There are a lot of things that people say about domestic abuse that are flat out wrong!
Myths serve as convenient excuses for abusers not to take responsibility for their behaviour. There is no excuse for domestic abuse.
Check out the following myths and realities and make your own mind up…
Myth #1 - Women choose this type of man
Most women's experiences show that in the beginning of the relationship men are very attentive, loving and caring. Women are not aware when becoming involved with men whether they are violent or not, there are no signs.
Myth #2 - Violent men just can't control themselves
Most violent and abusive men are able to control themselves not to hit or abuse their partners in public or in front of others or to cause injuries that are visible.
Most violent men are abusive to their partners and children but never to anyone else. Most men who abuse are able to function without violence in society, in the workplace and in all other contact with people.
We are all responsible for our own behaviour. For a lot of people it is easier to believe the myth that abusers are mentally ill than to accept that they know exactly what they are doing when they assault, rape or torture their partners or children. Abusers are responsible for their own actions and behaving in aggressive ways or resorting to violent acts is intentional.
Myth #3 - It's not just men, there are loads of violent women too
Statistics show that 97% of reported incidences of domestic violence and abuse are perpetrated by men against women.
However domestic violence can occur in same sex relationships and can be perpetrated by members of the extended family. In a very small number of cases (3%) the perpetrators of this abuse are women.
The majority of support organizations available to survivors of domestic abuse agree that domestic abuse is the result of the continued inequality between men and women in society. Therefore, society tends to condone aggressive acts from men in the long term and boys are raised to assume control over women in all areas of work, home and relationships.
Myth #4 - Abusers are violent towards their partners because of unemployment, drugs, alcohol, childhood experiences etc.
Domestic abuse takes place irrespective of income, lifestyle, sex, race, class, age, religion, sexuality and mental or physical ability. Factors such as unemployment, alcohol and drug dependency and so on, do not cause domestic abuse but contribute to exasperate the abuse.
There is no excuse for domestic abuse and violence.
Myth #5 - Domestic abuse only happens in certain communities; usually in working class, Asian or black families, and, there is more domestic abuse in state housing
Domestic abuse occurs within all communities: every class, race and culture. It is no more prevalent in one community than another. There is no typical abuser and there is no typical abused woman. Domestic abuse can affect anyone.
Women whose partners were builders, social workers, ministers, solicitors, teachers, psychiatrists, politicians, bus drivers, plumbers, armed forces, electricians, engineers, factory workers, doctors, police officers, civil servants have all been victims of abuse and sought help to deal with the problem
Most women who seek support have no other problems in their lives other than those caused by their partner's violence and abuse.
Myth #6 - It's not violence, they just fight
Repeated violence is often accompanied by continual emotional abuse and threats. The fact that some women may attempt to defend themselves by resisting physically during an assault should not be taken to mean that the violence she is experiencing is ‘mutual fighting’.
Myth #7 - It's just the odd domestic tiff, everybody has arguments
The difference between the occasional argument and domestic abuse is that domestic abuse is deliberate behaviour which is used by the abuser to exert power and control over the other person.
A range of different controlling behaviours are used in abusive relationships. They include depriving someone of sleep, criticising their appearance, telling them what to wear or where they can go, controlling who they are friends with or denying them access to their family, locking them up, threatening them with violence, hitting them, raping them or torturing them.
Myth #8 - Women get enjoyment, pleasure or satisfaction from their experiences of domestic violence
Women's experience has shown that this simply isn't true. Domestic violence frightens and disempowers women. No-one wants to live in fear.
Myth #9 - She must get something out of it, or else she would leave
There are many reasons why a woman stays in an abusive relationship but none of them are related to getting something out of the violence and abuse.
Myth #10 - It was a one-off, he's really sorry and it won't happen again
Once a man has started to abuse it is likely to happen again. Abuse is rarely an isolated, one-off incident. Usually it is part of a pattern of controlling behaviour, which becomes worse with time.
Controlling behaviour is things like telling someone what to wear, who to see, being very possessive and jealous, and undermining another's self-confidence and self-esteem continuously. Violence or the threat of violence is used by the controller to get his own way.
Men often say they are sorry after incidences of abuse; they may make promises and say they will never do it again. Often women who have left home return to abusive partners because of these promises. There may be a period where the man appears to be non-abusive by being attentive, charming and helpful. However most abusers will abuse again, and this phase of being nice soon changes to the old pattern of controlling behaviour.
Myth #11 - We shouldn't interfere, it's a private matter
The abuse of an individual is not a private matter, 25% of reported violent crime is domestic violence. Most incidences of domestic violence still go unreported. Domestic violence is a crime; we cannot go on ignoring it.
Myth #12 - People who are violent towards their partners must come from violent families
Many people who are violent towards their partners come from families where there is no history of violence. Many abusers have brothers and sisters who are not violent and abusive. There is no typical abuser. Within many families where violence has occurred, individuals choose not to be violent.
The reality (the facts)
Ken McMaster (MSW Hons, CQSW, MANZASW) has a thirty year history working at the cutting edge of intervention work with men who are violent and who sexually abuse.
Suzi Hall (M.A. Psych) has a background of working in child protection and forensic interviewing of children with Child Youth and Family Services.
Matt Williams (BTcLn, NCALNE) has a 15 year history working within the social service and criminal justice sectors as a trainer and program developer.