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.