Statement:     Domestic violence is due to poverty or lack of education.

Answer:     False.  Domestic violence is common throughout all levels of society, whether rich or poor. It is often easier to keep the violence hidden when a person has money and important friends, but it happens nonetheless.  There is no evidence to support the idea that uneducated or poor people are more likely to abuse their wives or partners than are more educated and affluent people.

Statement:     Alcohol and drug use is a major cause of domestic violence.

Answer:     False.  Although alcohol and drugs are often associated with domestic violence, they do not cause the violence.  Many men who beat their wives do not drink.  Men who drink and beat their wives usually do not beat random people on the street, their parents or their bosses.  They direct their violence only at their wives.  Men who batter their wives often continue to do so even after they stop drinking.  An abuser may use alcohol as an excuse for the violence, or alcohol may prevent him from realizing the level of force he is using, but alcohol is not the cause.  Domestic violence and substance abuse must be understood and treated as independent problems.

Statement:     A battered woman has many legitimate reasons for staying in a violent relationship.

Answer:      True.  There are many social, economic and cultural reasons a woman might choose to stay in an abusive relationship.  These reasons are rational.  Often, there is no place for her to go.  She may not have a way to support herself or her children if she leaves, feel embarrassed or humiliated about the abuse, or fear that her friends, family and community will blame her for the abuse.  She may be reluctant to leave for emotional or religious reasons.  In addition, leaving entails substantial risks.  She may fear that a batterer will carry out threats to harm her, himself the children, friends or family.  Battered women are in the greatest danger of severe or even lethal attacks when they attempt to leave, and she is the only one who can judge when it is safe for her to do so.

Statement:     A battered woman leaves her husband many times.

Answer:     True.  Contrary to theories of domestic violence that portray battered women as helpless, most women surviving in abusive relationships leave many times and routinely act in conscious ways to try to minimize the abuse directed at them and to protect their children.

Statement:     Men are victims of domestic violence as often as women are.

Answer:     False.  Research shows that women are victims in 95% of domestic violence cases. To the extent women do use violence, it is generally in self-defense.  Reports of violence against men are often exaggerated because abusers will accuse their partners of using violence as a way to avoid or minimize their own responsibility.  In addition, men who do experience domestic violence have more access to resources to leave violent situations than do women.

Statement:     Everyone knows a victim of domestic violence.

Answer:     True.  We all know victims.  Worldwide, between one quarter and one half of all women experience violence in an intimate relationship.  Victims of domestic violence may not disclose the abuse because of embarrassment or humiliation, fear that they will be blamed for the abuse, or the danger of retaliation from the abuser

Statement:     Men who abuse are violent because they cannot control their anger and frustration.

Answer:     False.  Domestic violence is intentional conduct, and batterers are not out of control.  Their violence is carefully targeted to certain people at certain times and places.  They generally do not attack their bosses or people on the streets, no matter how angry they may be.  Abusers also follow their own internal rules about abusive behaviors.  They often choose to abuse their partners only in private, or may take steps to ensure that they do not leave visible evidence of the abuse.  Batterers also chose their tactics carefully—some destroy property, some rely on threats of abuse, and some threaten children.  Studies also indicate that in fact, some batterers become more controlled and calm as their aggressiveness increases.

Statement:     Domestic violence is a problem, but only in remote rural areas. 

Answer:     False.  Domestic violence has been documented in both rural and urban areas.  Domestic violence is a problem everywhere.

  • Myths about domestic violence develop in part because it can be difficult to understand why one person would hurt another, particularly in the context of an intimate relationship.

  • Myths about domestic violence generally blame the victim or some other factor, such as alcohol or anger, for the violence. As a result, these myths divert attention from the actions of the abuser.  Domestic violence, however, is intentional conduct.  It is critical that all responses to domestic violence share a common understanding of domestic violence and focus on abuser’s actions.

  • Understanding the myths and realities of domestic violence can help us focus on the responsibility of the abuser.  This focus on the responsibility of the abuser is a critical part of any effective strategy for protecting victims and holding batterers accountable.
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