Physical Abuse and Domestic Violence

When we think about Domestic Violence, in most circumstances, people refer to physical abuse of a spouse or intimate partner.

I certainly see many people who indicate to me “No, there’s never been any physical abuse”. Physical assault or battering is a crime and is punishable by law. The police have the power and authority to protect you from a physical attack and, if at any time you feel threatened by your partner you should have a safety plan in order to remove yourself from the situation.

Sexual abuse is also a form of physical abuse. If you are ever put in a situation where you are forced to participate in unwanted, unsafe or degrading sexual activity, this is sexual abuse. If your partner has been forcing sex upon you, this is an act of aggression and violence. You should be aware that statistics show that partners who have been physically or sexually abused by their intimate partner are at higher risk of serious injury or being killed.

It is still abuse if…

  • There has not been any physical violence. If you have been subjected to intimidation, emotional or verbal assaults by your intimate partner, you have suffered domestic violence which is as equally frightening as physical assault, and often very confusing to try and understand.
  • The instance of physical abuse seems minor when compared to those you have read about or seen on television shows. There is no better or worse form of physical abuse. You can be severely injured as a result of being pushed, for example. More importantly, no act of violence should be minimised.
  • The incidents of physical abuse have only occurred one or two times in a relationship. Studies indicate that if your partner has injured you once, they are more likely to continue to physically assault you. The difficulty with physical assault of course is that the first time it happens, most people are completely in shock that an intimate partner, the person they trust and love, has broken that trust. If this has happened to you, please get immediate counselling to deal with these very difficult issues.
  • The physical assaults stop when you become passive and give up your right to express yourself. You might also at this time give up your right to see your family and friends, or to make your own decisions. It is not a victory that you have given up your rights in exchange for not being assaulted.

Emotional Abuse – It’s a bigger problem than you think…

When people think about domestic violence, they think about the battered and bruised woman that has become the stereotype as a result of many TV shows. Not all abuse in relationships involves violence. Just because you are not battered and you do not bear the scars of a physical assault, it does not mean that you have not been subjected to domestic violence. Many men and women suffer from emotional abuse, which is no less destructive as emotional abuse is insidious, in that you cannot see a person’s injuries. Emotional abuse is often minimised and overlooked, even by the person being abused – who will often become dismissive of any complaints.

Understanding Emotional Abuse…

The aim of emotional abuse is to chip away at your feelings of self-worth and independence. If you are the victim of emotional abuse, you may feel that there is no way out of the relationship or that without the abusive partner, you have nothing. The abuser goes about undermining your confidence by destroying your close relationships, your close friendships, alienating you from family and friends, controlling your finances, controlling whom you see and talk to and your activities.

Emotional abuse also includes verbal abuse such as yelling, name calling, blaming and shaming. Isolation, intimidation and controlling behaviour also fall under the category of emotional abuse. Additionally, abusers who threaten you emotionally often throw in threats of physical violence in order to control you.

Emotional abuse can be as damaging as physical abuse, sometimes even more so. In one of the worse cases of emotional abuse I have seen, a client who had been living in an emotionally abusive relationship for over 20 years developed an immune disorder as a result of her immune system no longer being able to cope with the sustained stress her body was under.

Economical Financial Abuse; a subtle form of emotional abuse…

Remember an abuser’s goal is to control you, and he or she will frequently use money to do so.  If this describes your situation you are being economically and financially abused.  Symptoms of this are as follows:

  • Stealing from you or taking your money;
  • Sabotaging your job, for example making constant calls to work which leads to disciplinary action on the part of your employer or, alternatively, making you miss work;
  • Preventing you from working or choosing your own career;
  • Withholding money or credit cards and making you account for every penny you spend; and
  • Withholding basic necessities such as food, clothes, shelter, etc.

Should you require any assistance with regards to an abusive relationship please feel free to contact Kathy Matri on (02) 4322 0251.