Domestic Violence: Common Myths and Realities

Domestic Violence: Common Myths and Realities

October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month and we would like to share with you the myths and realities of domestic violence that I shared with the students: 

False narrative: “Someone who chooses to stay in a relationship with a partner they say is abusive must either like it or is lying about the abuse.”

Realities of intimate partner violence:

·       Leaving an abusive relationship dramatically increases the danger a victim faces: when an abuser feels like they are losing control over their victim they often become more dangerous and abusive to try and regain power.

•         Discontinuing an abusive relationship is a process, and not a static moment in time.

•         Most survivors make repeated attempts to exit abusive relationships.

False narrative: “Someone who is abused by a partner would call the police or go to the hospital.”

Realities of intimate partner violence:

•         Reporting abuse can place survivors in greater danger, particularly when their partner threatens further harm if they disclose the abuse to others.

•         Police intervention is not always a safe option for victims or their families; someone’s race, ethnicity, or gender identity might make them a target for police brutality.

•         Police might end up arresting both the victim and their abuser, or just the victim.

False narrative: “Someone who is abused by a partner would always confide in family or friends.”

Realities of intimate partner violence:

•         Abusers often physically and emotionally isolate survivors from family and friends, leaving no one to reach out to; they might make their victims move far away from anyone in their support systems, dictate who their victim can talk to and when, and privately or publicly spread falsehoods about their victim to further distance them from loved ones.

•         Survivors may fear their abusers’ retaliation on themselves, their children, or their confidantes.

•         Survivors may be too ashamed to discuss their abuse, or they may fear that their loved ones will not believe them.

•         Abuse, even severe abuse, does not always result in visible injury: some forms of abuse are not physical, while bruises and other injuries can be difficult to see on victims with darker skin tones.

False narrative: “Someone who changes their story or says they don’t remember what happened is lying.”

Realities of intimate partner violence:

  • Trauma can impact a survivor’s ability to tell a story in a linear fashion. Trauma can also affect survivor’s ability to access memories immediately after the triggering event.
  • Survivors may take responsibility for the actions of their abusive partners for fear of harmful repercussions, or if they don’t want their abuser to get into trouble. 

False narrative: “Victims who use substances are completely responsible for the danger they face.”

Realities of intimate partner violence:

  • Many survivors self-medicate to cope with abuse, trauma, and their effects. They may need services that address healing the trauma that they experience.
  • Some abusers exert power over their partners by coercing them into using substances.
  • A survivor’s substance use, recreational or otherwise, does not cause the abuse that happens to them.

False narrative: “Someone who is angry or mean isn’t a victim because real victims are timid and scared.”

Realities of intimate partner violence:

  • Survivors experience a wide range of emotions. Anger is a common and normal response to being in an abusive situation.
  • Many survivors express fear through anger and hostility.

False narrative: “Domestic violence victims never have any resources of their own and are totally dependent on their abusers.”

Realities of intimate partner violence:

  • Many survivors have formal educations and hold jobs, but in order to limit options and independence, abusive partners may make demands on how the survivors navigate their jobs and manage their incomes.
  • Many survivors maintain relationships with family and friends, though partners who control may isolate their victims and dictate the parameters of those outside relationships.

False narrative: “Someone who has a record is not a victim, since victims don’t have criminal histories.”

Realities of intimate partner violence:

  • For many survivors, the pathways into the criminal legal system are related, either directly or indirectly, to their experiences of abuse.
  • Many, if not most, people with criminal records have experienced trauma at some point in their lives.

False narrative: “Only abusers use physical force, so someone who uses violence must not be a victim.”

Realities of intimate partner violence:

  • Oftentimes, victims are not passive and are actually very active in trying to stop or reduce the abuse they experience.
  • Survivors often have a heightened awareness of the danger they are in and will use force proportional to the perceived threat.
  • Even in moments that appear calm, the threat of violence to the survivor can be constant or increasing.

False narrative: “Emotional abuse isn’t real abuse.”

Realities of intimate partner violence:

  • The emotional and non-physical tactics of abuse, often punctuated by physical abuse, are very effective ways to control and terrorize victims.
  • Coercive control can be used to explain how an abusive partner can instill fear and create a constant environment of danger, even when there may appear to be none.