Yes to respectful relationships

November is White Ribbon month and the time when domestic violence is put under the spotlight. Often when people see the White Ribbon or the ‘It’s Not Ok’ campaigns, their attention is automatically drawn to physical abuse. Which, is in fact not the most prevalent form of abuse. Psychological or emotional abuse, is the one experienced most in partner and family relationships. Due to the nature of this abuse, it’s often the hardest to detect. In my previous life as a child protection social worker, I worked with families, for whom this kind of abuse was part of their lives. Sadly, it was not until the abuse became violent and there were signs of physical abuse, did someone speak out and contact the necessary support agencies. There are lots of reasons why people choose to ignore psychological abuse, the most common being that this kind of behaviour in relationships has become the societal norm within some cultures.


I have been the victim of psychological abuse twice in my life, both times when I was in vulnerable situations. The first was when I was living away from established social networks after moving to a different city. I became entangled in a partner relationship that looking back was toxic a long while before we got married. It was not until we had problems getting pregnant that I noticed the cracks in our relationship starting to form. At the time, I put this down to the huge amount of stress that we had been under. It was not until our precious baby had been born, that I started to have real concerns about our relationship and the controls that were being placed on me. Sadly, it took until the first physical outburst, for me to end the relationship. Fleeing the situation and moving away to stay with my immediate family, was when I encountered the second. I was aware that my mother always expected things to be on her terms, but never did I think that she would take advantage of my situation and pounce when I was at my most vulnerable. It was not until I was starting to get back on my feet, did I notice what had been happening and started to fight the control and the wedge that she was trying to place between me and my son. Eventually, my divorce settlement was completed. I was able to gather the recourses around me that I needed to relocate back to the city where I grew up and start to rebuild our lives. Eleven years on from moving back to the city, we have weathered some very rough storms but are now in our happy spaces.

Family Violence is not OK
Its Not OK



Psychological / emotional abuse is when there is manipulation and coercion by a partner or family member, that effects your emotional wellbeing, personality, makes you feel anxious and as though the situation is the victims fault. It goes on behind closed doors in every community regardless of culture, ethnicity or socio-economic status.



Power and control wheel



  • Be a proud supporter of family violence campaigns. Purchasing a white ribbon not only provides much needed financial assistance. Wearing the ribbon, lets those around you know how you feel and it may encourage someone to reach out to you and ask for help.
  • Ask your employer to support the campaign and arrange for family violence information to be available in the work place.
  • Ask questions if you sense things are not ok for someone you know.
  • Provide non-judgemental support if someone asks for your help.
  • Contact support agencies for assistance.
  • Have conversations with your children about respect in relationships.
  • Family violence is a social issue rather than a private one and unless we all stand up and say It’s Not Ok, it will continue to happen.


Jenni XXX

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  • sydneyshopgirl

    Jenni, thanks for sharing these difficult and painful times of your life and how you’ve come so far and learned to much because of them,

    SSG xxx

    • Your very welcome SSG, If by sharing my story, it helps someone else then it’s all worth it.

  • Thanks for sharing this. Abuse – of any sort – is not ok. Over the last few years I’ve seen too much of it – with both a family member trying to extricate herself from a psychologically abusive relationship, and an older (male) family member trying to get out of an abusive relationship in the workplace. We often think of psychological abuse as impacting women only – but systemic & subtle abuse in the workplace is almost impossible to prove – especially for men & especially for me over 50. Big corporations are the worst offenders and are able to continue offending due to the stigma and emotional trauma & cost involved with taking action. As long as they operate within the legislation they can get away with it.

    • Thankfully in NZ there is some good legislation in regard to workplace bullying/abuse, which more often than not supports the victim and awards them decent compensation. I know several people who have placed a copy of the abuse wheel up in their work places and within a few day’s it becomes a hot topic and the nasty behaviour stops.

      • We’re relatively good – until you get to senior management . That’s when it gets both nasty – & difficult to both manage, control & fight. Plus, the compensation in industrial court is limited to just $75k which isn’t a huge amount at a senior salary level & often a fraction of a redundancy payout – which is why the larger corporations will risk it. Where I work, there’s a zero tolerance & my boss walks his talk. As I said, it’s a huge soapbox for me, and I’m stepping down off it now 🙂

        • It is important to share and even more important to know that somewhere there is an organisation doing something about it. Sorry this has had such an effect for people in your life. D xx

  • Sorry for prattling on, but this is a real soapbox issue for me…

    • It’s not prattling on Jo, the more we talk about this topic, the more people become aware and then hopefully the instances will reduce.

  • Thank you for sharing these infographics. It is important for people to know that you feel much healthier as a person when you remove yourself from toxic relationships (family, friends, romantic, whatever variant of relationship). I’ve never had regrets and only ever wondered why I didn’t do it sooner.

