10 Stereotypes & Myths about Abuse
Stereotypes and myths create stigma which in turn makes it even harder for people to summon up their courage to seek support, thereby increasing risk for those living in abusive relationships. These attitudes add to feelings of despair and isolation often felt by those suffering and are deeply unfair.
Nobody deserves to be abused and there is no justification for violent crime. Domestic abuse can happen to anyone – being ‘a good wife/husband/partner’ does not stop someone being victimised.
Statistically 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men (estimated) will suffer abuse in their lives.
Isn’t domestic abuse just all about hitting? Surely being emotionally abused isn’t that bad?
People who have been abused in several ways often say that it was the emotional abuse that had the most effect on them. Being constantly undermined, criticised and humiliated can turn someone who was once confident and outgoing into a nervous and anxious person with little self confidence. The threat of being hit can be extremely controlling. But all violence and abuse is damaging and should not have to be tolerated.
Don’t some people choose violent partners or like the abuse? If not, why do they stay with them?
Nobody chooses a violent partner because they want to be abused. Abuse rarely starts at the beginning of the relationship and many people don’t realise their partner’s controlling behaviour might lead to violence. It can be hard to leave a partner if you live together or have children, who may love the other parent. Survivors of abuse often say they love their partner, but want the abuse to stop. They may not realise it’s not how a relationship should be and may not know about help available.
Don’t some people provoke abuse by their own behaviour?
What abusers see as ‘provocation’ is abnormal…. being assaulted for not having a meal ready, or asking for money, or wanting to see a friend. Provocation is an excuse abusers use to avoid responsibility for their behaviour.
No-one ever deserves to be beaten, or abused, no matter what s/he has said or done. The idea that provocation leads to abuse does not universally apply – if an abuser feels provoked by their boss or bank manager, it is unlikely that s/he would punch them in the face or kick them to the ground.
Abusers are not out of control and can choose to walk away if their partner is upsetting them or they feel they are being wound up by a situation. Where appropriate and available, support services can be a help for abusers to make positive changes to their behaviour.
If domestic abuse is that bad, why wouldn’t they speak up or leave?
People experiencing domestic abuse may remain silent for many valid reasons. In the early stages, they often hope that the abuser will change or stop the abuse. When it doesn’t stop, they may remain silent primarily because of fear: of the abuser’s threats to kill, to stalk, to take the children away, to hurt loved ones, to kill pets or to kill him/herself. It takes great courage to tell someone if you know you will be at greater risk (often a valid assumption, based on past experience).
They may not know where to go for help; they may be afraid of what the abuser will do if they were to leave or if the abuser where to find them. They may have been told they cannot take the children away from the other parent; they may be under pressure from family or community to stay.
They may falsely believe they deserve the abuse or feel embarrassed or that nobody will care anyway.
He/She has a problem with anger management
Most domestic abuse is systematic and premeditated, not a momentary loss of self-control.
Many people feel angry but do not assault another person. Anger is an emotion we all have however violence (of any kind) is a criminal behaviour.
In addition sexual violence, emotional, psychological and financial abuse cannot be explained by a ‘loss of temper’. Most abusers who physically assault their partners do so in the privacy of their own home, not outside in public view, suggesting that assaults are not subject to current emotions or poor impulse control; he/she can wait to hit her/him when they get home, in a planned way. Some victims are hauled out of bed when they are asleep and beaten.
The abuse is often directed to parts of the body that will not be visible if bruised. If the abuser has enough control to do this, they could use their control to walk away. Assaults often are ‘in cold blood’ with no sign of ‘loss of temper’. Physical assault may stop immediately if there is an interruption such as a phone call, a ring at the door, or if someone walks in.
‘It was a one-off. The abuser was really sorry.’
Domestic abuse is a systematic pattern of control and intimidation. Apologies may be another form of coercion and do not provide evidence that the abuser has taken responsibility for the abuse and means to keep their promise that it will never happen again.
On the whole, studies show that abuse tends to recur and become more frequent and severe over time and domestic abuse rarely stops without intervention.
‘She/he stays/returns because she loves him or she is co-dependent’
Loving a partner at the beginning of the relationship when they perhaps used charm is not the same as loving the reality: that the same person is capable of love and abuse. Many victims try many strategies to prevent abuse, and always hope it will never happen again.
Victims feel horror, terror, and disgust about being attacked.
If someone returns to a relationship, it is not to the abuse that they are returning to but to the hope that it has stopped
‘It’s just a tiff, domestic abuse is a private matter; we shouldn’t interfere.’
This idea is dangerous as it allows for stigma meaning this attitude causes people to suffer in silence, it is hard enough to summon up all courage to seek support without ‘people’ trivialising the issue or judging what is a crime as a mere tiff.
Domestic abuse almost always is repeated and escalates in severity and frequency over time. Repeated abuse is damaging and potentially life-threatening.
Domestic abuse is purposeful and systematic behaviour that should not be confused with an argument that implies responsibility is two way.
Domestic abuse is not something to be minimised nor is it just a private matter. Abuse is a crime and a public matter. If we suspect someone is experiencing domestic abuse, we should try and let them know that we are there to support them. People experiencing domestic abuse very rarely exaggerate; indeed, the majority minimise and under-report the extent of the abuse.
‘If my mum/dad had a relationship with a violent person, does this make me more likely to become an abuser or victim?’
No. If you are abused as a child this definitely doesn’t mean that you are going to end up in a violent or abusive relationship yourself. Seeing what their parent went through means some people know what the effects are first-hand and never want to put anyone else through this. Others may find it difficult to regulate their responses or understand what a healthy relationship is as a result of their experiences. If you have any worries about this, you may want to talk to a friend, relative or counsellor.
10. Those who assault their partners are mentally ill
Abuse is too common to be explained or excused by mental illness.
The proportion of abusers who are mentally ill is no higher than in society as a whole. Even if it was caused by mental illness, why doesn’t the abuser attack their employer, or strangers?
Finally Domestic Abuse affects people from ALL backgrounds, also it affects people of all ages – there is no age or society limit to someone finding themselves trapped in an abusive relationship. If you are affected by abuse there are support services that can offer you information about your options and further support.
Rotherham Rise is actively looking for volunteers and businesses that want to support the needed and valuable work we do – find out more about how you can make the difference to women, men and children affected by abuse – click here to find out more.