Myths and realities
Domestic violence is not well understood in our community. There are many myths that abound that make it even more difficult for women experiencing domestic violence. As domestic violence is everybody’s business, it is important to debunk these myths, and replace them with the facts.
Myth: Domestic violence doesn’t happen very often
Reality: Research has shown that one in three women experience domestic violence. Research shows that the biggest risk to women’s health (aged 15-44) is domestic violence (Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, 2004).
Myth: Domestic violence only occurs in low socio economic areas
Reality: Domestic violence can occur anywhere, regardless of where one lives.
Myth: Domestic violence is a private matter and should not involve others
Reality: Domestic violence is a violation of human rights and should be treated as such. Everyone has the right to live free from violence. It is detrimental to women, children and the broader community. Preventing and stopping domestic violence is everybody’s business.
Myth: Domestic violence is caused by drugs and alcohol
Reality: Often alcohol and drugs are used as an excuse, but they are not a cause of domestic violence. Many people use alcohol and drugs and do not become violent.
Myth: Violence is a part of some cultural groups
Reality: No cultural group is more or less violent than another: violence is unacceptable in any situation or culture. Whilst the role of women is seen differently in some cultures, in Australia all women have the right to feel safe.
Myth: Domestic violence does not happen in same sex relationships
Reality: It is not uncommon to find violent and abusive behaviour happening in same sex relationships. Some people choose to use different forms of abuse to gain power and control over their same sex partners.
Myth: Domestic violence happens because a woman must have done something to deserve it
Reality: To suggest a woman has done something to deserve the abuse implies that she is responsible for the violence that she is experiencing and that she has caused her partner to use violence to solve his problems. No one deserves to be abused: the way one person acts never gives permission for their partner to abuse them.
Myth: Domestic violence has no effect on children who are living with it
Reality: Children who witness domestic violence are at high risk of experiencing psychological trauma. Even if they do not observe the violence, children generally know what is happening. Violence leaves children feeling unsafe: they may become fearful, withdrawn and confused. Children can also blame themselves for the violence experienced in the home. They may also assume and/or learn that violence is a way of resolving conflict and they may display aggressive behaviours. For further information, see Effects of domestic violence on women and children .
Myth: Domestic violence must include physical abuse for it to count
Reality: It is not only physical abuse that counts as domestic violence: other forms of abuse can be just as toxic and destructive. Emotional and psychological abuse make women feel worthless or confused and question their own sanity. Just fearing the other person counts as domestic violence. For further information, see Forms of domestic violence.
Myth Women who are abused can always leave home
Reality There are many reasons that make it difficult for a woman to leave her home. The violence often escalates when she tries to go, leaving her afraid. Other reasons may include: religious beliefs; financial difficulties; children wanting to remain with dad; pressure from family and friends to stay; hope that the abuse will stop; fear of being lonely; stigmatisation of being a sole parent; unsure about the resources and support available; fear of not being believed; low self- esteem; lack of confidence; and still being in love with her partner. For further information, see Why women stay.
Myth: Women often seek out abusive men
Reality: Women do not seek out violent men. In fact it is very difficult for anyone to identify an abusive man, as they have no distinctive psychological profile and accounts from psychologists and others consistently emphasise their apparent ‘normality’. Indeed, in the early stages of a relationship, most perpetrators go to great lengths to ‘court’ their partners and show they are considerate and caring, making it almost impossible for a woman to recognise an abusive man. Suggesting that women seek out abusive men is like the myth that women ‘provoke’ or ‘ask for’ violence: it wrongly places the responsibility on the woman rather than the man and blames her for the abuse.
Myth: Men who are abusive are monsters who can’t control themselves
Reality: Everyone needs to control their behaviour and recognise they are responsible for it. If they can control their behaviour at work or in other environments, why can’t they control it at home?
Myth: Men who express regret and remorse have changed
Reality: Many men express regret and remorse after using violence towards their partner. Often they will say things like ‘I didn’t mean it’ and ‘It just happened’. These feelings, apologies and promises to change are a part of the cycle of violence. They do not indicate change: the man needs to take responsibility for the violence and be committed to change. It takes many steps to make the changes needed to develop the principles of equality and respect. Without this, change won’t happen. For further information, see The Cycle of Violence.
Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (2004) The health costs of violence: measuring the burden of disease caused by intimate partner violence—a summary of findings, Department of Human Services, Carlton, Vic