Katrina Stonoff

Myths About Abuse

Myth #1: If it isn’t violent, it isn’t abuse.

Truth: Domestic abuse can be physical, emotional, financial, or sexual. And every kind of abuse has to power to hurt you, hurt you physically.

Myth #2: Women can be batterers, too.

Truth: This one is both true and untrue. Yes, women can be batterers. I know at least one personally. However, it very rarely happens. This is listed as a myth because abusive men often use it to justify their own behavior, but the majority of batterers are men.

In fact, eighty-five percent of domestic abuse victims are female. Seventy percent of intimate homicide victims are female, and females are twice as like to be killed by their husbands or boyfriends than murdered by strangers (same source, emphasis is mine).

In my mind, the difference comes down to this: were you, as a victim, terrified that your batterer would destroy you? Most male “victims” are not. All women are.

Myth #3: A single event of abuse means the person is a batterer.

Truth: Like the myth about women batterers, this is both true and untrue.

Everyone is guilty of “abusive” behavior occasionally. One of the behaviors included on many checklists, for instance, is “ignores your feelings.” But everyone ignores their partner’s emotions once in a while, often from unawareness rather than an intention to hurt. 

What might make “ignoring your feelings” abuse is the frequency. One painful, hurtful thing shouted in a moment of anger might be a normal response, but a non-stop litany of criticism is abuse. 

However, there are certain acts that simply are abusive, even if they only happen once: hitting, shoving, choking, breaking your possessions on purpose, threatening to hurt you, threatening to kidnap or hurt your children, etc.

Myth #4: Alcohol causes abuse.

Truth: Nope, sorry. Alcohol can reduce inhibitions, so a man who is inclined to be abusive is more likely to be so under the influence. But it’s not the alcohol causing the abuse — your batterer is choosing to hurt you.

Myth #5: Battering can be a one-time event.

Truth: Again, sorry. Almost never happens. Domestic abuse is no more about violence than rape is about sex. Abuse is about control. Your batterer wants to control you, and that’s not a momentary thing.

Remember, abuse is a pattern of behavior, intended to control. And abuse escalates. If it escalates to the point of physical violence, it’s going to happen again. And again.

Myth #6: It’s your fault if you’re being abused.

Truth: Nope. By definition, no one ever deserves to be abused. But your batterer will tell you that you caused it by driving him past the point of self control or claim he acted in self defense. But you cannot cause a non-abusive person to batter you. 

He is choosing to hurt you.

Self defense is only applicable if you were threatening to hurt him.

Myth #7: Domestic Violence is no longer a big problem.

Truth: One in three women worldwide will experience domestic abuse. Battering is the single largest cause of injury to women ages 15 to 44 in the United States, and 22 to 35% of women in the emergency room are there because of domestic violence. (source)

Myth #8: Marital counseling can help fix abusive relationships.

Truth: Batterers will often agree to marriage counseling as a way to deny the real problem: anger management and domestic abuse. But in an abusive situation, the couple doesn’t need counseling: the batterer needs counseling (I would also suggest the victim get counseling, but not with her batterer).

Marital counseling, however, can be a first step. Your partner may be more willing to hear that he has a problem from a professional. Most batterers, however, will stop attending marital counseling if the counselor says he is the problem.

Myth #9: Batterers are violent in all their relationships.

Truth: Most batterers do not use violence in other relationships. They typically show a completely different personality outside the home, which often makes it difficult for friends and family to believe the victim if she tells them of the abuse. (from Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which credits K.J. Wilson, Ed.D., When Violence Begins at Home, 1997)

Myth #10: Men who batter their wives can be great fathers and should have joint custody*

* Quoted almost verbatim from Domestic Violence Myths compiled by the Clark County, Indiana, prosecutor’s office.

Truth: Studies show that seventy percent of men who batter their wives also abuse their children. Even if they don’t, the children suffer from witnessing violence. Batterers often display increased interest in their children when their wife tries to leave as a means of retaining control over her.