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Myths about domestic abuse

There are many myths around domestic abuse and its causes. Here are the ones we hear most often.

Myth: Alcohol and drugs make perpetrators more violent.
Reality: Alcohol and drugs can make existing abuse worse, or be a catalyst for an attack, but they don’t cause domestic abuse. Many people use alcohol or drugs and don’t abuse their partner, so it should never be used to excuse violent or controlling behaviour. The perpetrator alone is responsible for their actions.

Myth: If it was that bad, she’d leave.
Reality: Women stay in abusive relationships for many different reasons, and it can be very difficult for a woman to leave an abusive partner – even if she wants to. Like any other relationship, one that ends in abuse began with falling in love and being in love. Abuse rarely starts at the beginning of a relationship, but when it’s established, it’s often harder to leave. A woman may still be in love with her partner and believe him when he says he’s sorry and it won’t happen again; she may be frightened for her life or for the safety of her children if she leaves; she may have nowhere to go; she may have no financial independence. Abusers often isolate their partners from family and friends in order to control them, making it even more difficult for an abused woman to exit the relationship. Women in abusive relationships need support and understanding – not judgement.

Myth: Domestic abuse always involves physical violence.
Reality: Domestic abuse doesn’t always include physical violence. Women’s Aid defines domestic abuse as an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, by a partner or ex-partner. These incidents can include coercive control; psychological and/or emotional abuse; physical abuse; sexual abuse; financial abuse; harassment; stalking; and/or online or digital abuse.

Myth: He can be a good father even if he abuses his partner – the parents’ relationship doesn’t have to affect the children.
Reality: An estimated 90% of children whose mothers are abused witness the abuse. The effects are traumatic and long lasting. When a child witnesses domestic abuse, this is child abuse. Between 40% and 70% of these children are also direct victims of the abuse, which is happening at home.

Myth: She provoked him.
Reality: This myth is often based on the belief that the man is the head of the family, and that his role is to punish his partner or children if they act in a way he doesn’t approve of. The myth is dangerous because any reference to ‘provocation’ means that we are blaming the woman and relieving the abuser of responsibility for their actions. Abuse or violence of any kind is never the victim’s fault. Responsibility always lies with the perpetrator, and with them alone.

Myth: Pornography isn’t linked to violence against women.
Reality: Most consumers of pornography are male, and pornographic material is becoming increasingly explicit, violent, and focused on male pleasure. It’s also freely available to anyone online, and studies indicate it’s how many young people find out about sex. Pornography contributes to a culture of misogyny, in which women and girls are abused by men for male pleasure. Women are harmed by pornography in two ways: directly, when they are used for the production of pornographic material; and indirectly, through the effects of mainstream availability and consumption of violent pornography.

Myth: Abusers are mentally unwell.
Reality: There’s no research that supports this myth. Abuse and violence are a choice, and there is no excuse for them. Domestic abuse happens throughout every level of society, regardless of health, wealth or status.

Myth: It must be me, I attract abusive behaviour.
Reality: Domestic abuse is prevalent throughout society, and it is not uncommon for a woman to experience abuse in more than one relationship. To suggest that some women are particularly attracted to abusive men is victim-blaming.

Myth: Men who abuse their partners saw their fathers abuse their mothers.
Reality: Domestic abuse is prevalent throughout society, and because of this many people have grown up witnessing domestic abuse. Most of these people will never perpetrate domestic abuse in their own relationships, so it’s never an excuse.

Myth: All couples argue – it’s not domestic abuse, it’s normal.
Reality: Abuse and disagreement are not the same things. Different opinions are normal and completely acceptable in healthy relationships. Abuse is not a disagreement – it is the use of physical, sexual, emotional or psychological violence or threats in order to govern and control another person’s thinking, opinions, emotions and behaviour.

Myth: Women are more likely to be attacked by strangers than by those who claim to love them.
Reality: In fact, the opposite is true. Women are far more likely to be assaulted, raped and murdered by men known to them than by strangers. According to Rape Crisis, only around 10% of rapes are committed by men unknown to the victim. Women are far likelier to be attacked by a man they know and trust.

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