ears pricked up every time an older male ‘teased’ a younger female.  There was a war of words (all in jest of course) and a truce was called only when the girl was exasperated, silenced and everyone had a good laugh.  That was the dominant form of male-female communication over the weekend.

Which means, men can be horrendous abusers - and often are - without ever touching a woman.  But when both kinds of abuse come together, the results are devastating.

3 thoughts on “Abuse – sexual and verbal

  1. Rich Owen

    This is a very important post.

    I've seen Christian "men" attempting to woo women by basically abusing them in public. It's a very blokish way of gaining a laugh, elevating self and getting public applause. Look at me, I'm popular, and will use you to make you see that I am. You'll truly go for me then.

    Whenever I do marriage prep, quite a significant part of what we do I call "verbal intercourse". It is making the point you are making quite bluntly.

    We need to watch our words.

  2. Glen

    Hi Anon,
    What a good and difficult question! Perhaps first realise that every father is abusive to their partner in some way. Either they enter in sharply for their own benefit or withdraw meekly from their responsibilities - we all fail in one of those two ways, and I know that I manage somehow to do both!

    I suppose after a lot of prayer you might consider asking your father 'What were you trying to do to mum when you said "X"?' Ask with curiosity, see if he's even aware of what's in his heart when he acts like this. Go in with the intention of starting a conversation, being curious, wanting to know what makes him tick. If the Lord opens a door of opportunity here, see if there's a chance to say "Dad, I love you, but when you speak to mum like this it makes me feel for both of you. I feel bad for mum and I also worry for you. What's going on?"

    All you can do is try to start the conversation. If he shuts it down, he shuts it down. If his verbal abuse continues to worry you,you might say something like "Dad, have you ever talked to another Christian your age about the way you use words with mum. I'm really worried for you both."

    Without knowing more I don't know what else to say. But I think that prayerful, heart-felt curiosity and exploration might be the tone to strike.

    I'll pray!

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