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Busting the Myths About Domestic Abuse

When it comes to domestic abuse, there are many dangerous myths that can seep like a poisonous gas throughout society. It matters that we set the record straight. We believe the truth can set people free as we open the world's eyes to the reality of abuse.

"Those Women"

Myth: Domestic abuse only happens to a certain ‘type’ of woman. People might think it only happens to women from a certain socio-economic status or class; someone with low self-esteem of who doesn't seem confident or even a particular religious or cultural background.

Truth: Domestic abuse can affect any woman regardless of her race, colour, religion, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation or level of confidence and inner strength. The only common denominator within a domestic abuse situation is an abusive man.

"She Made Him"

Myth: Women wind men up by behaving in ways which cause men to become abusive. Abusers will often tell their partner that they “made” them do it and many victims have been asked, even by church leaders, “What did you do to make things get this bad?”

Truth: A woman is never responsible for her partner's behaviour. He is choosing to behave in an abusive and controlling way.

"It only happened because. . ."

Myth: Domestic abuse is caused by some or all of the following:

  • Alcohol or drug misuse
  • Unemployment
  • Mental or physical health problems
  • Stress
  • A lack of submission by the woman
  • Having lived through abuse as a child

Truth: 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. The things listed above can be triggers, or can exacerbate abuse, but they are never the route cause, and can't be used to justify or excuse abusive behaviour.

"Staying is a choice"

Myth: When a woman is in an abusive relationship, she can choose to leave.

Truth: A woman, or her children, are most likely to be seriously harmed or murdered by their partner when trying to leave. A perpetrator may threaten to harm the woman, her children or himself should she make any attempts to leave. A woman may believe that leaving is outside of the realms of possibility; this means that for her leaving is NOT a choice.

Some people ask "Why doesn't she leave?" This question minimises the horrific reality of abuse and puts the responsibility of the abuse onto the woman. The correct question should be, "Why doesn't he stop?"

An abusive man will ensure his victim thinks she cannot cope alone, will undermine and put her down until she believes she can’t cope alone. It can appear financially impossible to leave the situation and statistically the time a woman is at most risk of being murdered is when she is trying to leave an abusive relationship. Therefore leaving is a very dangerous choice and should be done, wherever possible, with support from trained professionals.

I had no idea police would get involved and care, or anybody else would care. If I knew I had the option, I would have left a long time ago. That was one of the main reasons I did not attempt leaving him. When I found out I could leave, it was after he tried to kill me and I was in hospital.

— Roia Atmar —

Abusive men are still good fathers

Myth: Just because he has abused the mother doesn't make him a bad father.

Truth: By being abusive to the mother of the children, he is being a bad father. A good father respects and values the mother of the children, whether they are his biological children or not.

Domestic abuse is about anger

Myth: Perpetrators of domestic abuse are struggling with anger management issues. They are violent because they get angry.

Truth: Domestic abuse is a choice to behave in a controlling way; it is not simply about being angry, although someone may appear very angry. Abusive tactics are employed by perpetrators regardless of whether they feel anger or not. Professionals who work with perpetrators of domestic violence advise that anger management is a dangerous and unsuitable treatment for perpetrators of domestic violence.

Disclosures of abuse are often “over dramatic”

Myth: When someone discloses abuse they are being hysterical and overly dramatic in order to gain attention

Truth: Any disclosure of abuse is likely to be the tip of the iceberg. Most women living in threatening and controlling situations are reluctant to admit what is happening to them for many reasons. The shame of being abused or the fear of what their abusive partner will do if they tell anyone can prevent a disclosure for years. Their partner will also have minimised and justified his behaviour to her, which will often cause her to believe it wasn’t ‘that’ bad and he was justified in being abusive and everyone will think she's over reacting.

If someone discloses abuse to you, it is vitally important that you don't minimise what they tell you. We must ensure the person disclosing feels validated in all they tell us and enable them to access whatever support they need.

But he's so sorry . . .

Myth: If a man who has perpetrated abused his partner, says he is sorry, and appears to be sorry for his behaviour, his partner should be reconciled to him and accept that he has repented.

Truth: Although it is possible for perpetrators to change and be transformed through God’s power, very often a perpetrator will appear repentant or even appear to become a Christian in order to impress people and gain space for his abuse to continue. If he appears to come to faith in Christ and/or appears repentant or remorseful, this shouldn't be immediately taken at face value.

Repentance means changed behaviour, and needs to be measured over a long period of time, consulting regularly with the victim, as she is most able to see if change has taken place.

Regardless of whether change has taken place, the woman has still been impacted horrifically by the abuse she has suffered and she has the right to choose not to reconcile. If the perpetrator has truly repented, he will understand this and support her in her decisions.