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Myths and Facts
Here are some myths and facts about domestic abuse within all types of relationships:
Myth: It takes two to tango - abuse in relationships is usually caused by both people.
Fact: Genuine ‘mutual abuse’ is not common. A ‘fight’ where both people are equal is rare. A pattern of violence that includes control and domination by one of the partners is more common. Many victims will attempt to defend themselves by fighting back, but are not trying to gain control over the other person.
Myth: When there is abuse in a relationship, both partners are allowing it to happen, and therefore both must change for the abuse to stop.
Fact: Only the perpetrator has the responsibility and ability to stop the abuse by seeking help. No matter what the other person does, the person who uses violence is responsible for his or her own behaviour. Victims often make many changes in their behaviour, hoping that this will stop the abuse. This does not work.
Myth: Victims exaggerate the level of abuse. If it really was that bad, they would leave.
Fact: Most victims actually play down the abuse because of fear, self-blame, guilt or shame. Victims considering leaving their abusers are faced with the very real possibility of continued threats and harassment, severe physical injury and even death. Domestic abuse is the only crime in which the victim, in order to escape the dangers, has to leave behind home, friends, family, economic security, pets, belongings and sometimes the city, for a safer, more peaceful life.
Myth: People always blame the perpetrator for the violence anyway.
Fact: People often blame the victim of domestic abuse, some without realising it. They may expect the victim to stop the violence, say ‘they provoke it’ and repeatedly analyse their motivations for not leaving. It is more important to question why the perpetrator continues the abuse, and why the community tolerates and allows it.
Myth: Domestic abuse is a heterosexual thing and is rare in lesbian and gay relationships. When this does happen, the physically larger one is always the abuser and the patterns of abuse are the same.
Fact: There is the same incidence of domestic abuse in lesbian and gay relationships as in heterosexual relationships. The abuser may be the larger or the smaller partner, and there can be different tactics of control used, e.g. one partner may threaten to out the other partner to their family or employer.
Myth: Drinking, stress and poor impulse control cause domestic abuse.
Fact: Abusers may use drinking/drug abuse as one of the many excuses for violence. It is a way of putting responsibility for their behaviour elsewhere. Stopping the drinking/drug use will not usually end the abuse. Most people under stress do not abuse others. Perpetrators who are stressed at work rarely assault their co-workers or bosses because of the consequences their actions might bring. Victims are usually abused in private, and, when beaten, are often hit on parts of their bodies where bruises will not show. Read more about the relationship between alcohol and drugs and domestic abuse in the following section.
Myth: Children need fathers.
Fact: Children need safety, security and loving caregivers above all else. Children who grow up with a father who abuses their mother are emotionally scarred and often repeat similar patterns in their own families as adults. This is true even when their father is always loving and gentle with them. A man cannot be a good father when he is violent or abusive to his children’s mother. Of course children are better off with fathers than without, but only if their father consistently provides them with love and security.
Myth: Domestic abuse perpetrators are monsters.
Fact: Many violent men are at times loving, sensitive and playful. It may be this side of his personality which attracted his partner to him initially and which induces her to stay. His partner may also think of him as a good father.
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