Myths about Domestic Abuse

Many of us have misconceptions about domestic violence because information services and the media do not provide accurate information or insight into the lives of batterers or the women who are abused. The following myths are particularly prevalent.

Myths about domestic violence perpetuate bias against survivors, prohibit the development of accurate information and divert attention from the real issues. Eradication of these myths brings greater ability for societal and individual support.

Myth: Battering or being hit “goes along” with being a woman.

Fact: Some people believe it is their right to keep their partner in line and punish their partner for acts of rejection, anger or other behavior. However, there is no legal or moral authority given to a person to discipline his/her partner. Except in self-defense, there is no acceptable reason for using violence against one’s partner.

Myth: Battering isn’t that common; it doesn’t happen that often.

Fact: Nearly four million women are abused by their husbands or boyfriends each year (Speaking Up, 1997). About one-half of the couples in this country have experienced violence in an intimate relationship. A woman is beaten every nine seconds in this country.

Myth: Battering isn’t all that serious.

Fact: Battering is the leading cause of injury to women in this country.

Women who are battered may be verbally abused, slapped, kicked, punched, thrown around, and knifed. They may have minor injuries, they may have very serious injuries, or they may be killed. Women may have broken ribs, concussions, permanent brain injuries, hearing loss, and miscarriages as a result of beatings.

More than one million abused women seek medical help for injuries caused by battering each year. Battering causes twenty percent of visits by women to emergency medical services. (Stark, Flitcraft, and Frazier, 1982)

Thirty percent of female homicide victims are killed by their husbands or boyfriends. Battering accounted for twenty-five percent of suicide attempts by women. (FBI Uniform Crime Reports, 1982; Stark and Flitcraft)

Myth: Men are battered almost as often as women.

Fact: The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 95% of assaults on spouses or ex-spouses are committed by men against women. Many women use self-defense against men who batter.

Myth: Battering only occurs in poor communities or neighborhoods, or among
uneducated or minority people.

Fact: Battering happens in families that are:

* White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, or Other * Wealthy, middle class, working class, or poor * Elementary school educated, high school educated, or college educated * Heterosexual and homosexual

If we think of domestic abuse as something that happens only to poor people, or people of color, or people with little education, the dominant culture will find it easier to ignore. In reality, this is a serious national problem that affects all women despite their race, class or educational background.

Myth: Children need their father, even if he is a batterer.

Fact: Male children witnessing assault on their mother or female caregiver are 1,000 times more likely to be batterers as adults than those who did not witness such violence. Forty to 60 percent of men who abuse women also abuse children. (American Psychological Association, 1996). Children need healthy role models. Unhealthy role models damage children now and in the future. Men who batter women are more likely to batter children physically, sexually and emotionally. Their need for power and control of family members often stifles the healthy development of their children.

Myth: Stress causes violence.

Fact: Neither stress nor drugs nor heredity cause domestic violence. Domestic violence is “caused” by a person choosing to use violence. That person has learned from his culture and interpersonal relations to use violence and that his behavior is legitimate, necessary and appropriate at that moment in time. Like drug and alcohol abuse, many people use stress as an excuse to be violent. Many people who experience stress do not use violence. Violence is only one of a myriad of responses to stress.

Myth: The source of the violence and the source of the conflict are not the same.

Fact: Violence is one choice for conflict resolution. The source of his violence is complex and results from experience, training and permission. Using violence to resolve what he perceives as conflict is a choice he makes.