Myths and realities of domestic violence

There still exist many common myths about why domestic violence occurs, some of these include:

Myth: Domestic violence is a private matter between couples

Fact: Domestic violence is not a private issue; it is a crime that is often unreported and repeated.

Myth: Victims of domestic violence have a psychological condition

Fact: This characterization of battered women as mentally ill stems from the assumption that victims of domestic violence must be sick or they would not "take" the abuse.  However mental distress does not cause domestic violence but being abused can negatively impact on mental health.  Mental health can be used by the perpetrator as an excuse for domestic violence or for further control and abuse

Myth: Only when children directly experience violence are they harmed by growing up in an abusive household.

Fact: Children who witness or fear abuse display the same responses as children who have been physically and emotionally abused.

Myth: Domestic violence occurs more often and is more severe in some ethnic groups compared to others.

Fact: Studies have shown that patterns of abuse do not vary between communities although there can be various different ways abuse can be experienced and reinforced within different communities.

Those experiencing domestic violence can always leave.

Fact: There are many economic, social and emotional factors which operate to make it extremely difficult to leave an abusive partner or it may take a number of attempts to permanently separate.  In addition, leaving does not necessarily end the violence.  Women are at increased risk of death or serious injury at the point of separation or after leaving a violent partner.  It should also be noted that this myth focuses attention on the victim’s behaviour when it is the abuser’s behaviour that is the problem.

Myth: Perpetrators abuse their partners or spouses because of alcohol or drug misuse.

Fact: Alcohol or substance misuse does not cause perpetrators of domestic violence to abuse their partners, though it is frequently used as an excuse. Substance use may increase the frequency or severity of violent episodes in some cases.