Myths & Realities
- "It's no one else's business what happens in my house"
It's everyone's business if family violence is occurring in a home or anywhere else. Family violence is detrimental to the whole of society; therefore everyone has a responsibility to reject the notion that it is not their business.
- "She made me do it. If she had kept her mouth shut it wouldn't have happened - she asked for it"
In a physically abusive relationship, the abuser needs no provocation to become violent. Violence is the abuser's pattern of behaviour and it is a learned behaviour, not an uncontrollable reaction.
- "I've been under a lot of stress lately. I'm not really violent, it is the stress and the pressure"
People are abusive because they've developed the belief that violence and aggression are acceptable and effective responses to real or imagined issues.
- "My Dad did it to my Mum and they are all right"
Violence is a learned behaviour. It has been clearly established that those who have experienced violence and abuse are more likely to be violent and abusive towards others.
- "He can't help it - violence runs in the family, it was the way he was raised"
Family and friends make excuses for the abuser's behaviour. Regardless whether or not we have been brought up where violence is used, there is no justification for continued abuse. Violence is a learned behaviour and therefore can be unlearned.
- "She could always leave if she wanted to"
A person who is subjected to violence and abuse will often find that their self-esteem decreases and this makes it hard for them to seek help; they feel trapped and guilty. A survivor of domestic abuse may stay because she hopes her partner will change, because she is financially dependant on her partner, or she fears what will happen if she leaves. There are hundreds of reasons why a woman may feel unable to leave a violent relationship.
- "It's the warrior blood in me"
While most cultures do not condone violence, wider society still finds the use of violence as an acceptable and sometimes supported practice in certain situations.
- "She made her bed, now she should lie in it"
Blame is often placed on the person living with violence, who is seen to have brought the situation upon herself, and therefore must put up with the consequences. This myth has its origins in our past when women have been viewed as possessions, initially of their fathers and then their husbands. Failure to comply with a husband's wishes left a woman open to any type of treatment that the husband saw fit to deliver.
- "She knew what she was getting into"
Most abusers can have excellent relationships with others outside their immediate or extended family which makes it difficult for a partner to truly see the abuser for who they are until they are very deep in the relationship. In the first stages of the relationship there may be no abuse at all.
- "It must be her - he's fine with the kids, etc"
An abuser may only be abusive to his or her partner and children who witness this abuse can still be severely traumatised. Studies have shown increases in illness, social problems, aggressive behaviour, failure at school, and lowered self-esteem for children who have witnessed abuse of others in their families.
- "Alcohol makes him violent, he's only violent when he drinks"
There are many triggers to family violence. These mask the real causes - the desire to have power and control over others. Dealing with the perceived cause i.e. alcohol will not remove the underlying abusive tendencies.
- "He doesn't know of any other way to express his frustration"
Abuse is a learned behaviour, not an uncontrollable reaction to any form of frustration. Other ways of expression can be learned.
- "It must be something I do which sets them off"
Those living with violence often blame themselves for abuse, feeling guilty and even responsible for doing or saying something that triggers the abuser's behaviour. The responsibility for violence lies with those who choose to perpetrate it
- "Family violence only occurs amongst the unemployed or people who live in state houses"
Violence is found in all sectors of society without regard to age, race, culture, status, education, profession or religion. It may be less obvious among the affluent as they have better access to private doctors, counsellors, and lawyers.
- "He only hits me because he loves me"
Often abusers will use this myth to convince the person/people they are abusing that violence is a way of showing them that they care about what they do and are not indifferent to them. Often children are told by their abuser that they are being loved and paid attention to, and if the abuser didn't love them then they wouldn't be getting any attention. The reality is that the abuser is using power and control over the victim to emotionally abuse another person's self-worth.