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Truth about the Myths

Myths About Domestic Violence
There are many myths and much misinformation surrounding the issue of domestic violence. This not only causes great confusion, but also can make an horrific situation more impossible for those who are experiencing domestic violence. If we do not understand the reality of domestic violence, we will never be in a position to create a society which does not tolerate it. Below are listed a number of these myths as well as the reality for those who are experiencing violence.

Myth: Only a small number of women are abused in their own home
Reality: In the first ever research conducted on the prevalence of domestic violence in Ireland (Making the Links 1995), almost 1 in 5 Irish women (18%) reported that they had been subjected to either emotional cruelty, physical cruelty or sexual violence by a current or previous partner. Every year, women in Ireland are murdered by a partner or ex-partner.

Myth: A woman must deserve it
Of all the myths about abused women this is possibly the most insensitive. No woman "deserves" the sort of treatment ODVSS hears about from women seeking help, no matter what she has or has not done. So-called "provocation" often amounts to no more than asking for money for food or not having a meal ready on time.

Research has shown that in many cases of assaults on women the injuries suffered as a result of the attack were in proportion to the resistance offered. In a situation of domestic violence where there are repeated attacks women know that the more they resist the greater their suffering will be. This submission should in no way be confused with consent.

Myth: A woman must like it or she'd leave
Women stay with violent men because it is extremely difficult for them to leave. Until recently, there were no refuges and therefore women had nowhere they could go. Even now the numbers of women being turned away due to the lack of refuge space equals or exceeds the places provided.

Many women still do not know refuges exist.? Women worry about how the disruption of leaving will effect their children, how they will provide for their children alone, how they will manage as parents on their own. Even if no move is involved, the change of status can equally worry a woman. Marriage is still seen as an achievement, separation as a failure.

Apart from having nowhere to go, many women are so terrified by their partner that they fear the consequences if they attempt to leave. Indeed, research has shown that leaving a violent man is the most dangerous time for a woman.

Myth: Leaving the home is bad for the children
Many women only leave their home when they realise the effects of the violence on their children or when the children themselves are threatened. In our experience children are more damaged by remaining in a violent situation than by leaving to go to the safe and secure environment provided by a refuge. Indeed we have seen the physical and mental/emotional health of many children actually improve and blossom during and after time spent in a refuge.

Myth: Nobody has the right to interfere in the domestic affairs of a man and a woman
Many women have come forward to seek help from ODVSS and they have been relieved to find that someone cares about what has been happening to them within their relationship. Both criminal and civil law in this country make it possible for the courts to intervene in cases of domestic violence. 25 per cent of reported violent crime in the EU is inflicted on women in the home. Domestic violence is a social problem, not a private affair. The abuse of any human being by another is everyone's business.

Myth: All men who are violent to women come from an abusive family background
Reality: While it is true that some men who are violent to women do come from a violent background, the family is not the only formative influence on behavior. Many men who abuse women do not come from violent backgrounds and other men who do come from an abusive background do not abuse women. They choose to behave in a non-violent and constructive way.

Myth: Alcohol causes domestic violence
Alcohol does not and cannot make a man abuse a woman, but it is frequently used as an excuse. many men drink and do not abuse anyone as a result. On the other hand many men abuse women when they are sober. It can be easier for some men and for some women to believe that the violence would not have happened if drink had not been taken.

The root cause of violence against women has nothing to do with alcohol, class, race or the behavior of the woman.? It is a widespread and serious social problem which has to do with social and cultural attitudes to women and women's place in society.? It must be treated and combated as such.

Myth: It's just the odd domestic tiff
Women who go to refuges have usually been severely beaten or threatened with violence on many occasions. Many women experience violence which includes rape, having their hair pulled out, being punched or hit in the face and body, choking/strangulation, or being so abused as to sustain serious injuries ranging from cuts and bruising to broken bones and internal damage.

Such physical abuse is usually accompanied by emotional abuse in the form of continual harassment and humiliation such as being locked in the house, being denied sleep, being told that she is ugly, stupid and useless and being denied money. Emotional abuse leaves no bruising but is as terrifying and damaging as physical violence. In Making the Links, many women reported they had experienced multiple forms of violence and/or sexual violence. In addition, women reported violence occurring while they were pregnant with resultant threatened or actual miscarriage.

No behavior which so degrades and violates a human being can be dismissed as "just the odd tiff"

ODVSS, Offaly Domestic Violence Support ServicesCormac Street, Tullamore, Offaly, Ireland    E-mail: info@odvss.ie
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