There are many popular myths and
prejudices about domestic violence. Not only do these myths lead to many
women feeling unable to seek help, but they can cause unnecessary
suffering. They may come to believe these myths in an attempt to
justify, minimise or deny the violence they are experiencing.
Acknowledging these cultural barriers can be an important part of coming
to terms with what is really happening.
“It’s just the odd domestic tiff, all couples have
Violence by a man against the woman he lives with commonly includes
rape, punching or hitting her, pulling her hair out, threatening her
with a gun or a knife or even attempting to kill her. Often women who
have been abused will say that the violence is not the worst of their
experiences -it’s the emotional abuse that goes with it that feels
“It can’t be that bad or she’d leave.”
stay in violent relationships for many reasons ranging from love to
terror. There are also practical reasons why women stay; they may be
afraid of the repercussions if they attempt to leave, they may be afraid
of becoming homeless, they may worry about losing their children. Some
women who have experienced domestic violence just don’t have the
confidence to leave.
They may be
frightened of being alone, particularly if their partner has isolated
them from friends and family. If they leave, they may decide to go back
because the children are really missing their dad, or because of fear and insecurity or because of a lack of support. Some women believe that
their partners will change and that everything will be fine when they go
home. (Sometimes the separation does provide a catalyst for real change).
violence only happens in working class families.”
Fact: Anyone can be abused. The
wives of doctors, lawyers, businessmen, policemen and teachers have all
sought help as a result of domestic violence.
Domestic violence crosses all boundaries including: age, sexuality,
social and economic class, profession, religion and culture.
and poverty are circumstances which can of course be very distressing,
especially to those trying to bring up children. However, unemployed and
financially challenged people do not have a monopoly on domestic
violence. Many people
survive the misfortune of unemployment and poverty retaining dignity,
good humour and a caring response to their families.
“They must come
from violent backgrounds”
men who are violent towards their families or their partner come from
families with no history of violence.
Many families in which violence occurs do not produce violent
men. The family is not the
only formative influence on behaviour. Blaming violence on men’s own
experience can offer men an excuse for their own behaviour, but it
denies the experiences of the majority of individual survivors of abuse
who do not go on to abuse others. A
violent man is responsible for his own actions and has a choice in how
only drunks who beat their partners.”
Fact: Domestic violence cannot be
blamed on alcohol. Some men
may have been drinking when they are violent but drink can provide an
easy excuse. Many men who
are violent do not drink alcohol.”
must ask for it.”
one ‘deserves’ being beaten or emotionally tortured, least of all by
someone who says they love them. Often prolonged exposure to violence
has the effect of distorting perspectives so that the woman believes
that she deserves to be hurt. It also distorts her confidence and some
women may start to rationalise their partner’s behaviour. Often, the
only provocation has been that she has simply asked for money for food,
or not had a meal ready on time, or been on the telephone too long.
blame themselves because they have been consistently told that the
violence is their fault.
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