Abuse insidious

THE article ''Wife abuse in high places'' (Sunday Morning Post, April 24) is timely. The writer refers primarily to physical abuse and we know this is at the extreme end of the continuum of abusive behaviour.

If expatriate women are coming out of the woodwork to talk of physical abuse, we can be fairly certain the incidence of other forms of abuse is much higher.

Our experience tells us even where there is no overt physical abuse, threats to injure or otherwise harm, damaging property, depriving a partner of basic needs and outside support, emotional abuse through humiliation and public put-downs, and sexual abuse are all too frequent scenarios in expatriate relationships.

Abuse of alcohol is a risk factor which contributes to spouse abuse by lowering inhibitions. Abuse is a method of control. It is acting out one's anger and frustration violently. It is an issue of power.

As the article points out, there is a significant imbalance of power in favour of men in the expatriate community. This is exacerbated by male camaraderie. Women (and men) will need the back-up of support groups, counselling services, a change in attitude by employer groups, law reform and other protective measures if they are to be encouraged to break the cycle of abuse which psychologically scars both victim and perpetrator.

Following the passing of the Domestic Violence (Family Protection) Act 1989 in Australia, the Department of Family Services, apart from providing several referral services, produced some excellent printed resources. Many other countries in the Western world are at least a decade ahead of us. This is the Year of the Family: it is the year to act.

KAROL MISSO Director, St John's Counselling Service