Posted on : Friday May 1, 2009

By Shannon Baker, BCM/D National Correspondent

UPPER MARBORO, Md.—The Israelite king fell into fits of rage, his cycle of violence escalating to the point that he tried to kill his faithful employee.

In 1 Samuel 18, the cycle began with isolation as King Saul kept David close to him, forbidding him to go back to his father’s house. Then, Saul’s violent streak escalated as he became paranoid and jealous. In his anger, he attacked David with his spear. When that didn’t work, the king sulked and later secretly arranged David’s death. Not satisfied, he publicly announced David’s death warrant and sent an army to stalk and kill David.

Ultimately, God preserved David’s life, and King Saul ended his life in shame. All the while, David remained loyal to the king, never retaliating, always living in fear over the increasingly violent man.

Today, psychologists have developed a scale called The Continuum of Violence to show how abuse grows over time. On the scale, abusive actions start with the less severe and progress 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 numb to the signs of danger.

Linda Shaw saw this cycle of violence first-hand. She is a survivor of 17 years of the isolation, verbal and escalating physical abuse from her husband, a deacon in their church at the time.

Linda Shaw saw this cycle of violence first-hand. She is a survivor of 17 years of the isolation, verbal and escalating physical abuse from her husband, a deacon in their church at the time.

“I didn’t understand what God was doing,” confessed Shaw. “I thought I was submitting to my husband as a wife. What was I doing wrong?”

“He prepared me. He helped me survive,” shared Shaw, who now sees how God created a deep compassion in her heart for others who suffer at the hands of abuse from others.

Shaw now educates women about domestic violence through a series of panels called “The Next Step.” The panel features four women who have all survived domestic violence, two of whom were incarcerated: one for attempted murder of her husband when she sought to defend herself from him; another who actually killed her husband in self-defense.

“Women don’t know their rights and where to go for help,” Shaw shared, explaining that domestic violence is more than physical abuse. It is mental, psychological, sexual, emotional and financial. Even neglect is considered abuse.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), domestic violence is an epidemic, affecting individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, nationality or educational background.

The Coalition reports that one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, and that an estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year. Females who are 20-24 years of age are at the greatest risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence.

NCADV estimates that the cost of intimate partner violence exceeds $5.8 billion each year, $4.1 billion of which is for direct medical and mental health services. And yet, less than one-fifth of victims reporting an injury from intimate partner violence sought medical treatment following the injury.

And most cases of domestic violence are never reported to the police. Or to the church.

In her situation, Shaw knew that she would have to trust God. Her husband was one of the deacons in the church. People thought she was crazy.

“When we walked into the church, I was supposed to be happy,” she related, saying that instead, what she was going through made her become bitter.

“I was begging people to see what was going on behind the veil,” she said, noting that people looked down on her for shrugging off her husband’s fake shows of affection in public.

“It was terrible. I silently prayed, ‘Please help me. What is it that I have to do for you to help me in my situation?’”

And yet, in her spirit, God repeatedly told her who she was: a child of God, a jewel in Christ’s crown. But she lacked self worth and instead blamed herself for the situation, trying to make everything perfect so as to stave off her husband’s attacks.

“I went to work every day, and I took care of my children every day,” Shaw recounted.

She still remembers “the turning point” in the relationship. It was on March 25, 2001.

“My husband (now ex-husband) and I were fighting when my children, one 8 years old, the other 17 years old, came down to defend me,” she explained. “Then the light bulb went off. I knew that I had to separate myself from the situation or they would be hurt, too.”

Looking back, Shaw admits her dismay over wasted time. “I wasn’t myself. I lost 17 years of my life! I was so overwhelmed by that!”

But Psalm 18:16-19 provided a strong message of refuge for her: “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.”

Moreover, she decided to look for a way to redeem that wasted time. She decided to let God use her to help other hurting women, to help them realize their self worth in God’s eyes and to help educate them on what is appropriate behavior in relationships. She purposed to do whatever she could to educate and bring awareness to others of this epidemic.

Shaw has served as the director of L.O.V.E. (Leave Out Violence Everyday), which is one of the teams under the direction of Sisters4Sisters, a national organization with chapters in Prince Georges County, Baltimore, New York and North Carolina. L.O.V.E. is dedicated to helping women have a positive, nurturing support system which would offer prayer assurance and love through the journey.
Presently, Shaw leads workshops quarterly at various locations throughout the Washington Metropolitan area.

“Now, the women I touch every day are the reason why God allowed me to go through what I did and for so long,” she affirmed. “I can’t reach the whole world, but I can reach people one at a time.”

To learn more, contact Linda Shaw at (301) 627-7139. For immediate assistance in a domestic violence situation, please call: the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233; the National Sexual Assault Hotline at (800) 656-4673; and the National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline at (866) 331-9474.