People who have not been in an abusive relationship do not always understand what domestic violence is. It is a complex issue. Below are common myths:
Myth #1: Domestic violence is rare.
FACT: According to the Domestic Violence Resource Center, one in four women has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime. This means an estimated 1.3 million or more women a year are victims. Each day in America there is an average of three women murdered as a result of domestic violence.
Myth #2: All domestic violence is physical.
FACT: Domestic Violence is a pattern of coercion and control that one person exerts over another. Physical violence is just one form of abuse utilized by batterers to maintain power and control over their spouse and/or partner. Not all domestic violence is physical. Emotional, sexual and economical abuse is domestic violence and can be very damaging to the victim’s psychological health. It includes the repeated use of a number of tactics, including intimidation, threats, insults, economic deprivation, isolation, jealousy, and sexual peer pressure. This abuse can lead to low self-esteem, depression, hostility, seclusion, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress.
Myth #3: Domestic violence is provoked by the victims.
FACT: Domestic violence victims never deserve the abuse. Domestic violence is a crime and should never be justified. People are abused for reasons as ridiculous as dinner is cold, the laundry isn’t done, the children are being loud, or the TV was turned to the wrong channel. Abusive people refuse to control their violent impulses. Even where the person may have reason to be angry, they have no right to express their anger violently. Batterers need to take personal responsibility for their actions.
Myth #4: Domestic violence can be caused by drugs and alcohol.
FACT: Drugs and alcohol is not an excuse for violent behavior. The U.S. Department of Justice found that 61% of domestic violence offenders also have substance abuse problems. Both alcohol and drugs can increase the stress in any relationship and in abusive ones this can in turn increase the risk of violence. Although there is a correlation and it can increase this abusive behavior, drugs and alcohol is not the cause of domestic violence.
Myth #5: Victims put themselves in this abusive relationship and can leave easily.
FACT: There are many complicated reasons why it’s difficult for a person to leave an abusive partner. They may be financially dependent or have limited job skills or religious, cultural or family pressures may keep them in the relationship/marriage. One of the most common reasons for a person not to leave an abusive relationship is fear. They may have tried to leave before and were stopped; their abuser may have threatened to take the children from them, or harm them even more if they leave. Women who leave their abusers could be at a greater risk of being killed by the abuser than those who stay. For those planning to leave a violent relationship help is available. Call 911 and/or the Hubbard House 24‐hour hotline at (904) 354‐3114 or (800) 500‐1119.
Myth #6: Domestic violence occurs only in poor, uneducated and minority families.
FACT: Domestic violence does not discriminate against age, gender, economic level or zip code. Studies of domestic violence consistently have found that battering occurs among all types of families, regardless of income, profession, region, ethnicity, educational level or race. However, the reason lower income victims and abusers are over‐represented in calls to police, domestic violence shelters and social services may be due to a lack of other resources.
Myth #7: Children are not affected when one parent abuses the other.
FACT: Studies show that in 30‐60% of cases in which a parent abuses another parent, the children are also physically abused. Children also suffer emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and developmental impairments as a result of witnessing domestic violence in the home. In addition, children who experience domestic violence in their homes often grow up to repeat the same behavioral patterns.
Myth #8: Batterers are mentally ill.
FACT: Battering is a learned behavior, not a mental illness. Abusers’ experiences as children and the messages they get from society in general tell them that violence is an effective way to achieve power and control over their partners. Batterers should always be held accountable for their actions. There are programs available to help teach batterers how they can break the cycle of abuse. Call the Hubbard House First Step Batterers’ Intervention Program at (904) 354‐0076 ext. 283 for more information.
Myth #9: Men are never victims of domestic violence.
FACT: Although women are at a greater risk, men still can be affected. According to statistics it is estimated that one out of every 14 men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.
Myth #10: Domestic violence is not a problem in my community.
FACT: Last year in Duval County, there were 7,798 domestic violence incidents reported. Unfortunately, the majority of domestic violence cases go unreported.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship please call the Hubbard House 24-hour domestic violence hotline at (904) 354-3114 or (800) 500-1119. Hubbard House can help.
ABOUT HUBBARD HOUSE
Founded as the first domestic violence shelter in Florida in 1976, Hubbard House is a certified, comprehensive domestic violence center providing programs and services to more than 6,000 women, children, and men annually in Duval and Baker counties. While Hubbard House is most known for its emergency shelter, the agency also provides extensive adult and youth outreach services, school-based education, therapeutic childcare, batterers’ intervention programs, court advocacy and volunteer and community education opportunities. Visit www.hubbardhouse.org to learn more.
By Lana Schack