Common Myths about Domestic Violence & Abuse (DV & A)
‘Abuse doesn’t happen in same-sex relationships or with Transgender people’
Anyone can experience Domestic Violence & Abuse (DV & A) from a same or opposite sex partner and can do so regardless of the gender identity of either person. In some cases abusers will use the process of “coming out” or transition as an additional form of control.
‘It only happens in poor families or ethnic minority families’
DV & A does not discriminate. It can affect anyone regardless of age, culture, ethnicity, social class, religion, ability, gender or sexual orientation. Abusers are as likely to be doctors, lecturers or accountants as they are cleaners, taxi drivers or unemployed
‘DV & A is a private, family matter – we shouldn’t get involved’
DV & A is a crime, even though it is often committed at home and in private, it is still a crime. It is against the law. DV & A affects every aspect of a victim-survivor’s life including other family relationships, friendships, their children, work and general day to day activities.
‘If the abuse is that bad, why don’t they leave’
People may stay in an abusive relationship for many reasons and it can be extremely difficult to leave an abusive relationship:
• They may hope that the abuse was a ‘one off’ or that the abuse will stop.
• They may stay because of fear, for example the abuser may make threats against them or the children, to hurt him/herself, or against other family members or pets.
• They may have been isolated by the abuser so they have no network of family/friends to turn to for help, and/or may not know where else to access support.
• There could be cultural issues and pressure to stay, or language barriers, if the victim-survivor’s first language isn’t English.
• Their self-confidence and self-esteem may have been so eroded, or they may be financially dependent on abuser that they may believe they are unable to manage on their own.
‘If children don’t see the violence, they won’t be affected’
Research shows that 90% of children are in the same or the next room when violence occurs, so even if they didn’t see it, they do usually hear it. These experiences can affect them in both the short and long term. The emotional effect of witnessing domestic violence is similar to the psychological trauma associated with being a victim-survivor of child abuse.
‘It was a one-off incident’
It is extremely unusual that an incident of domestic abuse is a one-off incident. DV & A is a pattern of control and power. Generally this will increase in severity and frequency. While the abuser may apologise for the abuse, they do not take responsibility for their actions and blame other factors, such as alcohol or the actions of the victim-survivor.
‘DV & A is just about the violence’
This is a common myth. DV & A takes many forms and victims-survivors often say that it was the emotional abuse which had the greatest effect on them. By being constantly undermined, humiliated or criticised they can lose confidence and become anxious and nervous. This can also lead to them being increasingly isolated from family/friends and therefore more dependent on the abuser.
‘Abusers were abused themselves’
Extensive research shows that this is not true. Growing up in a violent home is a risk factor, but this is not the case for the majority of abusers. This is not to say that children who grow up with an abusive parent are unaffected by DV & A because they are in many different ways; it does not mean that they will become abusive in their relationships. Abusers who blame violence on childhood experiences are not taking responsibility for their actions.
‘Alcohol causes domestic abuse’
Many people who use alcohol never use violence against their partner or ex-partner and many people who do not drink are also abusive.
Some people may use alcohol as an excuse to deny responsibility for abuse. Alcohol and substance misuse do not cause DV & A, however they do complicate abusive behaviour and may increase its severity.