HOW ABUSE ESCALATES
Rarely does abuse remain at the same level of severity. Over time, it tends to increase in its intensity and/or frequency. We see this escalation in King Saul’s abuse of David:
1 Samuel 18:2Control through isolation
1 Samuel 18:8-9Paranoid jealousy; anger
1 Samuel 18:10-11Attacking with weapon
1 Samuel 18:25Secretly arranging David’s death
1 Samuel 19:1Publicly announces death warrant
1 Samuel 23:8Sending an army to stalk and kill David
Psychologists have developed a scale called The Continuum of Violence to show how abuse grows over time (found on page 10). This scale lists abusive actions, starting with the less severe, and progressing to extreme abuse and death. The escalation of abuse might be so gradual that it is difficult for the victim to see what is happening until the abuse has become quite severe. Or she may learn to cope and accept it, becoming numbed to the signs of danger.
Without intervention and specialized help, abuse will rarely cease on its own. Often it worsens over time, becoming more severe and/or more frequent. Many abusers find that wanting or promising to stop is not enough. With specialized domestic violence programs, hard work, commitment, and accountability, some abusers can change their behavior.
It is important to understand that the behaviors listed on the Continuum of Violence scale are called sin in the Bible. It is no wonder that abuse tends to escalate, since sin is a slippery slope that leads to destruction. Praise God that we have a Savior who can change hearts and renew the minds of those who will humble themselves before him, sincerely repent, and turn from their evil ways.
If you think about an abusive relationship you experienced, you might be able to see how the abuse worsened over time. In what ways did the abuse escalate?