Misconceptions about domestic abuse
Most of us have some attitudes, beliefs or ideas about domestic abuse which are incorrect and are based on a misconception about what domestic abuse is and who it affects.
The list below aims to challenge those misconceptions.
Click on the headings below for more information.
Domestic abuse between parents doesn’t impact on children
Children are undoubtedly adversely affected by one parent being abusive to the other.
Children, as much as the adult victims, are experiencing coercive control – being manipulated, confused and harmed by it.
Abusers frequently undermine relationships between the child and the other parent as part of their strategy to gain domination in the household, and children suffer far-reaching negative impacts.
Seeing or hearing a parent being abused is a form of child abuse. See also Domestic Abuse and the Law.
Domestic abuse is about anger
Coercive control is a choice to behave in a controlling way; it is not about being angry. The abusive tactics employed are used regardless of whether the perpetrator feels anger or not.
Careful targeting, forethought and intent often lie behind the ongoing course of conduct.
While coercive control involves forethought, interpersonal couple violence can be more spontaneous.
If someone discloses abuse, they are probably being ‘overly dramatic’
Most people living in threatening and controlling situations are reluctant to admit what is happening to them for many reasons. These include the shame of being abused; the fear of what their abusive partner will do if they tell anyone; and the fact that their partner will have minimised and justified their abusive behaviour, which will often cause the victim to believe it wasn’t ‘that’ bad.
Those experiencing domestic abuse may worry, with good reason, that people won’t believe them – especially if their partner is seen as ‘a charming person’ or ‘a pillar of the community’.
It happens because of…
Domestic abuse can sometimes be thought to be caused by many things.
These could include alcohol or drug misuse, unemployment, mental or physical health problems, stress, a lack of submission by a person, or having lived through abuse as a child.
This is incorrect.
Domestic abuse happens because an abusive person chooses to behave in a way that will enable them to have power and control over another person.
All other reasons that are given to cause domestic abuse are excuses and are used to justify abusive behaviour.
It happens to ‘a certain type of person’
It can be thought that domestic abuse happens to a certain ‘type’ of person. This type may be based on a socioeconomic status, a level of inner strength or confidence, religious or cultural background etc.
This is not the case.
Domestic abuse can affect anyone regardless of their race and or ethnicity, colour, religion, socioeconomic status, sex, gender, sexual orientation or level of confidence and inner strength.
The victim can cause their partner to become abusive
Often abusers will tell their partners that they ‘made’ them do it and many victims have been asked, ‘What did you do to let things get this bad?’
An abuse victim is never responsible if their partner chooses to behave in an abusive and controlling way.
Why don’t victims ‘just leave’?
This is a question asked many times about those in abusive relationships. If it was that easy, of course a victim would leave.
An abuser will undermine and put their victim down, to ensure their victim thinks they cannot cope alone.
It can appear financially impossible to leave the situation, and alternatives are difficult for the victim and their children.
Why should they be the ones to leave their home, school and all that is familiar?
The victim may be constantly weighing up the challenges, benefits and risks of leaving.
The barriers to leaving can be overwhelming.
It takes a great deal of courage to leave someone who controls and intimidates you.
Often partners leave several times before making the final break. Women’s Aid have information on their website about barriers to leaving an abusive relationship.
Statistically, women are at greatest risk of being murdered at the point of separation or after leaving a violent partner. Therefore, leaving without any support can be a very dangerous thing to do.
It is important that women plan their departure safely.