Myths and Facts about Domestic Violence

MYTH: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AFFECTS ONLY A SMALL PERCENTAGE OF THE POPULATION AND IS RARE.

FACT: National studies estimate that 3 to 4 million women are abused each year in our country. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in our country, and the FBI estimates that a woman is abused every 15 seconds. Thirty percent of female homicide victims are killed by partners or ex-partners and 1,500 women are murdered as a result of domestic violence each year in the United States.

MYTH: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE OCCURS ONLY IN POOR, UNEDUCATED AND MINORITY FAMILIES.

FACT: Studies of domestic violence consistently have found that battering occurs among all types of families, regardless of income, profession, region, ethnicity, educational level or race.

MYTH: ALCOHOL ABUSE CAUSES DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.

FACT: Although there is a high correlation between alcohol, or other substance abuse, and domestic violence, it is not a causal relationship. Abusers use drinking as one of many excuses for their violence and as a way to place the responsibility for their violence elsewhere. Stopping the abusers’ drinking will not stop the violence. Both domestic violence and substance abuse need to be addressed separately, as overlapping yet independent problems.

MYTH: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IS USUALLY A ONE TIME, ISOLATED OCCURRENCE.

FACT: Domestic violence is a pattern of coercion and control that one person exerts over another. Domestic violence is not just one physical attack. It includes the repeated use of a number of tactics, including intimidation, threats, economic deprivation, isolation and psychological and sexual abuse. Physical violence is just one of these tactics. The various forms of abuse utilized by abusers help to maintain power and control over their intimate partners.

MYTH: MEN WHO ABUSE ARE OFTEN GOOD FATHERS AND SHOULD HAVE JOINT CUSTODY OF THEIR CHILDREN IF THE COUPLE SEPARATES.

Fact: Studies have found that men who abuse their wives also abuse their children in 70% of cases. Even when children are not directly abused, they suffer as a result of witnessing one parent assault another. Abusers often display an increased interest in their children at the time of separation, as a means of maintaining contact with, and thus control over, their partners.

MYTH: WHEN THERE IS VIOLENCE IN THE FAMILY, ALL MEMBERS OF THE FAMILY ARE PARTICIPATING IN THE DYNAMIC, AND THEREFORE, ALL MUST CHANGE FOR THE VIOLENCE TO STOP.

FACT: Only the abuser has the ability to stop the violence. Perpetrating domestic violence is a behavioral choice for which the abuser must be held accountable. Many abused women make numerous attempts to change their behavior in the hope that this will stop the abuse. This does not work. Changes in family members’ behavior will not cause the abuser to be non-violent.

MYTH: ABUSED WOMEN ARE MASOCHISTIC AND PROVOKE THE ABUSE. THEY MUST LIKE IT OR THEY WOULD LEAVE.

FACT: Victim provocation is no more common in domestic violence than in any other crime. Abused women often make repeated attempts to leave violent relationships, but are prevented from doing so by increased violence and control tactics on the part of the abuser. Other factors which inhibit a victim’s ability to leave include economic dependence, few viable options for housing and support, unhelpful responses from the criminal justice system or other agencies, social isolation, cultural or religious constraints, a commitment to the abuser and the relationship and fear of further violence. It has been estimated that the danger to a victim increases by 70% when she attempts to leave, as the abuser escalates his use of violence when he begins to lose control.

MYTH: MEN HAVE A RIGHT TO DISCIPLINE THEIR PARTNERS FOR MISBEHAVING. DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IS NOT A CRIME.

FACT: While our society derives from a patriarchal legal system that afforded men the right to physically chastise their wives and children, we do not live under such a system now. Women and children are no longer considered the property of men, and domestic violence is a crime in every state in the country.