Myths about intimate partner violence
Partner violence is rare
Intimate partner violence is common and universal. It happens within every community. It impacts all cultures, all socioeconomic statuses, all ages. In fact, one in every four women and one in every 14 men will become a victim of intimate partner violence.
Abusers are mentally ill
This is not true. A very small percentage of abusers suffer from mental illness. In the majority of cases, abusers are charming and charismatic to the point that it makes the charges difficult for others to believe. Abusers use power and control to manipulate and intimidate.
If the victim really wanted to leave the relationship, they would
The reality is that the most dangerous time for someone experiencing violence is when they are leaving the relationship. At that time, the abuser is losing power and control, and they will fight to retain it. Most of the time this is when the violence escalates the most. It’s not easy to leave. It’s this moment when victims must be the most careful and do the most safety planning.
Violence is caused by substance misuse
Many people think abuse happens because the perpetrator is under the effect of drugs or alcohol. Substance misuse and intimate partner violence are two separate problems. There are people who misuse substances who don’t harm other people, and abusers who don’t use substances but hurt their partners. While substance misuse can increase the violence of the events, it doesn’t mean it is the root cause.
Women are abusers as often as men, and it’s more prevalent in the gay community
Eighty-five percent of victims of intimate partner violence are female, yet it happens among heterosexual and same-sex couples. Intimate partner violence does not happen more or less for same-sex partners. In intimate partner violence, heterosexual and same-sex couples experience similar dynamics. It’s important to recognize that LGBTQ victims may experience more barriers seeking help.
If the victim didn’t provoke the abuser, the abuse would stop
No matter what, nobody deserves to be abused. If a person is naked in the street, nobody has the right to sexually assault that person or commit any kind of violence. It’s the same with intimate partner violence. No one deserves to be abused. For any reason.
Experiencing abuse as a child is the root of the behavior
Previous abuse is not the root of the behavior. Childhood abuse can affect one's physical and emotional well-being, but it does not predict that one will grow up to harm others. What we know is that it’s a choice, it’s a learned behavior. To change this behavior, the abuser has to have a desire to make a change. It also helps to be in an environment that does not tolerate this behavior.
They are still a good parent because they don’t abuse the children
Many people assume intimate partner violence only impacts children if they are in the middle of the abuse, or experience it directly. Some people think children may be too young to understand or be impacted by the behaviors. The primary time for child brain development is from zero to five years old. When children are in an unsafe environment, it impacts them. Even if they don’t understand what happened, there is an attachment disruption. Infants have been shown to develop startle responses to raised voices. Even if they don’t see the abuse directly, they can see fear in the parent. Some mothers can find it difficult to concentrate or give as much attention to the child or connect with them because of the ongoing violence. Children are very smart; they will catch on that something is wrong. They will feel affected in multiple ways: cognitively, thinking this is the correct way to live because they don’t know anything else; and emotionally, because they might be angry and confused at the same time, getting wrapped up in the same confusion the victim experiences by the inconsistent behavior of the abuser.
It’s also common for victims with children to think the abuser would never hurt the children because they are a “good parent” to the children. If someone is harming the other parent, they can not be a good parent. Fifty percent of victims who are parents say they stay in an abusive relationship for the child’s sake.