8 Myths Of Domestic Violence and How They Impact Us All

Domestic Abuse Myths
Domestic Abuse Myths
Domestic violence is one of the most misunderstood social issues in America. Most of us simply cannot understand what causes a person to inflict pain on the very people he professes to love the most, and we often assume two things: The abuser is mentally ill and/or suffers from some kind of addiction and can be treated; or the victim somehow deserves to be abused.

If we can wrap our heads around the severity of domestic violence, most of us still have one huge question: Why does the victim stay? The assumption often is that she must be weak and needy or that she chooses to put up with anything as long as her partner provides for her in a meaningful way.

And, finally, because the entire subject of DV is yucky and uncomfortable to discuss, most of us try to ignore it. We try to shield ourselves from the entire issue, sure that we will never be touched by it. We’re wrong. In some way, everyone is affected by domestic violence.

There is an underlying infrastructure to combat DV that many of us are just beginning to see and still don’t put into the proper context. Over the past several years, important federal and state laws and statutes designed to protect victims have been written and enacted. Specific training of police and other first responders to scenes of violence in the home has been implemented in communities across the country, and outreach programs in schools begin as early as fourth grade.

Millions of dollars have been raised by organizations to offer medical assistance and shelter to women and children forced to leave their homes out of fear for their lives. Hospitals and doctors’ offices now routinely ask women if they feel safe in their homes. Posters listing telltale signs of abuse are displayed in public restrooms. And yet, a huge swath of the population continues to misunderstand.

Let’s take a look at some of the myths of victims and their batterers and help set the record straight.

Myth No. 1Domestic violence affects a small population.

So many Americans continue to believe that domestic violence occurs only in poor, uneducated, and minority families. They are wrong. Violence in the home has nothing to do with the abuser or the victim’s cultural background, wealth, education, or ethnicity. It is everywhere.

One in four women across America will be abused by her partner at some time in her life. Seventy percent of the children of victims will also be abused. Thirty percent of female homicide victims are killed by partners or ex-partners. Ten percent of the elderly (65 and older) are victims of abuse. One out of 14 men will be physically assaulted by a spouse or cohabitating male or female.

Domestic violence is one of the leading causes of homelessness.Children who witness violence often make poor grades in school and miss more days in the classroom, suffer from depression, have thoughts of suicide, and blame themselves for the violence. They are often the bullies.

Thirty-eight billion dollars of federal, state, and local community funds are spent annually on lost productivity at businesses, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, homelessness, police and first-responder training, counselors, visits to emergency rooms, and court fees.

Domestic violence is everyone’s concern. Don’t think for one moment that you are not impacted by it.

Myth No. 2Domestic violence is generally caused by drug or alcohol abuse or mental illness.

An abuser learns and chooses to abuse. It is all about power and control. There is a cycle of abuse: Most men who are violent in the home experienced violence as a child or were adulated by their parents or guardians and feel that they are entitled to dominate and subjugate.

Male children often become abusers themselves because they have learned from their fathers that it’s all right to hurt women.And when they see their mothers stay, and have no conversation with her about the abuse, they learn that it’s accepted.

Female children might also become abusers or turn to prostitution. They often marry abusers just like their mother or father because, once again, they learned that inflicting pain is something that is not only tolerated, but also expected.

Myth No. 3 It’s a woman’s problem.

Eighty-five percent of abusers are men!

Myth No. 4Stress and anger lead to violence.

Violent behavior is a choice. Abusers use violence to control their victims.Domestic violence is about batterers using their control, not losing control.

Think about this: If a batterer is stopped by a policeman and is given a speeding ticket or is upset by poor service he’s received at a restaurant, he doesn’t beat the policeman or server, but he will go home and punish his spouse for what he perceives as a personal affront.

Consider this too: An abuser waits until there are no witnesses and abuses the person he says he loves, and he knows exactly where he can hit and kick so that the bruises won’t show. Abusers are in control at the time of violence.

Myth No. 5Men who are batterers are not necessarily bad fathers and should have joint custody of their children if the couple separates.

Seventy percent of the men who batter their wives also abuse their children. The cycle will continue.Batterers often show an increased interest and fondness in their children at the time of separation as a means of controlling their spouse. Abusers are excellent at deceit.

Myth No. 6If the spouse changes his or her behavior, the battering will stop.

An abuser will never take responsibility for his behavior and places the blame for his actions in the home, and his grievances over how he is perceived outside the home, on the spouse. This makes her feel constantly wrong. Over time, she internalizes the blame and assumes responsibility. But the harder she tries to please the batterer and the more justification the perpetrator feels, the more he punishes.

A spouse cannot stop family, friends, colleagues, or complete strangers from inadvertently diminishing the abuser’s self-image from time to time, and she will be punished for it. The only way a victim can stop the battering is to leave the batterer.

Myth No. 7With proper counseling, the abuser will change.

Most abusers do not change. They simply move on to another unsuspecting woman.

Myth No. 8It makes no sense that the victim stays.

This is the question asked most often: Why do they stay? There are many reasons why the victim cannot leave, and the reasons are enormous, but let’s put it into one simple word: fear. She is told by him that if she should ever try to leave, the children will be taken away from her or the courts will award the abuser cocustody.

She has been isolated from family and friends and has no one to talk to and often no way to leave. She has no source of money and believes that she has nowhere to go because she is economically dependent on him. She has been told by him that if she ever thinks of leaving him, he will hurt the children or kill her.

When a family leaves the abuser, the risk of violence against them increases exponentially. Most women and children flee from their batterer with only the clothes on their backs.

What can you do? You can make a difference. You can look and you can listen for the signs of abuse. You can reach out to someone and offer understanding and help. But you must never judge. One person’s beating another is a crime: Dial 911. Help us stop the cycle. Help us save lives.

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Penny Lauer is an author, motivational speaker, and writing consultant for memoirs. She spent several years working with abused women. Her latest novel, Skipping Stones, tackles the subject of domestic violence in an upscale community. Visit www.pennyslauer.com or email penlauer@hotmail.com for further information.

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