New Zealand is a beautiful country and a wonderful place to live, particularly in these Covid times. We feel relatively safe and perhaps even a little smug. However, not everyone in our little piece of paradise is safe from violence. Violence is not limited to physical violence and indeed it is arguable that verbal, emotional, psychological and economic violence is every bit as harmful, if not more harmful, than physical violence.
It is a reality that all these forms of violence occur in New Zealand and often under our very noses. Family violence occurs across all socio-economic levels and among all cultures and genders. The effects are devastating on the victim as well as their wider family and friends.
Verbal, emotional, psychological and economic violence are forms of violence that are not visible to the outside world. Many a time, even the victim is unaware that they are on the receiving end of abuse. These particular types of violence can be very subtle and start in a way that seems innocuous. As time goes on, the abuse becomes debilitating but the trap has been laid and it becomes increasingly difficult to escape the consequences. The behaviour can chip away at the target’s confidence to devastating effect. The effect of this subtle type of violence is often illustrated by the frog story. If you put a frog in a beaker of hot water it will jump out immediately. However, if the frog is put in a beaker of cold water and slowly warmed up it won’t jump out of the water and will eventually be cooked.
Gaslighting is a term used to refer to a specific type of manipulation where the manipulator gets someone else to question their own reality, memory or perceptions. It may start out with seemingly small offenses that make you question your own judgment or reality but it can snowball until you question everything you do and the decisions you make.
Economic abuse occurs when a person’s access to funds is controlled to the extent that they must ask for money and explain what it is to be used for, or, more commonly, every purchase made electronically is noted and commented on.
It is also abusive to monitor a person’s movements and actions by checking text messages, email messages, telephone calls and even monitoring movements by using a phone tracker.
Abuse is seldom a one-off event. It is usually a pattern of behaviour that gets worse over time. The perpetrator exerts power and control over their victim. It is unacceptable and intolerable.
At Schnauer and Co we are sensitive to all types of violence. We know the law that underpins these types of situations and we also appreciate the impact it has on its victims. We acknowledge that physical injuries can be seen but psychological and emotional injuries are invisible and insidious. We work with our clients to identify the varying forms of abuse, the impact it has on our clients and their wider family and tailor our approach to each client’s particular circumstances.