We’ve been talking a lot about different forms of domestic violence, and we’ve gotten some questions about things that we’ll politely call “domestic violence myths” – in other words: complete and total nonsense.
There are many myths surrounding domestic violence, ranging from what causes perpetrators to abuse their partners, to the “types” of women who are the victims of abuse, to why victims seek protection orders. Misinformation is never a good thing, but these myths can actually be very detrimental. They can cause a victim to re-think her decision to come forward and share her experiences, and can cause those with whom she speaks to doubt her accounts.
Some common domestic violence myths:
“He did it because he was drunk / high.” One of the most common domestic violence myths is that men abuse their partners because they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and wouldn’t have if they were in the “right” state of mind (sober). This is absolutely false: domestic violence stems from a desire to coercively control another person. Blaming drugs or alcohol shifts the responsibility off the abuser and onto the substance, which is just wrong.
“She can’t be a victim, she was drunk / high.” It’s interesting that we excuse an abuser’s behavior for being drunk or high, but, if the victim is drunk or high, we blame her. Just as being under the influence doesn’t excuse an abuser’s behavior, it also doesn’t make the vicim any less of a victim.
“She’s not the victim-type.” Women of all races, national origins, socioeconomic statuses, and religions can be victims of domestic violence. Studies do not support the myth that domestic violence only occurs against women who are low-income or minorities.
“He is such a nice guy, I just can’t imagine him doing something like that.” Abusers are often very charming, charismatic people. To the outsiders looking in, it might be hard to believe that the “nice guy” is capable of abuse.
“If it were really that bad, she would just leave.” Are you noticing a theme, yet? Lots of victim blaming in DV myths. There are a whole host of reasons why a victim of domestic violence wouldn’t leave an abusive situation:
Safety: You read that one right. Studies show separation is the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship. In fact, a victim is most likely to be killed by her abuser when she tries to leave. This is because the abuser recognizes that he is at risk of losing (at least some of) his power over the victim, and goes to extreme, often violent, measures to regain control.
Money: Victims may also remain in the relationship for financial reasons. Financial abuse is a very prevalent form of domestic violence, and could mean that the victim doesn’t have access to credit cards, cash, or a bank account. Without access to money, it becomes extremely difficult on a pragmatic level to leave the relationship, especially if there are children involved.
Love: One of the most common things we hear from our clients is, “I love him, I just want him to stop hurting me.” Domestic violence usually occurs in a cycle, with the periods of violence being followed by a “honeymoon” phase. During the “honeymoon,” the abuser will often shower the victim with affection, gifts, and promises that the abuse will never happen again. A victim may believe her abuser when he says that this is “the last time.”
“If he really did these things, then why didn’t she call the police or go to the hospital?” It is incredibly common for victims not to tell anyone, including law enforcement or medical personnel, about the abuse, and there are a lot of reasons why this is true.
Shame: It is not the victim’s fault that she is being abused, but she may not realize this, and may still feel a sense of shame or embarrassment.
Support: The victim may feel like no one would believe her or support her, and, given the stigma surrounding domestic violence, this is a pretty understandable concern.
Concern for the Abuser: She might be worried that the abuser will go to jail or get into trouble if she reports the abuse. This is someone that she still cares for, and may even share children with.
“She’s just doing this to get custody of the kids.” We hear this one constantly. Despite countless studies that tell us that women don’t fabricate claims of domestic violence to gain the upper hand in a custody dispute, abusers and their attorneys still use this argument.
These are just a few of the many domestic violence myths that are perpetuated. Our hope is that if you hear one, you will recognize it for what it is.