Domestic violence myths abound in our culture and exist even in our media. Some wildly inaccurate, while others may have a hint of truth in them that seems to help us believe the whole.
Myths abound in almost every culture. They can be the traditional stories that a particular culture uses to explain historical events or natural and social phenomenon. But they are also used to describe a widely held but false belief. Here are some more familiar ones that might surprise you: bats are blind; chewing gum will stay in your stomach for seven years; and cracking your knuckles will lead to arthritis. All of these are myths. Bats can see better than you or I in the dark. Chewing gum – although it doesn’t digest – just comes out the same way anything else we ingest does. And cracking your knuckles doesn’t lead to arthritis, but there are good reasons not to do it!
These particular myths aren’t really harmful one way or the other, but there are some that are.
While domestic violence has become much less acceptable in our culture, there are still many domestic violence myths that do not help the victims, perpetrators or anyone else who is working towards eradicating such an abhorrent and continuing problem. These myths are harmful in influencing the way we think, judge and act in regards to domestic violence. When domestic violence myths are widely held they contribute in discouraging women from looking for help and we diminish or rationalise the violent behaviour of men.
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Domestic Violence Myths
As you read through these domestic violence myths, think about which ones you may have been holding as truth. If you hold them, how many others unwittingly believe them as well?
Domestic violence victims look or behave a certain way. Not all domestic violence victims act the same way. They could look like you, or me; they’re people just like everybody else. No community, religion or culture is immune. They can be rich, poor, employed or not and with or without children. There may be some signs that someone is a victim, but more than likely they will hide it out of fear of their abuser.
‘Minor’ abuse or one-time incidents aren’t really domestic violence. This is seriously false thinking – just like an abuser. Any kind of violence towards an intimate partner or family member is not acceptable. Domestic violence nearly always starts with ‘small’ incidents, but then escalates – even to the point of homicide.
She deserved it or provoked it. Even if a partner was unfaithful or disrespectful, these behaviours do not justify abuse. Some claim that their partner was nagging or annoying. The truth is, most victims of domestic violence try to avoid confrontation by working to please their partners. There are usually further incidences of violence no matter what they do. Healthy people work on their relationships or end them – they don’t attack their partners.
It’s easy to just leave. Not if that victim is in fear for her and her children’s lives. They don’t live in freedom so there is no freedom of choice in their minds. This myth also puts the onus on the victim rather than the abuser to be responsible. There are many more reasons why a victim doesn’t leave her abuser including: threat of suicide, lack or awareness of support services, shame, a belief that families should stick together and fear of the legal system and police – just to name a few.
Excessive alcohol abuse causes domestic violence. While alcohol does play a part in about 50% of reported incidences, those same partners have offended when sober. Alcohol cannot be looked at here in isolation – there are often cultural practices surrounding the consumption of alcohol that may contribute towards domestic violence. Alcohol doesn’t in and of itself cause domestic violence, but often contributes to greater frequency and severity of abuse.
Domestic violence only affects a small number of people in our community. This is a massive issue in our community and is often vastly under-reported. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) National Survey in 2006 stated that over one third of Australian women reported experiencing one incident of physical violence or sexual violence since the age of 15. In any one year, nearly half a million Australian women experience physical or sexual assault (ABS 2006). A Victorian study in 2004 by VIC Health found that violence against women is the leading contributor to death, disability and illness in Victorian women aged 15-44, being responsible for more disease burden that many well-known preventable risk factors such as high blood pressure, smoking and obesity.
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All men are violent. The majority of men, young and old, in our community are not violent. Violence is a choice. Men who are violent choose when and where and to whom they will be violent towards. Abusers are responsible for their violence – not men.
Violent men come from violent homes. While this is sometimes true, there are many men who have come from violent homes who deal with their anger in healthy ways. There are also men who come from non-violent homes who now choose to be perpetrators of violence.
Exposing the falseness of domestic violence myths enables us to move forward with greater clarity in the fight against domestic violence. The truth is, while we hold these myths to be fact, we perpetuate harm to those who need our help and compassion.
If you know of someone in a domestic violence relationship who needs legal advice then please contact us today. We offer a free, 10-minute phone consultation with one of our experienced and caring family lawyers.