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Domestic Violence
Myth vs Fact

At First Step, we believe it is important to separate myth from fact when it comes to domestic violence. Understanding the truth about this issue is crucial in providing support to survivors and working to prevent future incidents.

** The following information is courtesy of Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence (GCADV)**

Myth: DV is rare

Fact: Domestic violence affects 1 out of 4 women at some point during her lifetime.  Men can also be victims of domestic violence, but women make up about 97% of domestic violence survivors. Domestic violence happens equally in heterosexual and homosexual relationships.


Myth: DV is not a serious problem in the United States

Fact: Battering is the single largest cause of injury to women in the United States – over mugging, automobile accidents and rape, combined. (NCADV 2003). 


Myth: Couples counseling is the solution for DV

Fact: Couples counseling is NOT recommended for couples trying to end the violence in their relationships due to the power and control underlying the violence.  GCADV recommends that abusers attend a state certified family violence intervention program and survivors seek assistance from a domestic violence advocate.


Myth: pregnancy is the safest time for victims of DV

Fact: Pregnancy is a very risky time for victims. Abuse often intensifies during pregnancy. Each year around 324,000 pregnant women in the United States are battered by their partners, risking both maternal and fetal health. Domestic Violence is more common among pregnant women than other conditions women are routinely screened for such as gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia. Even so, very few healthcare providers screen pregnant women for abuse.

Myth: Victims of abuse are crazy for choosing to stay in an abusive relationship

Fact: Many survivors do exhibit behaviors that, to those of us outside the intimate relationship, may seem unusual or even bizarre.  It is important to remember that, as an outsider to the abusive relationship, we are not living with the daily threat and fear of abuse or death.   What may appear to be bizarre behaviors are often survival strategies women use to keep themselves safe.


Myth: Middle-class women do not experience abuse as frequently or violently as poor women

Fact: Domestic violence occurs in all socio-economic groups.  In fact, middle-class women often face barriers to get public assistance when they decide to leave because of their family’s above poverty line financial status.


Myth: People who are religious do not abuse and are not victims of abuse

Fact: Abusers can be religious people, including clergy and lay leaders.  Many victims have deep religious beliefs which may encourage them to keep the family together at all costs.


Myth: Abusers are violent in all their relationships

Fact: Most abusers do not use violence in other non-intimate relationships to resolve conflict. “Batterer’s typically present a different personality outside the home than they do inside, which complicates a woman’s ability to describe her experiences to people outside the relationship.” (K.J. Wilson, Ed.D., When Violence Begins at Home, 1997.)


Myth: When abusers are violent it’s because they “lost their temper” they didn’t really mean to hurt their partner

Fact: Abusers use violence because it helps them gain and maintain power and control, not because they lose control of their emotions.


Myth: Drinking and/or drug abuse causes intimate partner violence

Fact: There seems to be a correlation between alcohol and abuse.  Although alcohol abuse may increase the likelihood of violent behavior, it does not cause or excuse it.

Myth: DV only affects adults in household

Fact: According to a recent American Bar Association report, experts estimate that between 3.3 and 10 million children witness domestic violence annually.  The report cites numerous links between serious emotional and psychological problems from exposure to domestic violence: Depression, hopelessness, and other forms of emotional distress in teenagers are strongly associated with exposure to domestic violence.


Myth: Victims of DV grew up in abusive families

Fact: Many individuals who find themselves in abusive relationships did not grow up in violent households.  Sometimes victims that experience non-physical abuse in their relationship, such as economic or emotional abuse, may not easily recognize that these forms of abuse can escalate into physical or sexual abuse.


Myth: Victims have done something to cause the abuse

Fact: Abusers choose their actions.  Abuse is NEVER the fault of the victim.


Myth: Victims of abuse are uneducated

Fact: Abuse can occur to anyone.  The education level of victims is not not a factor in abuse since abuse is the choice of the abuser.


Myth: Abusers are unsuccessful and lack resources to cope with the world

Fact: Abusers come from all walks of life.  The reason people abuse is related to their desire to gain and maintain power and control over their partner.  Sometimes abuse will escalate due to recent loss, such as the loss of a job or loved one, but signs of abuse are often present prior to a personal loss.


Myth: Abusers will stop the violence when they get married

Fact: An abuser’s suspicions and possessiveness increase after marriage.  Attacks also become more frequent and severe.


Myth: The abuser is not a loving partner

Fact: The abuser does not always abuse; many have periods when they can be very generous with their affection.  The victim has seen this and knows that their partner is capable of being loving to them.  If they could only get the abuser to change and maintain this loving side on a constant basis, they may reason, their relationship would be better.  Unfortunately, this is a setup; the abuser will

choose or choose not to abuse them, regardless of their actions.  Sometimes loving actions of an abuser are due to the desire to gain or maintain power and control.


Myth: Once an abuser, always an abuser

Fact: The key to changing an abusive relationship is the abuser’s willingness to accept responsibility for their actions.  If the abuser admits to the inappropriateness of their actions, wants to change, and seek individual or group counseling away from the victim, then they have a chance to recover.


Myth: DV is a one-time event, an isolated incident

Fact: Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior that happens over and over and escalates in severity/dangerousness over time.


Myth: There is no correlation between animal abuse and DV

Fact: Domestic violence as well as serial and mass criminal violence often involves animals. For families suffering with domestic violence or abuse, the use or threat of abuse against companion animals is often used for leverage by the controlling/violent member of the family to keep others in line or silent.  It is estimated that 88% of pets living in households with domestic abuse are either

abused or killed.  Of all the women who enter shelters to escape abuse, 57% have had a pet killed by their abuser.  (“The Link between Animal Abuse and Domestic Violence,” American Animal Hospital Association, 2003)

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