Domestic Violence: Myths and Facts

Myths and facts about domestic violence

Myth: Domestic violence does not affect many people.

Fact: Nearly one in three adult women experiences at least one physical assault by a partner during adulthood. (American Psychological Assn., Violence and the Family: Report of the American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family, 1996)

Myth: Battering is only a momentary loss of temper.

Fact: Battering is the establishment of control and fear in a relationship through violence and other forms of abuse. The batterer uses acts of violence and a series of behaviors, including intimidation, threats, psychological abuse, isolation, etc. to coerce and to control the other person. The violence may not happen often, but it remains as a hidden (and constant) terrorizing factor. (Uniform Crime Reports, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1990)

Two thirds of women physically assaulted by an intimate said they were victimized multiple times by the same partner in a 12-month period. (NVAW Survey, July 2000)

Myth: Domestic violence only occurs in poor, urban areas.

Fact: Women of all cultures, races, occupations, income levels, and ages are battered - by husbands, boyfriends, lovers and partners (Surgeon General Antonia Novello, as quoted in Domestic Violence: Battered Women, publication of the Reference Department of the Cambridge Public Library, Cambridge, MA)

"Approximately one-third of the men counseled (for battering) at Emerge (Perpetrator's Intervention Program) are professional men who are well respected in their jobs and their communities. These have included doctors, psychologists, lawyers, ministers, and business executives. (For Shelter and Beyond, Massachusetts Coalition of Battered Women Service Groups, Boston, MA 1990)

Myth: Domestic violence is just a push, slap or punch -- it does not produce serious injuries.

Fact: More than one third of all rapes and physical assaults committed against women by intimates results in injury in which women receive some medical care. (NVAW Survey, July 2000)

Most research reports that violence against women escalates during pregnancy. One study found that 37 percent of obstetric patients were physically abused during pregnancy. (A. Helton, "Battering during pregnancy," American Journal of Nursing , August 1986.) Each year, medical expenses from domestic violence total at least $3 to $5 billion (Domestic Violence for Health Care Providers, 3rd Edition, Colorado Domestic Violence Coalition, 1991.)

Myths from a friend's perspective

Myth: Why should I get involved in her problem--isn't it just a family matter?

Fact: Domestic violence is not just a family problem, it is a crime.

Myth: It can't really be that bad.

Fact: Domestic violence is that bad. It is the single most common source of injury to women, more common than automobile accidents, muggings, and rape by a stranger combined. It increases in severity and frequency over time. It is estimated that over 2 million American women are beaten in their homes each year. It is a crime.

Myth: That doesn't happen in my neighborhood.

Fact: Domestic violence occurs among all races, ages, religions and socio-economic levels. No state, no city, no community and no neighborhood is immune.

Myth: She must be provoking him.

Fact: She is a victim and is not to blame. No one deserves to be beaten. The abuser chooses to abuse her to maintain power and control in the relationship.

Myth: If it's so bad, why doesn't she just leave?

Fact: Any relationship can be difficult to end. She may be financially dependent or have limited job skills. Religious, cultural or family pressures may keep her in the marriage. She may have tried to leave and he stopped her; he may have threatened to take the children from her, or harm her more if she leaves him. Over 75 percent of women are killed after they leave an abusive partner.

Myth: I know him. He seems like a nice guy.

Fact: Many abusers are not violent in other relationships. They even can appear 'charming' to outsiders. However, this does not indicate the kind of person he is behind closed doors. Believe her.

Myth: He has a drinking problem. May be if he just got help for it, he'd stop abusing her.

Fact: Alcohol and drug use many intensify violent behavior, but it does not cause battering. Men are abusive with and without alcohol and drugs. Abusers want all the power and control in the relationship and that is their motivation; not the substances they use or abuse.

Myth: If she wanted my help, she'd ask for it.

Fact: Your friend may not feel comfortable revealing her situation to you. She may be embarrassed or humiliated.

Myth: She seems distant. I don't know if we're still friends.

Fact: Women in violent homes are often isolated from friends and family by their abusers. The abuser wants total control and does not want her talking to others. It is important to continue to reach out to her, and let her know you care.