Abuse is about control—when one person seeks to control the other by force.

Safe Church—Abuse Defined

In general terms abuse happens anytime someone intentionally harms another in any way, often to gain control over the other for the personal gain of the abuser. Adults may encounter different forms of abuse, such as rape or sexual assault, as well as physical, psychological, verbal, financial, spiritual, and emotional abuse. Those most vulnerable—children and elderly individuals—are frequent targets of abuse, often by those closest to them (family members, caretakers, teachers/pastors/coaches).

Abuse is not limited to any cultural, educational, or economic level, or even religious affiliation. Religious figures are sometimes the most abusive, as they use their beliefs to oppress, harm, or kill those who disagree with them, even those who espouse similar beliefs. Abuse is not only directed by men against women—it also occurs in women against men, and by people of either gender toward those of the same gender.

Abuse is not about anger, addictions, stress, unfulfilled sexual desires, or any behavior of the victim; it is about control. Truly abusive situations exist when one party seeks to control the other and attempts to do so by force.

Claudio and Pamela Consuegra are director and associate director, respectively, of the Department of Family Ministries for the North American Division.

"Safe Church Features" article was originally published in Adventist World, September 2019. Online article posted 09-01-2019.

Published in Mosaic newsletter, 2020 Q3