Myths and Realities
There are a lot of things that people say about domestic abuse that are wrong.
Myths serve as convenient excuses for abusers not to take responsibility for their behaviour.
There is no excuse for domestic abuse.
"It was a one-off, he’s really sorry and it won’t happen again"
Once a man has started to abuse it is likely to happen again. Abuse is rarely an isolated, one-off incident. Usually it is part of a pattern of controlling behaviour, that becomes worse with time.
Controlling behaviour is things like telling someone what to wear, who to see, being very possessive and jealous, and undermining another's self-confidence and self-esteem continously. Violence or the threat of violence is used by the controller to get his own way.
Men often say they are sorry after incidences of abuse, they may make promises and say they will never do it again. Often women who have left home return to abusive partners because of these promises. There may be a period where the man appears to be non abusive by being attentive, charming and helpful. However most abusers will abuse again, and this phase of being nice soon changes to the old pattern of controlling behaviour.
"Abusers are violent towards their partners because of unemployment, drugs, alcohol, childhood experiences etc"
Domestic abuse takes place irrespective of income, lifestyle, sex, race, class, age, religion, sexuality and mental or physical ability. Factors such as unemployment, alcohol and drug dependency and so on, do not cause domestic abuse but contribute to exasperate the abuse.
There is no excuse for domestic abuse and violence.
"Domestic abuse only happens in certain communities; usually in working class, Asian or black families and there is the most domestic abuse on council estates."
Domestic abuse occurs within all communities: every class, race and culture. It is no more prevalent in one community than another.
There is no typical abuser and there is no typical abused woman. Domestic abuse can affect anyone.
Women’s Aid has supported women whose partners were builders, social workers, ministers, solicitors, teachers, psychiatrists, politicians, bus drivers, plumbers, armed forces, electricians, engineers, factory workers, doctors, police officers, civil servants....a wide range of occupations.
Most women who come to Women’s Aid for support have no other problems in their lives other than those caused by their partner’s violence and abuse.
"It’s not violence, they just fight."
Repeated violence is often accompanied by continual emotional abuse and threats. The fact that some women may attempt to defend themselves by resisting physically during an assault should not be taken to mean that the violence she is experiencing is "mutual fighting".
"Violent men just can’t control themselves, they must be mentally ill."
Most violent and abusive men are able to control themselves not to hit or abuse their partners in public or in front of others or to cause injuries that are visible.
Most violent men are abusive to their partners and children but never to anyone else.
Most men who abuse are able to function without violence in society, in the workplace and in all other contact with people.
We are all responsible for our own behaviour. For a lot of people it is easier to believe the myth that abusers are mentally ill than to accept that they know exactly what they are doing when they assault, rape or torture their partners or children. Abusers are responsible for their own actions, and behaving in aggresive ways or resorting to violent acts is intentional.
"Women choose this type of man"
Women are not aware when becoming involved with men whether they are violent or not, there are no signs. Most women’s experiences show that in the beginning of the relationship men are very attentive, loving and caring.
"It’s just the odd domestic tiff, everybody has arguments."
The difference between the occasional argument and domestic abuse is that domestic abuse is deliberate behaviour which is used by the abuser to exert power and control over the other person.
A range of different controlling behaviours are used in abusive relationships. They include depriving someone of sleep, criticising their appearance, telling them what to wear or where they can go, controlling who they are friends with or denying them access to their family, locking them up, threatening them with violence, hitting them, raping them or torturing them.
"Women get enjoyment, pleasure or satisfaction from their experiences of domestic violence"
Women’s experience has shown that this simply isn’t true. Domestic violence frightens and disempowers women. No-one wants to live in fear.
"She must get something out of it, or else she would leave."
There are many reasons why a woman stays in an abusive relationship but none of them are related to getting something out of the violence and abuse.
Often a woman is too frightened to leave, her partner may have threatened to kill her, the children or the pets. He might even have threatened to kill himself if she goes. Research shows that most domestic murders take place at the point of leaving or after leaving and when a woman is in another relationship.
A woman may be worried about uprooting her children or having to leave them behind or having them taken into care if people find out about the abuse.
Many women blame themselves for the abuse, they think it is their fault. They may lack the confidence to leave or feel guilty and shameful about having allowed the abuse to happen to them and their children.
Many women are still unaware of the help and support available from agencies such as Women’s Aid and the Police.
Often abusers withhold money from their partners so women have no money with which to escape.
The woman’s abuser may have stopped contact with her family and friends so in a crisis she feels she has nowhere to turn.
Emotional abuse often leaves a woman feeling powerless, she may think she is not strong enough to leave, and / or strong enough to survive on her own once she has left. She may worry that she wouldn’t be able to find somewhere to live or get money to live on.
Emotional abuse often leaves a woman feeling worthless, she may believe the lies her abuser has told her and think that no one else will want her or no one will understand or believe that she has been abused.
Many women are still emotionally attached to their partners despite the abuse. This does not mean they enjoy the violence but they may think that their partner will change or that they can stop the violence and make the relationship work.
Many women do not realise how common domestic violence and abuse is, they think they are the only one experiencing it.
Some or all of these reasons lead many women to believe that there is no way out of the abusive relationship and that they would be better off staying with their partner and putting up with the incidences of domestic abuse. Women cope by finding ways of appeasing their abusive partner by being ultra sensitive to his moods of behaviour. This helps reduce the violence but it is short-lived as the abuser will always find something that 'upsets' him so that it justifies his abuse and violence against the woman or his children.
Some women may be carers for their aging or disabled member of the family (for example Asian women looking after aged parents in an extended family network). Escaping the violence would mean leaving dependents to fend for themselves and perhaps the risk of abuse from the partner.
If you are experiencing domestic abuse and you need help and information regarding your options, contact a Women’s Aid group now.
"We shouldn’t interfere, it’s a private matter."
The abuse of an individual is not a private matter, 25% of reported violent crime is domestic violence. Most incidences of domestic violence still go unreported.
Domestic violence is a crime, we cannot go on ignoring it.
"She’s not really being abused, she’s just using it to be re-housed."
Women usually minimise rather than exaggerate their experiences of violence and abuse.
Very few women are re-housed quickly. They may have to spend many months in refuge or bed and breakfast accommodation before they are given somewhere new to live.
"People who are violent towards their partners must come from violent families."
Many people who are violent towards their partners come from families where there is no history of violence. Many abusers have brothers and sisters who are not violent and abusive. There is no typical abuser.
Within many families where violence has occured, individuals choose not to be violent.
"It's not just men, there are loads of violent women too"
Statistics show that 97% of reported incidences of domestic violence and abuse are perpetrated by men against women.
However domestic violence can occur in same sex relationships and can be perpetrated by members of the extended family. In a very small number of cases (3%) the perpetrators of this abuse are women.
Welsh Women's Aid maintains that domestic abuse is the result of the continued inequality between men and women in society. Therefore, society tends to condone aggressive acts from men in the long term and boys are raised to assume control over women in all areas of work, home and relationships.