a post on emotional abuse from an unexpected source. i agree with most of it, and many of the bits i don't agree with have been covered well in comments. i would hesitate to say that one form of abuse is actually worse than another (physical abuse can be pretty awful), but i'd really recommend going over to cactus kate's blog to have a read.
and funnily enough, as i was in the middle of reading this post, i was rung by a person who wants help to write a report to support a woman who is applying for residence under the victims of domestic violence category. some of the most vulnerable women in the country are those who are here without residency status of their own - their partner has a work permit or they have married/ entered into a relationship with a nz citizen or resident.
in the latter case the partner will threaten loss of support for her residency application if the woman tries to leave or tries to tell anyone about the abuse. he may also hold her passport to prevent her leaving the country. in other cases, because divorce is stigmatised in some cultures or because she has entered the relationship without the consent of her family, going back to her country of origin will be as abusive or dangerous to her as staying in this country. she feels completely trapped.
hence the domestic violence category for immigration, which was won through significant lobbying by some strong ethnic minority women in this country. it at least gives these women an option to leave and try to build a better life in nz for themselves and any children they might have. but even if they take that option, they have to survive with little support - they are often isolated from their communities by their abuser and possibly by a sense of shame. it's hard to survive when you don't have a circle of friends and family to call on, and when you are feeling a lack of self-confidence due the type of emotional abuse that cactus kate describes.
this is why i find that my involvement with shama (hamilton ethnic women's centre) is so important and valuable to me. at least there is a place to go where these women will find active support in dealing with agencies and the legal system, as well as programmes they can join to help them build up a social network.
i'm really hoping that this particular case goes well and leads to a happy outcome for this particular woman. none of the options are wonderful, but i think this is the best one for her. it does, ultimately, depend on the community around her to welcome her in and make her feel a part of it, regardless of her ethnicity or theirs.