Domestic abuse is a frequently misunderstood issue. There are many popular myths and prejudices about domestic abuse, which are not backed-up by any research, but which can prevent the needs of those seeking help from being properly addressed.
Myth: “It can’t be that bad or they’d leave.”
Reality: Survivors stay in relationships for many reasons, ranging from love to terror. There are practical reasons also why they may not leave; they may have nowhere else to go, or no money to feed themselves and their children. They may be locked in the house for days at a time and, perhaps most importantly, it has been shown that survivors are most at risk from abusive partners at the moment of leaving. At this stage they may have a very real fear for their life.
Myth: “It’s just the odd domestic tiff.”
Reality: Emotional and psychological abuse can and does include depriving someone of money for food and clothes, depriving them of sleep, sexual humiliation, constant criticising and undermining their self-worth, threats to kidnap their children and threats to kill them. Physical abuse can and does include rape, punches, pulling hair, setting on fire, kicking, using objects or weapons to mutilate them, and even death.
Myth: “It only happens when the abuser drinks.”
Reality: Domestic abuse cannot be blamed on alcohol consumption. Some perpetrators may have been drinking when they are abusive but many have not. Alcohol is a convenient excuse for abusers to use and for society to use to explain the abusers’ behaviour. While alcohol may increase the risk of physical injury it does not explain the other behaviours that abusive partners use to gain control.
Myth: “No-one should interfere in the domestic affairs between couples.”
Reality: Domestic Abuse is a CRIMINAL OFFENCE and should not be ignored.
Myth: “It only happens in working-class / problem families.”
Reality: Domestic abuse is about power and control. It happens irrespective of age, class, disability, lifestyle, race and sexuality. It happens in families with and without children, it happens between people who are married and who are not. Domestic abuse is no higher in one particular family unit than another.
Myth: “Violent people just can’t control themselves.”
Reality: Most violent people are able to control themselves not to abuse in public or in front of other people, not to cause injuries where they will show and only to be abusive within their family. This is not uncontrolled behaviour. Domestic abuse is not just about physical violence. It is a systematic pattern of controlling behaviour ranging from controlling household finances to not allowing their family member to leave the house.
Myth: “They must come from violent backgrounds.”
Reality: Many people who are abusive towards their families or partners come from families with no history of abuse. Many families in which abuse occurs do not produce abusive men or women. The family is not the only formative influence on behaviour. Blaming abuse on a person’s own experience can offer an excuse for their own behaviour, but it denies the experiences of the majority of individual survivors of abuse who do not go on to abuse others.
Myth: They say “I’ll never do it again.”
Reality: If they’ve done it once, it’s easier to do it again and the next time it’s often worse
A violent person is responsible for their own actions and has a choice in how they behave