An International Center for Fellowship and Learning

As Your Soul Prospers – Lesson 9: Recovery from Abuse

Scripture Text: Genesis 41:51; 45:1-15

Memory Verse: But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

Lesson Aim: To highlight: (1) the damages that abuse causes; and (2) the fact that the power of Jesus the Messiah is capable of healing the wounds of abuse.

Abuse is the improper treatment of someone for selfish reasons, often to unfairly or unjustly gain benefit. There are different forms of abuse, such as: physical, verbal, sexual, and emotional. Behaviors that constitute any form of abuse whether intentional or unintentional are still considered abuse. Then there is self-abuse, for example, dependence on drugs, prostitution, and self-mutilation.

Physical, verbal, and sexual abuse are most common in the context of spousal, parent-child, and other family member relations. Other contexts in which these forms of abuse often occur are friendships and authority-subordinate relationships, such as pastor-parishioners and employer-employee relations. Anyone can be a victim of abuse. However, women, children, and the elderly are more often victims of abuse than adult men.

Physical Abuse: Physical abuse is physical force or violence that results in bodily injury, pain, or impairment. Physical abuse is most common in parent-child and marital and non-marital love relations.

Verbal Abuse: Many of us have heard it said that sticks and stones may break our bones but words will never hurt us. However, those who have suffered from verbal abuse know quite well that words do hurt and can be just as harmful as physical blows to the body. The scars from verbal assaults can last for years. These psychological scars often leave people feeling insecure, doubtful of their capabilities and their talents, and sometimes unable to manage the inherent challenges of life.

Most verbal abuse is subtle. Except for name-calling, many people don’t recognize verbal abuse as abuse. This is so especially when it comes from a person they believe loves them, such as their spouse, parent or pastor, or from a person they perceive as an authority figure; or when it comes from a person who is in a position of power, for example, one’s supervisor, a family provider, or caregiver.

Sexual Abuse: Sexual abuse is unwanted sexual activity, with perpetrators using manipulation, force, threat, or taking advantage of victims not able to give consent. Exposing a child to sexual behaviors or activities also constitutes sexual abuse. As reported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than half of all children who are sexually abused are abused by a parent or other relative.

The effects of early sexual abuse last well into adulthood, affecting relationships, work, family, and life in general. According to Barbara E. Bogorad, Psy.D., individual symptoms of sexual abuse tend to fall into four categories:

(1) Damaged goods: Low self-esteem, depression, self-destruction (suicide and self-mutilation), guilt, shame, self-blame, constant search for approval and nurturance.

(2) Betrayal: Impaired ability to trust, blurred boundaries and role confusion, rage and grief, difficulty forming relationships.

(3) Helplessness: Anxiety, fear, tendency towards re-victimization, panic attacks.

(4) Isolation: Sense of being different, stigmatized, lack of support, poor peer relations.

Emotional Abuse: Another word for emotional abuse is psychological abuse. This form of abuse is any behavior that is designed to control and subject another human being. It can include anything from constant criticism to more subtle tactics, such as intimidation, manipulation, and refusal to ever be pleased.

Beverly Engel, the author of The Emotionally Abused Woman: Overcoming Destructive Patterns and Reclaiming Yourself (1992), states that emotional abuse is like brain washing in that it systematically wears away at the victim’s self-confidence, sense of self-worth, trust in their own perceptions, and self-concept. Whether it is done by constant berating and belittling, by intimidation, or under the guise of “guidance,” “teaching,” or “advice,” the results are similar. Eventually, the recipient of the abuse loses all sense of self and remnants of personal value. Emotional abuse cuts to the very core of a person, creating scars that may be far deeper and more lasting than physical ones.

People who have been abused emotionally fail to realize that they hold the power. They have handed their power over to another person – maybe their partner, their friend, their supervisor, or even their pastor. In reality, no one can make you do anything if you do not let them. Realize that only you hold the power. Look for ways in the Word of God to empower yourself.

Interact with God’s Word:

  1. The perpetrators of sexual abuse are often known to the victims. Sadly they are more often family members than not. What are some descriptors of the incidence between Tamar and her brother Amnon that makes this sexual abuse? 2 Samuel 13:1-14
  2. Of the three types of abuse – physical, sexual, and emotional – is there one that is most difficult to overcome? Why? Why not? Are there any that are impossible to overcome? Isaiah 53:5; Psalm 107:20; Luke 1:37

Recovery from Abuse

  1. Break the silence. Tell a trustworthy person. Do not be afraid to ask for assistance. Getting some form of support is always a good idea. James 5:16; Galatians 6:2
  2. Let go of anger. Anger is a natural response to injustice, but do not allow it to imprison you. Discuss how a person who has been sexually, physically, or emotionally abused can be obedient to
    Ephesians 4:26-27, 31-32.
  3. Let go of feeling betrayed. The truth is that you cannot make anyone change, you can only control the way you react to them. Instead of focusing on what was done to you, focus on improving your own life. In doing so you will discover your own self-worth. Recognize the real source of the betrayal—Satan using the perpetrator. Abuse is the work of the adversary. To move forward, you must acknowledge that the devil was only using an available vessel to intercept God’s plan for your life. Discuss Genesis 45:1-8; 50:20.
  4. Let go of shame, self-blame, and guilt. First, let’s clearly establish that a child victim of abuse is never responsible for the abuse. It is the responsibility of adults to protect our children from harm and danger. It should also be said that a victim – child or adult – is a victim. Victims are overpowered and are made subject to abuse; therefore, there should be no shame, self-blame, or guilt. Shame, self-blame, and guilt are tactics that the enemy uses to keep the abused trapped in a state of painful helplessness. Isaiah 61:3; Romans 10:11
  5. Have a vision for yourself. It is important to have a vision of who you would like to become once you have regained control of your life. If it helps, look for role models. 1 Corinthians 11:1-2
  6. Use the Word of God to empower yourself. Audibly vocalize the Word to speak life to yourself. The Bible is full of such references, for example, Jeremiah 29:11; Psalm 139:13-18; Romans 3:22; Philippians 4:13.