In Australia, domestic violence is defined by the Family Law Act (1975) as “violent, threatening or other behaviour by a person that coerces or controls a member of the person’s family, or causes the family member to be fearful”. This means that verbal and emotional abuse are both forms of domestic violence.
Although they may not leave physical scars, verbal and emotional abuse can have a large impact on health and wellbeing, leaving people feeling anxious, depressed and even suicidal. In this post, we’ll talk about what emotional and verbal abuse are, as well as how to tell whether you are being abused, who to speak to about domestic violence and how to get legal support for domestic abuse.
What is Emotional Abuse?
Emotional abuse is also known as mental abuse. It is non-physical, which means that others can sometimes find it difficult to identify. Within the context of a relationship, emotional abuse can include but isn’t necessarily limited to:
- Blaming one person for all the relationship’s problems
- Undermining self-worth through unfavourable comparisons
- Intentionally embarrassing a partner in public
- Swearing at a partner, insulting them or yelling at them
- Preventing a partner from seeing their friends or family
- Online humiliation and intimidation
What is Verbal Abuse?
Verbal abuse is the most common form of emotional abuse. It can have a long-lasting effect, which makes it just as serious as physical abuse. If someone is trying to scare you, intimidate you, isolate you or control you, then you may be a victim of verbal abuse. Verbal abuse includes:
- Name calling
You may find that some forms of verbal abuse are said in a loving voice, or may even be indirect. They could even be concealed as a joke.
Am I Being Abused?
You may struggle to recognise if you’re being emotionally abused. The abuse may not be regular, and the abuser may also be fun-loving and caring in between episodes. Likewise, you may have experienced similar behaviour in a past relationship.
The abuse can also start out innocuously. However, as the abuser gains confidence that you won’t leave the relationship, their abuse may escalate and they may become more controlling or jealous.
If you, or anyone else in your family or friendship group feel as though you have to modify your behaviour around the abuser, then this may be a sign that you are a victim of abuse.
This may also ultimately lead to physical manifestations of the situation, including stress, anxiety, depression, chronic pain and even post-traumatic stress disorder.
Who to Speak with about Domestic Violence
If you’re wondering who to speak with about domestic violence, then it’s important that you understand that help is at hand.
If you’re experiencing emotional abuse, mental abuse or verbal abuse, you can seek domestic violence support from your local doctor, a relationship counsellor or a counselling service. There are also 24-hour helplines you can call for emotional abuse support, such as the 1800 Respect hotline on 1800 737 732. For male victims, the One in Three Campaign is also helping to raise awareness and provides a number of resources.
If you believe that you are in immediate danger and require domestic violence support, you should ring the police on 000.
Are Mental and Emotional Abuse a Crime?
Domestic violence, including mental and emotional abuse is a crime, but it also has strong connections with family law, particularly as it relates to the Family Law Act (1975). Several legal mechanisms are available to address abusive conduct, particularly if you need to be removed from a situation.
Each state’s legislation differs on domestic violence. In Queensland, you can apply for a protection order, colloquially known as a domestic violence order (DVO). This is made by a magistrate in court to protect you. Conditions can be added to the order. For example, a person can be restrained from coming within a certain distance of you.
You can ask the police to apply for a DVO, apply directly to the court yourself or ask a lawyer, friend or family member to apply for you. However, a DVO is a legal document, so you should seek legal advice from domestic violence lawyers to ensure it’s right for your safety needs.
Legal support for domestic abuse is widely available but involving domestic violence lawyers can be a scary step to take.
However, legal support for domestic abuse victims is an important tool and can help you feel safe and secure. If violence is a possible issue, then you should consult a lawyer who can not only assist you in obtaining emotional abuse support, but can also make you feel comfortable and advise you of the next steps in your situation.