The Hurting Woman: Characteristics of an Abusive Relationship

This article was written by Jacque Truitt and is adapted from a chapter in Transformed Lives: Taking Women’s Ministry to the Next Level.

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Pain can arise from a number of sources, so it’s best to equip yourself to minister in a number of ways. One source of trauma in a woman’s life may be an abusive relationship.

Abuse rarely begins with physical violence. Abuse follows an identifiable cycle – which both partners usually deny.


·    Phase One: Tension-building phase: Yelling, name-calling, put-downs, throwing things, accusations
·    Phase Two: Violent episode: Hitting, punching, degrading, more verbal abuse
·    Phase Three: Honeymoon phase: "I’m sorry," promises to change, "It won’t ever happen again," flowers, gifts

Learn to recognize the signs of a victimized woman.

She …
·    is afraid of her partner.
·    cannot express her own opinion or feelings without being fearful of her partner’s reaction.
·    must ask her partner’s permission to see family or friends, spend money or make purchases.
·    sometimes feels as if she is living with two different people.
·    tries to please her partner, only to be criticized repeatedly.
·    constantly attempts to mold her children, her environment and herself into what pleases her partner.
·    stays confused about the difference in the way her partner perceives the relationship and the way she perceives it.
·    eventually believes all the terrible things her partner accuses her of and says about her; is unsure of reality.

If you are ministering to a woman and you observe that these actions are occurring or she shares information related to them, encourage her to seek professional help from a licensed Christian counselor. The cycle of abuse continues and worsens without treatment.

Remember: safety takes precedence over confidentiality. If the woman refuses or hesitates to seek help, enlist a qualified professional to assist you. Do not attempt intervention alone.

If you’d like to read more details on sources of trauma such as domestic abuse, depression, and other topics related to ministering to women in crisis, see Transformed Lives or Women Reaching Women in Crisis.


  1. says

    Thank you so much for making this a priority topic. I am a Christian,
    married a Christian man-both of us are professionals with college
    degrees—-and I was the victim of Domestic Abuse. We went to
    counseling for Years—but the core issue was never dealt with.
    My advice to women in abusive relationships….get help for you and your children the first time.
    I started a ministry before I left, but it crashed around my feet
    because I didn’t have full buy in by my spouse—I’m hoping to pick up
    where I left off because this is such an IMPORTANT, yet misunderstood
    issue in Christian circles.
    Keep up the good work of putting controversial issues before the

  2. Chris Adams says

    Thank you so much for sharing your difficult journey with our readers! What a ministry you will have to so many others.

  3. says

    How timely a post for myself and my ministry. 2 weeks ago one of the ladies that I have been discipling for about year was badly beaten for the first time by her husband. The good news is that in our discipling time she started going to a church I found for her, she was baptized, joined the church and even volunteered in their VBS. When she drove to the hospital after being beaten, it was her new pastor and church family that was there for her within minutes. She was amazed. She is now in a safe place and continuing her meetings with me each week. She was PREPARED spiritually for her storm.
    This was my first up close and personal abusive situation and I was so thankful that God had brought her to me a year ago. In His sovereignty, He knew she was going to need HIM!!

  4. Chris Adams says

    Thank you Deanna for sharing how god is equipping you for crises with your women. Most of us are not prepared to be counselors. That is also why we developed the resource Women Reaching Women in Crisis!

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