MYTHS AND FACTS
"Over time as most people fail the survivor's exacting test of trustworthiness, she tends to withdraw from relationships. The isolation of the survivor thus persists even after she is free." — Judith Lewis Herman (Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence - From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror)
Numerous myths float around when it comest o gender-based violence and these myths unfortunately have been accepted as truth over the years, such myths can only be broken through education and interating with members of communities, groups, public and private sectors.
In a sense, they become more powerful than the facts because they influence the ways in which batterers and victims are viewed by the family members, law enforcement, members of the public and even the way they view themselves, and the way the general public react to specific instances of battering.
This list will be updated from time to time.
MYTH: Abusers or batterers just have a problem expressing anger. They need counselling or Anger Management courses to learn to resolve disputes without violence.
FACT: Most abusers have no problem resolving disputes with their boss or other outside person without resorting to violence. They chose to use violence and other forms of abuse against their partner as a means of maintaining their power over them.
MYTH: Battered women hate men. Battered women need to learn that not all men are bad.
FACT: Battered women do not hate men. They hate being battered.
MYTH: A man's home is his castle. No one should interfere with the family.
FACT: Battery is a crime! No one has the right to beat another person.
MYTH: A woman who gets beaten brings it upon herself by nagging or provoking her spouse.
FACT: People are beaten for reasons as ridiculous as: the dinner is cold; the TV was turned to the wrong channel; the baby was crying. Abusive people refuse to control their violent impulses. Even where the person may have reason to be angry, they have no right to express their anger violently.
MYTH: A person who stays with an abuser after being beaten must like to be beaten.
FACT: Being beaten hurts and no one likes it. There are many reasons why victims remain with abusers including their fear of further violence, the financial hardship of leaving, religious reasons, their emotional attachment to their partners, and their belief that families should stay together.
MYTH: Domestic violence is a "loss of control."
FACT: Violent behavior is a choice. Perpetrators use it to control their victims. Domestic violence is about batterers using their control, not losing their control. Their actions are very deliberate.
MYTH: If the victim didn't like it, she would leave.
FACT: Victims do not like the abuse. They stay in the relationship for many reasons, including fear. Most do eventually leave.
MYTH: Domestic violence only occurs in a small percentage of relationships.
FACT: Estimates report that domestic violence occurs in 1/4 to 1/3 of all intimate relationships. That applies to heterosexual as well as same-sex relationships.
MYTH: Middle and upper class women do not get battered as frequently as poor women.
FACT: Domestic violence occurs in all socio-economical levels. Because women with money usually have more access to resources, poorer women tend to utilize community agencies, and are therefore more visible
MYTH: Batterers are violent in all their relationships.
FACT: Batterers choose to be violent toward their partners in ways they would never consider treating other people.
MYTH: Alcohol/Drugs cause battering behavior.
FACT: Although many abusive partners also abuse alcohol and/or drugs, this is not the underlying cause of the battering. Many batterers use alcohol/drugs as an excuse to explain their violence.
MYTH: Once a battered woman, always a battered woman.
FACT: While some battered women have been in more than one abusive relationship, women who receive domestic violence services are the least likely to enter another abusive relationship.
MYTH: When a woman batters a man it is acceptable behaviour.
FACT: This is not acceptable behaviour as violence should never be in any relationship.
MYTH: Abuse only happens in certain "problem" families, ethnic minorities, uneducated or poorer areas.
FACT: Abuse pervades every ethnic, social strata. White collar workers are just as likely to abuse their wives as are blue-collar workers; financially independent people are just as likely to suffer abuse as are people on low incomes. It is not the social standing, the amount of stress lived under or the company kept which makes an abuser, but the internal need for power, the belief that they have the right to control someone else.
MYTH: Domestic Abuse is a family matter.
FACT: Abusing, battering, assaulting or raping another person is a criminal offence. Domestic Abuse has far-reaching social implications for everyone, affecting the abused person’s ability to lead a productive life and encouraging children brought up in an abusive home to repeat the cycle themselves and having a detremental impact on their emotional and sometimes physical well-being. A lot of doctors and hospital time and funds are needed to help those who have been victimised or beaten.
MYTH: Domestic Abuse is not such a big problem – very few women are actually badly hurt .
FACT: Domestic Abuse is a HUGE problem. It is estimated that 1 in 4 women live in abusive relationships, and within our lifetime half of us can expect to be the victim of domestic or intimate violence. Abuse can be lethal. More women are killed by their partner or ex-partner than by a stranger (current UK statistics suggest one woman is murdered by her partner or expartner every 3 days). And even where physical violence has not occurred, the emotional scars can often have a lifelong effect on the victim.
MYTH: Some women ask for it, provoke it, want it or even deserve it.
FACT: NOBODY deserves to be beaten or abused. Women often have to walk on eggshells and try their best to avoid another incident. The abuser WANTS to abuse. This myth encourages the blame-shifting from the abuser to the abused and avoids the stark reality that only the abuser is responsible for his/her own actions.
MYTH: Domestic Abuse is caused by excessive alcohol or the use of drugs.
FACT: A lot of research is going into the link between drug or alcohol use and violence. However, although some abusers are more prone to being violent when drunk, many more abuse when completely sober. Alcohol and drugs may increase the violence, but they do not cause it. Alcohol and drug abuse are separate issues from abuse, though they may overlap. Once again, blaming chemical dependency for abuse is missing the point, the abuser is responsible for his actions.
MYTH: Domestic abuse is a one-off incident .
FACT: Very rarely is abuse a one-off. Most often it is part of an ongoing means of establishing and maintaining control over another person. Abuse tends to increase both in velocity and extent over a period of time.
MYTH: It can’t be that bad, or she/he would leave.
FACT: There are many emotional, social, spiritual and financial hurdles to overcome before someone being abused can leave. Very often the constant undermining of the victims self-belief and self-esteem can leave him/her with very little confidence, socially isolated, and without the normal decision-making abilities. Leaving or trying to leave will also often increase the violence or abuse, and can put both the victim and her children in a position of fearing for their lives. Leaving is the ultimate threat to the abusers power and control, and he will often do anything rather than let her go.
MYTH: Abusers are always coarse, nasty, violent men and easily identified
FACT: Abusers are often apparently charming, generous and well-presented people who can hold positions of social standing. Abuse is kept for those nearest to him or her, to the privacy of their own homes. This Jekyll and Hyde tendency of the abuser can further confuse and frighten the person being abused, as the person in private is so very different to the person everyone else sees. It can also mean that when the person being abused finally does try to tell his/her friends, family or acquaintances of the abuse, he or she is not believed, because the person they are describing simply doesn’t fit the image portrayed in public.