Thursday, April 25, 2019

Domestic Violence: Dispelling the Myths

Myth 1: Woman abuse is a new social problem.

Fact: Woman abuse is not new. It has been condoned throughout history. For example, the widely used term "rule of thumb" comes from a 1767 English common law that permitted a husband to "chastise his wife with a whip or rattan no wider than his thumb."

Myth 2: Woman abuse occurs more often among certain groups of people.

Fact: Woman abuse occurs in all ethnic, racial, economic, religious and age groups. However, violence in more affluent groups is often hidden because these women use shelters, legal clinics and other social services less often.

Myth 3: Women remain in abusive relationships because they want to stay.

Fact: A woman may feel she cannot leave an abusive relationship for many reasons. For example:
she hopes the relationship will get better
she doesn't want to break up the family
her partner's abuse isolates her from friends and family
she is afraid her family and community will blame her for the abuse or encourage her to stay
she feels ashamed and blames herself for the abuse
she fears for her own and her children's safety
she depends upon her partner's income
she has lost self-esteem because of her partner's abuse
she has nowhere else to go
her partner has threatened to harm her if she leaves Myth 4: Alcohol causes men to assault their partners.

Fact: Research shows that the use of alcohol tends to be associated more with violence in cultures where alcohol is used as 'an excuse' for socially unacceptable behavior. Many abusers claim that they are "unconscious" when they are drunk or high, and that they have no control over their actions. However, a truly "unconscious" person would not be able to perform behavior that they have not performed in the past, and they will not be able to enact new or unlearned behavior unless they are conscious of their actions. The real cause of wife assault is the batterer's desire for power and control over his partner. Batterers often use alcohol as an excuse to avoid taking responsibility for abusive behavior.

Myth 5: Men who assault their partners are mentally ill.

Fact: The psychological characteristics of batterers are extremely diverse, so much so that no one pathology can be linked to battering. Research shows that no personality traits or clinical factors set abusive men apart from the general population. This is supported by a recent study in which one in five Canadian men living with a woman admitted to using violence against his partner.

Most men who assault their partners are not violent outside the home. They do not hit their bosses or colleagues. When abusive men hit their partners, they often aim the blows at parts of the body where bruises don't show. If abused men were truly mentally ill, they could not selectively limit and control their violence.

Myth 6: Women often provoke assaults and deserve what they get.

Fact: Violence is a tool men use to control and overpower women. Abusive men know their wives or girlfriends are frightened of them and use violence as a method of control. When a man is inclined to be violent, there is no behavior or response a woman can use to prevent or stop his abuse. She can yell at him, she can hit back, she can run away or even withdraw, and he will still be violent.

Some men expect their wives to know what they want without telling them. These men then blame their wives when she doesn't do what he expects her to do. In this way, men create 'provocation' in their own minds through their own expectations. For example, assaulted women report that their husband or boyfriend abused them because: "I fried his eggs the wrong way," "I didn't turn down the radio enough," or "I went out with friends without asking his permission." Men then attempt to justify the abuse of their wives as "she deserved it." A man who abuses often claims his partner provoked an assault to avoid taking responsibility for his own behavior and his need to control his partner. No woman, no child, no person, ever deserves to be beaten or emotionally or psychologically abused.

Myth 7: Men are abused by their partners as often as women are.

Fact: Research in Scotland has found that wife assault constitutes the largest proportion of family violence, almost 76%, as opposed to 1.1% for husband assault. Furthermore, more than 93% of charges related to spousal assault in Ontario, Canada are laid against men. Most charges laid against women are counter-charges laid by an assaultive partner or stem from acts of self-defense.

Myth 8: Most sexual assault happens between people who don't know each other.

Fact:Between 70-85% of women who are sexually assaulted are assaulted by men they know. Six of every ten sexual assaults take place in a private home, and four of every ten take place in a woman's home.

Myth 9: Pregnant women are free from the violent attacks of the men they live with.

Fact: Of the one quarter of all women in Canada who have experience violence at the hands of a current or past marital partner, 21% were assaulted during pregnancy. 40% of these women reported that the abuse began during pregnancy. Some reasons why men abuse during pregnancy include:
added financial stress;
the fetus becomes the center of attention, triggering the men's jealousy and fears of abandonment, which they deal with through violence; and
abusive men may view the fetus as an intruder and the pregnancy as something out of their control, which they try to exert control over Myth 10: Children who grow up in violent homes become violent when they are adults.

Fact: Children who have seen family violence can become abusers themselves because violence is the behavioral model they grew up with. But children are also very open to learning otherwise and realizing that acting violent is not the way to feel good about themselves. For example, in a shelter for battered women, 1 of 4 children believed it's okay for a man to hit a woman if the house is messy. After group counseling, none of the children believed this.

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