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Domestic Violence myths & facts

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MYTH: Domestic Violence is not a big problem.

FACT: Nearly 25% of surveyed women and 7.6% of surveyed men said that they were raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or date at some time in their lifetime. According to these estimates approximately 1.5 million women are raped and/or physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually.

MYTH: Domestic Violence is usually a one-time event, an isolated incident.

FACT: Battering is a pattern, a reign of force and terror. Once violence begins in a relationship, it gets worse and more frequent over a period of time. Battering is not just one physical attack. It is a number of tactics (intimidation, threats, economic deprivation, psychological and sexual abuse) used repeatedly. Physical violence is one of those tactics.

MYTH: Domestic Violence is a "lower class" phenomenon

FACT: Even though many people would like to believe this, the truth is people who abuse come from every race, religion, and socio-economic background. There are reports of attacks by partners who are doctors, clergymen, lawyers, police officers, judges, therapists, administrators, teachers - the list goes on.

MYTH: Alcohol and/or drugs cause the abuse.

FACT: Assailants use drinking/drugging as one of many excuses for violence, and as a way of putting responsibility for their violence elsewhere. There is a 50% or higher correlation between substance abuse and domestic violence but no causal relationship – therefore, stopping the assailant's drinking/drugging will not end the violence. It is not the cause of the violence; both problems need to be addressed.

MYTH: Stress causes domestic violence

FACT: Many people who are under extreme stress do not assault their partners. Assailants who are stressed at work do not attack their co-workers or bosses. They choose to assault individuals when they believe there will be no repercussions.

MYTH: The problem is not really the abuse of women. It is spousal abuse. Women are just as violent as men

FACT: According to the U.S. Department of Justice, women experience more chronic and injurious physical assault at the hands of intimate partners than do men. Women who were physically assaulted by an intimate partner averaged 6.9 physical assaults by the same partner, but men averaged 4.4 assaults. The survey also found that 41.5% of the women who were physically assaulted by an intimate partner were injured during the most recent physical assault compared with 19.9% of men

How Victims Respond

Understanding why a victim is behaving in a certain way is often the key to debunking the myths that surround domestic violence and finding effective ways of helping.

She may be threatened with increased violence or death if she tries to take action against her abuser. She may be threatened with or anticipate retribution against the children, her parents and friends,or harassment at her job. She may fear the future: loneliness, single parenting, loss of status and security of being married, loss of home, friends, she may believe that leaving the relationship and taking he children away from their parent will be worse for them and lifestyle.

Economic Dependence:

Two-thirds of custodial mothers receive no child support. Seventy seven percent of people living in poverty in this country are women and their children. Domestic violence is one of the largest causes of homelessness in our country. The dynamic of domestic violence often results in isolation for the victim. A woman who has depended on her abuser’s income may have no marketable job skills or been unable to maintain steady employment because of the assailant’s interference on the job. Victims often face having to survive on low-paying or minimum wage jobs, or public assistance.


"I haven't tried hard enough." "It must be my fault for how I acted." This attitude may have several sources. Women tend to be socialized to be the giver, the caretaker, the conciliator in relationships. Many of us are taught, directly or implicitly, that a good wife meets her husband's needs and that her needs are secondary or less important. If something goes wrong it is the woman's fault, the woman's failure. This way of thinking is reinforced by the abuser who blames the victim for the abuse. "I hit you because..." The victim tries to alter her own behavior to avoid further violence, and thereby accepts responsibility for the violence when it recurs. "If I had only _______, he wouldn't have hit me."

The Cycle of Violence or "It's Not So Bad":

Battered women are not constantly abused. There may be frequent periods of non-violence. Following a rise in tension and a violence attack, the batterer may try to manipulate the situation further by becoming apologetic and attentive. He is likely to promise that it will never happen again or, there may be no discussion of the violence for fear of disturbing the "calm" phase. In either case, the violence is likely to be minimized by both partners during this period, and it is likely to recur.


Abusive relationships are characterized by attempts of the abuser to control the behavior of the victim. Often there is severe jealousy and social control. The woman typically has few friends who are acceptable to her spouse, and is often estranged from her family as well. She may not have been allowed to work outside the home or her assailant may have consistently sabotaged her ability to maintain steady employment. This isolation may reinforce the feeling that she is the only person with this sort of problem and that there must be something wrong with her. The lack of a support system to provide emotional support also makes the prospect of leaving a relationship, even a bad one, very threatening.

Hope for Change:

The abusive partner may have been charming and attentive during the couple's courtship and may retain these characteristics intermittently with his spouse and more regularly with others outside the family. When his behavior at home becomes controlling and abusive, often right after marriage or during the first pregnancy, the victim may retain an image of a happier time and a strong hope that these times can return. She may confuse love for her spouse with love for how he used to be.

Abuser's Emotional Dependence:

A woman may fear that her spouse will be unable to survive without her. He may threaten to kill himself if she leaves. After trying to placate him and cater to his needs on a regular basis, a woman may find it difficult to act in a way that is in conflict with her spouse's best interest. Leaving an emotionally dependent spouse is often described as being as difficult to contemplate as abandoning one's needy child.

Distrust of the "System":
Women of color may not want to subject their spouses to the criminal justice system, which seems to deal more harshly with minority men. Victims may have had repeated contact with police officers who intervened by asking the abuser to leave, cool off or walk around the block, reinforcing the woman's belief that there is no outside help for her situation.

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