I recently heard a speaker in a DVD series on domestic abuse say that abuse should not be tolerated “more than one time.” This poses a good question.
Let’s limit a hypothetical example to physical abuse just for our purposes here. [You all know I trust that domestic abusers do not always use physical assault as a tactic, especially the “Christian” ones]. Slapping across the face, knocking the victim down, that kind of thing. I may be wrong here in not considering all kinds of abuse – which are equally evil – but I am just trying to clarify our illustration. Here is the question then – How many times should a woman (for example) forgive her husband for slapping her across the face? By “forgive,” I mean, he says he is sorry and she says ok, and she stays with him – end of story.
I have a suspicion that the idea of “letting bygones be bygones once” is not going to sit very well with many of you. I mean, what does it say when a husband, let’s say one month into the marriage, slaps his wife in the face? Immediately questions about the context start to arise, right? What was she doing? What was he doing? Was it a mutual argument? Was she verbally abusing him and he just lost it? Could be. But as we know, slapping someone in the face just isn’t justified (well, unless like in the movies someone is losing their mind and endangering the whole mission to save the world so you slap them back into their senses and they say thank you). Let’s say it is a slap delivered as a true abusive power-control punishment to instill fear. How many times should the victim let that happen before taking action?
Some people say once. I have heard other victims, in hindsight, say “the first time it happens, get out of there. It will only get worse.”
What do you think? Here is a very good answer from an abuse survivor I know:
The estranged only hit me once. About two years into the marriage, he backhanded me across the face during an argument. As my ears rang, he apologized profusely, and said ‘you know I’d never hurt you, right?’ Then proceeded to inform me not to cross him because ‘if I pushed him, he wouldn’t be accountable for his actions’ and ‘once he started, he would not stop’
I should have walked out the door. I did not and I never told anyone. Now he says it never happened.
He never hit me like that again but he pushed me into corners and refused to let me out, pinned me against the kitchen counter while he groped me, pushed me backwards across the room while calling me his servant or his concubine. He climbed on me when I tried to nap and held me down beneath the covers until i screamed all ‘in fun’ and refusing to stop while I pleaded. He grabbed my leg above the knee and called it ‘the horse eating the apple’– when he didn’t like something I said. He poked me with one finger in the side, over and over until I bruised. And I’m just getting started.
We lived under the threat of violence at all times, every day. He said we had ‘no right’ to be afraid of him.
I see that first backhand now as a cold, calculated maneuver to put me in my place and instill fear. Once is too much.
And still another friend who survived abuse says:
How did I ever let him get away with the physical abuse and pretend it never happened. I would never stand for anything like it now. I think it was my desire to keep things as normal as possible. I believe a woman should leave after the first attack.
Conclusion? Once is one time too many. And in fact non-physical abuse, once it is identified as a pattern evidencing a sense of entitlement to power and control, is one time too many. As I say over and over again – abusers never change. A marriage to an abuser does not need to be fixed, it needs to be ended.