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Common Myths - Domestic Abuse

One of the most destressing things about being a victim/survivor of domestic abuse can be dealing with others' attitudes towards domestic abuse.

So many myths surround these issues and many people, including workers from other agencies, your friends and family may believe them to be true and therefore not understand what you are going through.

We at the Women's Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre challenge these myths.

Myth: Alcohol and drugs make men violent.

Fact: Many men are violent when stone-cold sober. Others never touch alcohol, yet regularly abuse their partner.  Blaming drink or drugs is an excuse, a way of denying responsibility. Both may be the trigger for a particular attack, but they are not the cause.

Myth: It only happens in poor families on council estates.

Fact: Anyone can be abused, no matter where they live or how much income they have. Abused women come from all walks of life and there are no exceptions. You only have to think of the celebrities we hear about in the papers to realise that money cannot protect you from domestic violence.  Men who abuse women are as likely to be lawyers, accountants and judges as they are milkmen, cleaners or unemployed.

Myth: More women would leave if the abuse was that bad.

Fact: There are many reasons for staying with an abusive partner. The abused woman may fear what her partner will do if she leaves, or she may believe that staying with him is better for the children.  There are also practical considerations to take into account. She may not have access to money, or anywhere to go. She may not know where to turn for help, particularly if English is not her first language. And when she is emotionally and financially dependent on her partner she can be very isolated.

Women from different cultures can find it particularly difficult to leave an abusive man as this would bring shame on both themselves and their family. They may feel they are betraying their community if they contact the police.  An abused woman’s self-esteem will have been steadily worn down. She may not believe she will manage on her own, or that she has any other options. She may have been brainwashed into thinking she’s worthless. She will feel ashamed of what has happened and perhaps convinced it is her fault.

She hopes her partner will change. She remembers the good times at the start of the relationship and hopes they will return. In emotional terms she has made a huge investment in the relationship and she wants it to work.

Myth: Abusers grow up in violent homes.

Fact: Growing up in a violent home is a risk factor and some children who experience abuse do go on to be abusive in their relationships. On the other hand many do not. Instead they are repelled by violence as adults because they have seen the damage it causes – they would not dream of hitting their partner.

Abusers learn to be violent from the society they grow up in. Inequality between the sexes means that men have more power over women – inevitably some of them abuse or exploit that power.

People who blame abuse on their childhood experiences avoid taking responsibility for their actions. Violence is a choice an abuser makes.

Myth: Some women like violence.

Fact: Women do not enjoy violence, or find it a turn-on. Most live in fear and terror.  This is a way of blaming the victim for what is happening.

Myth: Women ask for it. They deserve what they get.

Fact: Women are often attacked by their partner for no apparent reason. Even if a woman has behaved appallingly, she does not deserve to be beaten. Violence and intimidation are not acceptable ways to solve conflict in a relationship.   Again this is a way of justifying and making excuses for the abuse’s behaviour. It allows a violent man to avoid responsibility for his actions.

Myth: Abusive men have a mental illness.

Fact: The vast majority of men who abuse are not mentally ill. Research shows that the proportion of abusers with mental health problems is no higher than in society as a whole. And if an abusive man were mentally ill, how is it that he only abuses his partner, not his colleagues, strangers, or friends?

Myth: He only hit her because he was under stress.

Fact: Some men who abuse their partners are suffering from stress. Again, this is a factor, not a cause. Many men who are stressed are never abusive. Similarly, many men who do abuse their partner cannot claim to be under stress.  Women experience stress too, yet they rarely beat or abuse their partners to the extent that men abuse women.

Myth: He loses his temper sometimes, that’s all.

Fact: People argue that an abusive man loses his temper, or is out of control. In fact he is very much in control.  Abusers can be selective about when they hit their partner, eg when the children are asleep. Or choose not to mark her face, or any part of the body which shows. This suggests they are very aware of what they are doing.  Many men abuse their partners emotionally and psychologically, without ever using anger or physical violence. This shows the extent of their control.

Myth: Domestic abuse is a private matter, you shouldn’t get involved.

Fact: For too long domestic abuse has been allowed to happen behind closed doors. People think what goes on in the home is private, and not their problem.  Domestic abuse is a crime. It is against the law.

We are all affected by domestic abuse, and we all have a responsibility to speak out against it. Only then will we end it.These and other myths may leave you feeling upset, uncomfortable and blaming yourself for what has happened to you.  You are not to blame. 

If you have been the victim of domestic abuse or are supporting someone else who has, you can contact WRSAC for help and information. It doesn't matter whether this happened recently or a long time ago. You can phone the Women's Domestic Violence Support Network and speak to someone in confidence.

Alternatively, if you think that you are high risk you can self refer by calling the IDVA in your geographical area IDVA Team.  The IDVA team provide advocacy and support to high risk victims of domestic abuse.

If you or your children are in immediate danger PLEASE CALL 999  and ask for the police emergency service.