When talking about domestic violence, there are often many myths and misconceptions that circulate. These myths can be extremely harmful to victims/survivors of domestic violence. Here are five common myths and why they’re wrong:
Myth: Abusers have anger management problems.
Reality: While this may be true for a very small amount of abusers, most perpetrators do not have anger management problems. People with anger management will lash out at different people, not just their partner. They have trouble controlling their emotions, especially anger. In contrast, most perpetrators of domestic violence display abusive and controlling behavior only within the context of their intimate relationships, showing a practiced control over their emotions and selectively choosing to when to use their anger in order to gain power and control over the victim/survivor. For more information, visit these sources.
Myth: Domestic violence is a personal family matter.
Reality: Domestic violence is everyone’s business. The harming of another person is everyone’s business and ignoring domestic violence signals an implicit approval of it. Domestic violence affects everyone. 20% of the victims in domestic violence homicide incidents are family, friends, bystanders or responding law enforcement. We must condemn domestic violence in our communities and show that it will not be tolerated offering support and resources to victims/survivors.
If these humanitarian and moral reasons don’t convince you (which they should), domestic violence also has a severe effect on the economy.
Myth: Domestic violence only happens, or happens more, in low-income families, in families of color or in certain cultures.
Reality: Domestic violence occurs in all types of families and anyone can be a victim/survivor regardless of gender, race, culture, religion, sexuality, class or any other aspect of identity. However, it is true that some people, especially women of color and LGBTQ+ people, may experience different barriers to accessing services for victims/survivors of domestic violence.
Myth: Alcohol or drugs are almost always involved in, and are the cause of, domestic violence incidences.
Reality: Substance use does not cause domestic violence. There are many people who use substances that are not abusive towards their partners and there are many abusers who do not use substances that are abusive towards their problems. Saying that alcohol or drugs cause domestic violence removes responsibility from the perpetrator by allowing the blame to be placed elsewhere.
Myth: Why doesn’t she/he/they just leave?
Reality: This dangerous question follows many victims/survivors of domestic violence around daily. The underlying myth here is that it is easy to leave an abusive relationship. It is not easy and there are many, many different barriers that may prevent a victim/survivor from leaving a relationship. Some of these barriers can include fear for safety, lack of support systems and economic dependence, among others. By asking this question and endorsing this myth, this can alienate victims/survivors who may be afraid that their loved ones/people around them will judge them for not leaving and, as a result, may make them less likely to seek out help and resources. A victim/survivor should never be blamed for being abused.
Myths and misconceptions around domestic violence can create a hostile environment for victims/survivors who are looking for support. You can help advocate for domestic violence awareness by correcting these myths when you hear them. To learn about more myths and the real truths, visit some of these sources.
This article was written in partnership with the Sr. Thea Bowman Center for Women of Siena College for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. If you or a loved one are experiencing signs of abuse, please check out these resources or call 1-800-799-7233 or chat online.