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Adapted from Advocates to End Domestic Violence
One of the largest barriers our community faces in its effort to eliminate domestic violence is our need to address and overcome the deep-seated myths our society holds about victims of domestic violence, their life circumstances, and their level of responsibility for the abuse. Below are some statements to better clarify the realities.
Statement: Domestic violence is not a common occurrence.
Response: False: A national study found that 29% of women and 22% of men had experienced physical, sexual, or psychological intimate partner violence during their lifetime. In the United States every year, about 1.5 million women and more than 800,000 men are raped or physically assaulted by an intimate partner.
Statement: If you are not physically injured it is not abuse.
Response: False: Abuse can come in many forms, such as sexual, physical, verbal, and emotional. When a person in a relationship repeatedly scares, hurts, or puts down the other person, it is abuse. Harassment, intimidation, forced or coerced isolation from friends and family and having an independent social life, humiliation, threats of harm to you or your family or pets, threats of suicide if you leave, violating your privacy, limiting your independence and personal choices are all examples of abuse.
Statement: A battered woman leaves her husband many times.
Response: True: Contrary to theories of domestic violence that portray battered women as helpless, most women surviving in abusive relationships leave many times and routinely act in conscious ways to try to minimize the abuse directed at them and to protect their children.
Statement: Alcohol and/or drug abuse causes domestic violence.
Response: False: Drinking and drug abuse lowers inhibitions or control over violent behavior, but use of the substance may be used as an excuse to let down these inhibitions. According to statistics, one-third of batterers do not drink or use illegal substances at all.
Statement: Children who are raised in an abusive household, but are not abused themselves, are not affected by the abuse.
Response: False: The psychological impact of being raised in an abusive household can be profound. Many children develop cognitive and psychological problems after having experienced abuse second-hand. Eating disorders, sleeping disorders, depression, aggressive behavior, destructive rages, stuttering, shaking, and declined problem-solving skills are all symptoms of such abuse.
Statement: A battered woman has many legitimate reasons for staying in a violent relationship.
Response: True: There are many social, economic and cultural reasons a woman might choose to stay in an abusive relationship. These reasons are rational. Often, there is no place for her to go. She may not have a way to support herself or her children if she leaves, feel embarrassed or humiliated about the abuse, or fear that her friends, family and community will blame her for the abuse. She may be reluctant to leave for emotional or religious reasons. In addition, leaving entails substantial risks. She may fear that a batterer will carry out threats to harm her, himself the children, friends or family.
Battered women are in the greatest danger of severe or even lethal attacks when they attempt to leave, and she is the only one who can judge when it is safe for her to do so.
Statement: Animal abuse is rare/is not a sign of an abusive relationship.
Response: False: Many abusers also injure pets and animals. Threats to injure or harm pets are used by many abusers to gain power over their victim. Threatening, injuring, or killing animals can indicate the potential for increased violence or lethality. Research has shown consistent patterns of animal cruelty among perpetrators of more common forms of violence, including child abuse, spouse abuse, and elder abuse.
Statement: Domestic violence is due to poverty or lack of education.
Response: False: Domestic violence is common throughout all levels of society, whether rich or poor. It is often easier to keep the violence hidden when a person has money and important friends, but it happens nonetheless. There is no evidence to support the idea that uneducated or poor people are more likely to abuse their wives or partners than are more educated and affluent people.
Statement: Alcohol and drug use is a major cause of domestic violence.
Response: False: Although alcohol and drugs are often associated with domestic violence, they do not cause the violence. Many men who beat their wives do not drink. Men who drink and beat their wives usually do not beat random people on the street, their parents or their bosses. They direct their violence only at their wives. Men who batter their wives often continue to do so even after they stop drinking. An abuser may use alcohol as an excuse for the violence, or alcohol may prevent him from realizing the level of force he is using, but alcohol is not the cause. Domestic violence and substance abuse must be understood and treated as independent problems.
Statement: Men are victims of domestic violence as often as women are.
Response: False: Research shows that women are victims in 95% of domestic violence cases. To the extent women do use violence, it is generally in self-defense. Reports of violence against men are often exaggerated because abusers will accuse their partners of using violence as a way to avoid or minimize their own responsibility. In addition, men who do experience domestic violence have more access to resources to leave violent situations than do women.
Statement: Everyone knows a victim of domestic violence.
Response: True: We all know victims. Worldwide, between one quarter and one half of all women experience violence in an intimate relationship. Victims of domestic violence may not disclose the abuse because of embarrassment or humiliation, fear that they will be blamed for the abuse, or the danger of retaliation from the abuser.
Statement: Men who abuse are violent because they cannot control their anger and frustration.
Response: False: Domestic violence is intentional conduct, and batterers are not out of control. Their violence is carefully targeted to certain people at certain times and places. They generally do not attack their bosses or people on the streets, no matter how angry they may be. Abusers also follow their own internal rules about abusive behaviors. They often choose to abuse their partners only in private, or may take steps to ensure that they do not leave visible evidence of the abuse. Batterers also chose their tactics carefully-some destroy property, some rely on threats of abuse, and some threaten children. Studies also indicate that in fact, some batterers become more controlled and calm as their aggressiveness increases.
Statement: Domestic violence is a problem, but only in low income families.
Response: False: Domestic violence has been documented in both rural and urban areas, in affluent and low income areas of the County and in families from every religion. The statement is a myth based on many statistics that come from shelters and other domestic violence programs. Domestic violence victims from families with low incomes have no choice but to use the local shelters. On the other hand, persons with ample cash can stay in local hotels, take vacations away from the abuser or visit family members and friends in other states. Local statistic on shelter usage may be skewed in towards low income families, however the truth of the matter is: domestic violence is a problem everywhere.