This misperception intervention is focussed on unpacking some top domestic violence myths:
Domestic violence myth #1: She must have provoked him
If being a woman is “provoking”, then yes- she “provoked” him. Nobody ever “deserves” abuse and no victim is ever responsible for their abuse. Domestic violence perpetrators make conscious and strategic decisions to abuse their victims. The responsibility for choosing to be violent rests on a perpetrator’s shoulders.
Domestic violence myth #2: If it was that bad she would leave
Conversely, the reason she can’t just leave is because it IS that bad. The real question is “what is he doing to keep her from leaving?” The second part of this myth that needs addressing, is the assumption that leaving = safety. We always wonder “Why doesn’t she leave?“, but the truth is that leaving is often the most dangerous time as the abuser becomes more violent in a bid to regain control of the victim.
Domestic violence myth #3: Domestic violence only happens to poor people
Domestic violence does not discriminate. It’s a society-wide problem that can happen to anyone. Poverty could be a contributing stressor or interacting factor, but it is not a driver of domestic violence. The truth is, domestic violence can be a driver of poverty; domestic violence is the number one cause of homelessness.
Domestic violence myth #4: Women lie about DV so they can get favourable parenting orders
Not true, my friend. The family law system is a tough place for survivors of family and domestic violence. It is far more likely for a perpetrator to provide a false denial of abuse, or for a victim to not disclose the abuse at all (for fear of repercussions on her case and her safety), than for a parent to make a false accusation against the other party in the hopes of getting a more favourable parenting arrangement.
Domestic violence myth #5: People who abuse are mentally ill
Sure, there are people with mental health issues who are also perpetrators of violence, but until misogyny is added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, mental ill-health is not a key driver of violence and does not explain the exponential proportions of abusers without mental health issues. A far greater predictor of abuse is the belief in male superiority, rigid gender roles and violence-supportive attitudes.
Domestic violence myth #6: Domestic violence is a private matter; it’s none of my business
You might think domestic violence has nothing to do with your life, and you’d be wrong. The truth is, since we are all responsible for upholding a culture that sustains violence against women, domestic violence is actually everyone’s business- injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere and we all have the power to make a difference.
Domestic violence myth #7: He loses his temper sometimes
Domestic violence is NOT about losing control- it’s the exact opposite actually. Manipulation, deception and coercion are used to control a victim’s behaviour. If perpetrators had no control, they would abuse everybody instead of strategically targeting intimate partners in the privacy of their homes.
Domestic violence myth #8: Men who abuse aren’t “real men”
The belief that men are superior to women; that men and women are each meant to behave/dress/live/be a particular way; that men are just naturally violent or aggressive, are some of the key drivers of violence against women. So, when we say things like “real men don’t abuse,” we’re perpetuating the rigid gender roles (i.e. “real man”) that often lead to DV in the first instance.
Domestic violence myth #9: Men who abuse are evil
This myth allows us to write-off violence; to not have to look at ourselves and how we as a society create an environment that teaches men that women are of less value. Men who abuse are not inherently evil. They’re everyday people who’ve been taught that:
- they are the superior sex,
- male aggression is a norm, and
- intimate partners should be subservient.
Domestic violence myth #10: Drugs and alcohol cause domestic violence
Many people who take drugs and alcohol are not abusive, and many people who abuse do not do drugs or alcohol. Substance misuse can be a contributing or interacting factor, but it is not the cause of abusive behaviour.
Domestic violence myth #11: There are as many male victims of DV as there are females
Men’s victimisation experiences are more consistent with being assaulted in public by another male, usually a stranger. Women are far more likely to be assaulted by a current or former partner, in their own home, or a private setting.
Domestic violence myth #12: Domestic violence only affects a small number of people
I hate to get all “Semantics Sally” on you here, but technically domestic violence “affects” everyone, since we all pay taxes that go towards services and programs that respond to domestic violence. Not to mention that you probably know a victim of DV (or a perpetrator) even if you think you don’t. But more to the point, if one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner, that’s a big freakin’ deal. What does that say? Domestic violence is so widespread and so insidious in Australia, that every week a man (in most cases) kills his current or former partner? I’d say that’s more than a small number of people, yo.
Domestic violence myth #13: Domestic violence is physical abuse
Contrary to popular belief, domestic violence includes a range of abusive behaviours- it might not even include physical violence at all, although the threat of physical violence (or actual physical violence) is typical (but not essential) for maintaining coercive control over one’s victim.
Domestic violence myth #14: Domestic violence only happens to women
Women are without a doubt more likely than men to be victims of domestic violence and men are predominantly the perpetrators of domestic violence, but domestic violence can (and does) happen to anyone. We should always take disclosures of abuse from all genders seriously.
Domestic violence myth #15: Partners need couple counselling
To suggest the couple needs counselling as a result of the perp’s choice to abuse, is to hold the victim mutually responsible for the abuse. It is not a “violent relationship“.
Domestic violence myth #16: Abusers need anger management therapy
Anger management implies that one has difficulty to control their temper. Domestic violence is the opposite of losing control- DV is absolutely about manipulation, domination and strategy, in order to control the other person. If it was about a “loss of control” abusers wouldn’t strategically use the coercive tactics that they do- they would just “blow up” all the time and they wouldn’t discriminate about who they abuse. There are plenty of “angry men” who choose not to abuse. [If we misdiagnose the cause of violence, then we assume the wrong intervention.]
Domestic violence myth #17: Going to the police will solve the problem
This isn’t a myth per-se; it can often be (and typically is) true. But it is also often false. A recent WA Parliamentary Report- “A Measure of Trust” found that police responses to domestic violence are inconsistent, with some very positive responses and also some very negative responses that can further perpetuate risk or harm to the victim. Similar findings were found in a 20-month investigation by the Canada Globe and Mail. They even developed a webpage for Canadian women considering reporting sexual assault, so they can put in their post-code and see the likeliness of whether or not their local police force will believe them, as rates between forces varied so incredibly across the country. Victims may not want to go to the police for many reasons. Respect her decision; she’s the expert in her life and knows his perp patterns best.
Domestic violence myth #18: A restraining order will keep you safe
At the end of the day, a VRO is a piece of paper. It is not a security system or a body guard. Don’t get me wrong: A VRO is a useful tool and can definitely provide protection from perpetrators who fear the law. However, a review into FDV-related homicides by the WA Ombudsman found that the more at-risk the victim was, the less likely a VRO was to be adhered to by the perpetrator. What other myths have you heard of?
Got more myths?
Let me know in the comments below.