Myths about Battered Women

Myth: Women provoke battering or are masochistic.

Fact: Women are beaten for breaking an egg yolk while fixing their husband’s breakfast, for wearing their hair a certain way, for dressing too nicely or not nicely enough, etc. These incidents don’t warrant or provoke violence. Women who have been battered don’t want or get any satisfaction from being beaten. Survivors have begged the abuser to stop, sought help and tried to leave. His violence is not her fault. What is viewed as masochism may be an adaptation for survival. It is the abuser’s behavior that provokes or continues the violence, not the victim’s.

Myth: Once a battered woman, always a battered woman.

Fact: Women who receive positive intervention move past victim stage, rebuild their sense of self, and rarely choose another battering relationship. However, the fact that 20 to 30% of all relationships experience violence indicates that there are many batterers in our society.

Myth: Battered women can always leave.

Fact: This myth is based on the erroneous belief that leaving the relationship will stop the violence. In fact, batterers are likely to stalk the women who leave them – often making good their threats: “If I can’t have you, then no one can.” The point of separation is the most likely time for the batterer to kill the woman, the children, himself and anyone who gets in the way.

Two major concerns block women from leaving: financial and emotional. Most battered women have not been allowed access to information about finances or control of assets, including their own if they work outside the home. In a society where the average woman earns 60 cents for every dollar the average man earns, even if she has marketable skills she is likely to have great difficulty supporting herself and her children.

Because of the violence, the survivor has probably been isolated from friends and family, leaving her with few if any emotional support systems. In addition, the batterer has, in the vast majority of cases, threatened that he will kill her, the children, her parents, her friends, her boss or himself if she tries to leave. Sixty-five percent of intimate homicide victims physically separated from the perpetrator prior to their death.