Mental abuse a form of violence
Psychological abuse is a form of violence and needs to be taken seriously, agencies working with victims say.
"It's rampant," Taranaki Safe Families Trust co-ordinator Callum Williamson said.
"But a lot of people don't know it's going on."
Williamson said victims often suffered more from the psychological abuse than from physical violence.
"What they say is that bruises and broken bones will heal, but the constant mental abuse takes far longer to get over. We need to make the community aware of this form of violence because it's not OK," he said.
Williamson said while psychological abuse was clearly covered under the Domestic Violence Act, it was harder to spot and not reported.
"The problem is some of these people think it's normal. We need to get the message out there that you don't have to be hit to be harmed."
Williamson said psychological abuse included things like neglect, threatening behaviour, harassment and intimidation.
Research shows that children who grow up in a violent environment can have learning difficulties, anger problems, mental heath issues, abusive relationships, and a tendency towards criminal activities.
The call for awareness comes after Detective Sergeant David Beattie spoke out on the topic calling for psychological abuse to be recognised more in legislation.
At the time Beattie, a 25-year veteran of the police force, said he had examples of a father calling his daughter a "little whore", and the F word and C word being levelled at children.
"What I'm suggesting is that this is a more serious offence than smacking yet legislation does not reflect that. It's not about criminalising parents but protecting children," Beattie told the Taranaki Daily News.
Beattie said he wanted a change that required parents who were caught abusing their children in this way to go through parenting courses.
Williamson said the trust, which has 25 member agencies including police, supported any change to legislation that worked at eliminating family violence.
"We won't be out lobbying but would support it. In an ideal world, we wouldn't need any legislation," he said.
Williamson said the message was that psychological abuse is a genuine form of violence and victims or those who knew of people being abused psychologically needed to report it.
"The idea is to get people to come forward in a way that is safe for them," he said.
"If we are ever going to get on top of domestic violence, it's got to be a community effort."
Taranaki Daily News