    • Ness, often when you are in the thick of something, you don’t see the warning signs and it will take a major episode or someone else to say something before we see what is really happening.

  • Alicia-OneMotherHen

    It is sad that psychological abuse goes unnoticed and the sufferer is usually doing it silently and dying internally. Where as physical abuse is worn on the outside and more noticable. Thank you for bringing it to light and that it does exist and there are many who are suffering.

    • Alicia, our biggest tool to combat this type of abuse is awareness, so the more that now the warning signs the better.

  • Kerrie Wallace

    Wow!! Thankyou so much for this post. Looking back I have seen forms of psychological abuse from my second husband and am so glad that I’m not in that relationship any more. Thankyou again for sharing.

    • I’m so glad you are not in that relationship anymore Kerrie. If you think this maybe helpful to others in your networks, please pass it on.

    • I hope that now you have some understanding about what was happening in your marriage. Often, when you are able to put a label on an experience, it is much easier to gain the right support and move forward.

  • Woah, this is serious stuff here and I know that the more we talk about (and read about) what abuse is the more we may see it in our own and others’ relationships. There is evidence within my family (not us) and it is unforgiving for me and I am thankful the person involved has done something positive about it and learned from it. Thank you for linking up for #lifethisweek 43/52. Next week: My Last Year at High School.

    • It sure is serious stuff Denyse, and sadly it effects so many of us in some way or other. I wish this topic was discussed in high schools as part of their community health.

  • LydiaCLee

    This is a great post, and a good reminder. I also think the psychological abuse gets written off and excused (with people not realising how damaging it is) because it’s not leaving bruises. But the outcomes are equally serious.

    • In many cases the psychological abuse is more damaging. Often it has been going on long before the physical abuse starts and is a lot more complex to recover from.

  • I think it’s important to recognise the familial abuse as well as spousal abuse, or at the unhealthy relationships many of us can have with family members (and in-laws) and how toxic they can be. And yes psychological abuse is often dismissed or hidden when it shouldn’t be. #teamlovinlife

    • I sure now about toxic family relationships and sadly these are very common. So the more we talk about this topic, the more we become aware and then eventually the number of incidents will reduce.

  • Kathy Marris

    Both forms of domestic violence are so prevalent in our society. I can’t understand anyone staying in an abusive relationship. However sometimes it can be a financial decision, particularly when mums have given up work to be mothers and homemakers. Thankfully there are organizations that will take in women in need and get you through the initial separation phase with emotional and financial support. Thanks for sharing your own personal story with domestic violence. #TeamLovinLife

    • People stay in these relationships for many different reasons. Often the stigma attached to abusive relationships is enough to make them stay. People can be so judgmental when you are struggling to survive on government assistance and trying to rebuild your life from scratch, especially if you are also caring for children. The organisations that provide support in these circumstances are overloaded and struggle to cope with the demand for their services. So, it would be great if anyone in the community who was able to help support a friend in need.

  • I’ve been lucky enough to avoid it, but I’m working with someone in the middle of it – both sides are emotionally and physically violent at times – but she refuses to leave the situation. So difficult to deal with and offer help when she won’t walk away and keeps making the situation worse – toxic!

    • Sometimes standing on the outside its very hard to understand why someone won’t leave a situation. All you can do is be there, let them know you care and are there to help, when they decide the time is right. If there are children involved I urge you to contact support agencies.

  • writeofthemiddle

    I’m sorry to hear you’ve experienced psychological abuse Jenni. My sister has too and has just come out the other side of a very rough divorce. Many people don’t realise that abuse is not just physical so it pleases me to see a post like this helping to raise awareness of the many different types of abuse. It’s not only valuable to educate the general public but it may also help someone who is suffering a form of abuse to feel validated that what they are experiencing is in fact abuse! #TeamLovinLife

    • Min, if sharing my story helps one person escape from this type of situation, then its been well worth it. The more this is talked about the more aware we all become and then eventually incidents may reduce. I’m so glad to hear your sister has managed to come out the other side of the divorce process and can now start to rebuild her life.

  • This is so important and thank you for highlighting. I think emotional abuse is a bit like a mental health problem – you can’t see it so people don’t think it exists or don’t take it as seriously. I am sorry for what you went through but glad you came out the other side. I have been in a similar situation and the support I got from one friend in particular will be forever remembered as – not to sound too dramatic – she saved me.

    • Yahoo for your friend who put their hand up to help and also for you for making the decision to leave the situation and taking the support that was offered. Best wishes for a safe and happy future EmmaL

  • Such an important post. Thanks for sharing Jenni.