Common Misconceptions about Battering
There are a number of misconceptions about domestic violence that aid in society’s denial of the problem. Most of these focus on blaming survivors for the violence instead of addressing the issue of why individuals abuse their partners. Some of the most common misconceptions include:
Myth: The survivor, through their actions or behaviors, provokes the violence.
Fact: The use of violence has little to do with the survivor’s behavior and everything to do with the partner’s need to control others, their choice to use physical force, their own attitudes and expectations about male/female roles, and the lack of negative consequences they experience from their use of violence. If you are being abused, you have probably been told, at one time or another, that you do things which “cause” them to be violent. Remember, regardless of your behavior, it is your partner’s choice and decision to use violence. Blaming you for their actions is just one of the ways they will deny responsibility for the abuse.
Myth: Individuals who stay in abusive relationships are asking to be beaten, and therefore must “enjoy the abuse.”
Fact: This myth is especially insulting to someone who is being abused. No one wants to be beaten and, in fact, many individuals do leave. The reasons an individual may remain in an abusive relationship are varied and complex. It may be out of economic necessity, they may hope the abuse will end, or they may have religious beliefs or values about marriage and parenthood which make it difficult for them to leave. Most survivors are also threatened with severe harm to themselves or their children if they attempt to leave. This danger is real.
Myth: Domestic violence is caused by external factors or events, such as job stress, financial problems and alcohol/drug use.
Fact: The truth is while some or all of these factors may be present in an abusive relationship, none, separately or together, are the cause of your partner’s violence. However, they are often used as convenient excuses for the abuse. It is important to know that by eliminating alcohol/drug use or minimizing the amount of stress in your relationship or in the abuser’s environment will rarely stop the abuse.
Myth: Batterers are “out of control” and/or just have a problem expressing anger.
Fact: Abusers often report they “just have a bad temper” and temporarily “lost control” during the assault. In reality, however, most abusers control their use of violence quite well. They are usually NOT physically violent towards you in the presence of others, nor are they abusive to their boss, their friends, or their neighbors. They only use violence against their partners or their children in the privacy of their own home. They choose the time, place and people they will abuse.
Remember, violence is a learned behavior. Your partner uses it to control you and to get a variety of their needs met. This is not being out of control. Rather, it is exerting control.
Myth: Abuse does not affect the children in the family. Usually, they do not even know it is happening.
Fact: Abuse can have a devastating impact on children. Children usually have a very accurate perception of what is happening, even at a very early age.
There are certainly other myths that perpetuate violence against survivors by minimizing the seriousness of the situation and focusing on the survivor’s behavior instead of the abuser’s choice to use violence. If you have believed in these myths, you have probably been torn between your need for safety and the desire to preserve your relationship. Keep in mind an abuser will encourage a belief in these myths so the responsibility for the abuse will not be placed with them.