Psychological or emotional abuse is the most common form of family violence and the person being abused often says it’s the worst type. Family violence often does not involve physical or sexual violence.
Family violence can have serious effects:
Children who have a parent who is abused have a higher risk of being abused themselves. Even if the abuser does not direct violence towards the children, they are often seriously affected by seeing or hearing their parent being abused. They will pick up on tension, stress and fear from a young age, even if they don’t understand what is going on.
Violence seriously affects children. They may feel afraid for themselves or their family members and blame themselves for what is happening. They may get sick a lot, have behaviour problems (eg be naughty, hard to cope with), or problems with bedwetting, speech, eating, sleeping, learning and concentration.
Children may suffer from low self-esteem and become clingy or sad, or aggressive, violent, bully others or hurt animals. They may have problems making friends and trusting people, act younger than they are, try to be very good so they do not ‘cause’ more violence, become withdrawn or depressed and use alcohol and drugs.
There is a high probability that they will become violent and abusive as an adult or become involved with an abusive partner as an adult.
Children have the right to be safe and be cared for. Children who live with family violence need to:
Many partners and children living in constant fear of violence are often afraid that no one will believe their story and things will be worse for them if they tell someone what is happening.
They may be ashamed, worried about being blamed for the violence, or told that they deserve it. Family violence can be hidden for a long time because it happens when other people aren’t there. People who are violent to their whānau/families can be friendly and kind to other people.
It can take several attempts to leave a violent partner before you are successful, so don’t stop trying.
Find out how you can get involved in making family violence not OK in your family and your community: Campaign for Action on Family Violence