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When Domestic Violence Doesn't Leave Marks


Events are being held across the state in October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. While domestic abuse is often associated with physical violence, pscyhological abuse is the wound no one can see.  HPR's Ku?uwehi Hiraishi has this story. 

When people think of domestic violence, they often think of black eyes and broken bones. Psychological abuse on the other hand goes unnoticed by many including the abuse victims themselves.

“When we say domestic violence, they want to see, juries want to see, police want to see, family members want to see, coworkers want to see bruises to prove and validate the fact that abuse has occurred,” says Nanci Kreidman, CEO of the Domestic Violence Action Center.

Krediman runs Hawai’i’s Domestic Violence Action Center. She says psychological abuse in relationships is about control and one person in the relationship having more power than the other.

“Financial abuse is an example of one kind of tactic that is used, which controls the other person – what they can spend, where they can go,” says Kreidman, “Maybe they’re checking the odometer. Maybe they’re expecting a receipt when they go to the grocery store.”

It’s a pattern of behavior. It’s not a rare episode or a one-time incident.

“The emotional abuse and the psychological abuse can also include name calling, demeaning a person, insulting them, humiliating them,” says Kreidman, “’You’re a terrible mother.’ ‘You’re a terrible daughter.’ ‘No one will ever love you as much as I do.’ ‘You’ll never be able to find somebody as good as I am.’”

Overtime the abusive behavior has the effect of diminishing the victim’s sense of self and personal capacity to make decisions.

“If I know I’m being watched there is an isolating, intimidating, and threatening aspect of that, which is what psychological abuse often is intended to communicate,” says Kreidman.

Kreidman says holding abusers accountable for psychological abuse remains a major challenge.

“The law does not protect a victim from emotional and psychological abuse,” says Kreidman, “If I get home and my tires are slashed, and I know my abuser has done that, because who else would slash my tires? When I call the police, often the police will say, ‘Well, how do you know who did it? There’s no way to prove that it was your ex-husband.”

Kreidman says psychological abuse doesn’t always lead to physical abuse. But once there is physical abuse, it is almost always accompanied by psychological abuse.

“Most people, if they are experiencing emotional and psychological abuse,  don’t think it rises to the level of domestic violence, and they might not even call it that,” says Kreidman, “But we want to encourage them to think about how do they feel after they are with their partners. Are they afraid? Again, you don’t have to be physically hurt to be afraid.”

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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