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NEW domestic violence guidelines designed to help judges and magistrates recognise signs of emotional abuse, not just physical violence, include behaviour such as criticising your partner’s physical appearance and arguing about household chores.
Attorney-General George Brandis yesterday launched the National Domestic and Family Violence Bench Book, which aims to “promote best practice” in domestic and family related violence court cases.
The book details the different kinds of abuse victims can experience, including physical violence and harm, emotional and psychological abuse, as well as social, economic, cultural and spiritual abuse.
The social abuse chapter included direct quotes from domestic violence victims, describing how perpetrators behaved towards them, such as “put down my physical appearance”, “criticised the way I took care of the house”, “became upset if household chores were not done” and “tried to convince me I was crazy”.
Other quotes included “jealous or suspicious of my friends and other men”, “accused me of having an affair” and “turned my family against me”.
The book says examples of emotional and psychological abuse can include “menacing or intimidatory behaviours or gestures directed repeatedly and strategically at the victim including angry verbal outbursts, staring, silence, ignoring and withdrawal of affection.”
Domestic Violence NSW CEO Moo Baulch welcomed the guidelines and said emotional abuse often left deeper scars than physical violence.
“Many women who are survivors of domestic violence say the non-physical abuse, the manipulation of power and control and the financial abuse, are often a lot harder to recover from than the physical abuse,” Ms Baulch told news.com.au
“Women will say the scars and often horrific injuries will heal, but emotionally they live with the impact often decades later.”
While in isolation, criticising a woman’s physical appearance or complaining about household chores are not examples of abuse, Ms Baulch says domestic violence occurs when these habits are present in conjunction with other negative and controlling behaviours.
“Domestic violence occurs with one partner exerting power and control over the other and that often occurs over a period of time,” she said.
“There are many abusive relationships where there is never any physical violence, but a woman may be prevented from having relationships with friends or family.
“There are many examples of men monitoring the kilometres on his partner’s car to see if she’s having relationships with people outside the house. She may be cut of financially. You don’t need a black eye for it to be abuse.”