Very few people know what abuse really is, though everyone seems quite ready to give advice to its victims. If you believe that abuse is physical battering, you have some learning to do.
Abuse is fundamentally a mentality. It is a mindset of entitlement. The abuser sees himself* as entitled. He is the center of the world, and he demands that his victim make him the center of her world. His goal is power and control over others. For him, power and control are his natural right, and he feels quite justified in using whatever means are necessary to obtain that power and control. The abuser is not hampered in these efforts by the pangs of a healthy conscience and indeed often lacks a conscience.
While this mentality of power and control often expresses itself in various forms of physical abuse, it just as frequently employs tactics of verbal, emotional, financial, social, sexual and spiritual abuse. Thus, an abuser may never actually lay a hand on his wife and yet be very actively terrorizing her in incredibly damaging ways.
Abuse in any of its forms destroys the victim's person. Abuse, in the end, is murder.
* Sometimes the genders are reversed.
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"Behold, I cry out, 'Violence!' but I am not answered; I call for help, but there is no justice." (Job 19:7)
"The job of defending and protecting the defenseless is given to us (Christians), and the buck stops here." (Jeff Crippen)
"Good people never pretend to be evil, but evil people pretend to be good. Sheep don't wear wolves' clothing." (Jeff Crippen)
"If we can erode the ability of abusers to gain allies, they will stand alone, and alone they are easier to stop." (Lundy Bancroft)