There are many myths surrounding domestic abuse. By believing them we allow the problem to continue.
- Domestic abuse is only physical
- It only happens in poor families on council estates
- More people would leave if the abuse was that bad
- Abusers grow up in violent homes
- Some people like violence
- People ask for it. They deserve what they get
- Abusive people have a mental illness
- Alcohol and drugs make people violent
- They lose their temper sometimes, that’s all
- Domestic violence is a private matter, you shouldn’t get involved
Domestic abuse can take many forms and can include intimidation, coercion, financial control, isolation, psychological control/abuse, as well as physical violence.
Anyone can be abused, no matter where they live or how much money they have. Abused women and men come from all walks of life. You only have to think of the celebrities we hear about in the papers to realise that money cannot protect you from domestic violence.
It can be extremely difficult to leave an abusive partner. The abused person may fear what their partner will do if they leave, particularly if they have threatened to kill them or their children. The person may believe that staying with their partner is better for the children.
There are also practical considerations to take into account. The person may not have access to money, or anywhere to go. They may not know where to turn for help, particularly if English is not their first language. If they are emotionally and financially dependent on their partner, they may be very isolated.
People from different cultures can find it particularly difficult to leave an abusive partner as this would bring shame on both themselves and their family. They may feel like they are betraying their community if they contact the police.
An abused person's self-esteem will have been steadily worn down. They may not believe they will manage on their own or that they have any other options. They may feel ashamed of what has happened and believe the abuse is their fault.
They may hope that their partner will change. They remember the good times at the start of the relationship and hope they will return. In emotional terms they have made a huge investment in the relationship and they want it to work.
This is not true. Growing up in a violent home is a risk factor and some children who experience abuse do go on to be abusive in their relationships. But many do not. Instead they are repelled by violence because they have seen the damage it causes. They would not dream of hitting their partner.
Abusers learn to be violent from the society they grow up in. People who blame violence on their childhood experiences are avoiding taking responsibility for their actions. Violence is a choice an abuser makes.
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5. Some people like violence
No-one enjoys violence or finds it a turn-on. Most abused people live in fear and terror. This is a way of blaming the victim for what is happening.
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6. People ask for it. They deserve what they get
A person is often attacked by their partner for no apparent reason. Even if a person has behaved appallingly, they do not deserve to be beaten. Violence and intimidation are not acceptable ways to solve conflict in a relationship.
Again, this is a way of making excuses for the abuser’s behaviour. It allows a violent person to avoid responsibility for their actions.
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7. Abusive people have a mental illness
The vast majority of people who abuse their partner are not mentally ill. Research shows that the proportion of abusers with mental health problems is no higher than in society as a whole. And if an abusive person were mentally ill, why is it that they only abuse their partner – not their colleagues, strangers or friends?
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8. Alcohol and drugs make people violent
Many people are violent when they are stone-cold sober. Many people who drink never lay a finger on their partner.
Blaming drink or drugs is an excuse, a way of denying responsibility. Both may be the trigger for a particular attack but they are not the underlying cause.
People argue that an abusive person “loses their temper”, or is “out of control”. The truth is that they are very much in control.
Abusers are usually selective about when they hit their partner, eg in private or when the children are asleep. They choose not to mark their face or other parts of the body which show. They never “lost their temper” with other people. This suggests they are very aware of what they are doing.
Many people abuse their partners emotionally and psychologically, without ever using physical violence. This shows the extent of their control.
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10. Domestic violence is a private matter, you shouldn’t get involved
For too long domestic violence has been allowed to happen behind closed doors. People think what goes on in the home is private, and not their problem. Domestic violence is a crime. It is against the law. We are all affected by domestic violence, and we all have a responsibility to speak out against it. Only then will it end.