Family violence, more than just physical abuse

Family violence, more than just physical abuse

So often when we consider family violence, we jump straight into thinking about a physical attack.
It’s not surprising we go to this default setting. It’s visible. It’s often sensationalised in the media; we certainly know what a physical assault looks like and we see the end result by way of bruises, bloodied noses and black eyes.

It’s important to be aware, however, that there are other forms of family violence? What about the forms that are more subtle and not so easily seen?

Family violence is not restricted to physical beatings. It covers a broad range of controlling behaviour that also includes psychological/emotional, financial and sexual abuse.

That typically involves systemic patterns of fear, intimidation and control. Emotional abuse can be especially hard to recognise. It can be subtle and insidious, or overt and manipulative. Either way it chips away at the victim’s self esteem and they begin to doubt their perceptions and reality.

Part of Taranaki Safe Families Trust’s campaign is community awareness. By shining a light on specific areas which may not get as much exposure as some other issues, we can educate more people and therefore make it easier for people to make a stand against family violence.

Remember the old saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?’’ It seems so archaic and outdated, given what we know now. Words DO hurt and DO leave lasting injuries. Stick and stones can leave bruises on the surface. Hurtful words can have a deeper effect and leave scars on the heart, soul and wairua.

If someone close to you humiliates you in front of your friends, uses unsafe driving to frighten you or damages property or possessions to scare you – that is psychological abuse and it’s not OK.

If your partner forces you to have sex or do other sexual acts you don’t want to do, or frequently accuses you of sleeping with other people or forces you to watch porn – that’s sexual abuse and it’s not OK.

If a family member takes your money or property, runs up debts in your name or pressures you into signing financial documents – that’s financial abuse and it’s not OK.

These types of family violence are far more common than you think. They’re far more damaging than you think, and these are issues we definitely need to be talking about far more openly.

Dane Haskell is the Taranaki co-ordinator of Taranaki Safe Families Trust.