Domestic Violence: Busting the Myths
For whatever reason, many of us have preconceived notions about what domestic violence looks like, who perpetrates it, and who it happens to. In order to understand domestic violence and work to prevent it, we have to recognize it in all its forms. Here are a few of the more common misconceptions surrounding domestic violence, and the truths which they conceal.
“Transgender people don’t experience intimate partner violence.”
This one is pretty common. Very often, victims of domestic violence are assumed to be heterosexual cisnormative women. The reality is that while up to 33% of the general population experience intimate partner violence, a massive 50% of transgender people are subject to it in their lifetime. In 2012, a report by the NCAPV found that 47.6% of all homicides resulting from intimate partner violence were men who identify as LGBTQ. This is an inherently vulnerable portion of the population, and it is hugely underrepresented, not only by the media but also by a multitude of supportive organizations. It’s therefore important that we continue to recognize domestic abuse against the transgender community and try to give it the necessary exposure.
“Domestic violence only happens in poorer or minority communities.”
A lot of people tend to believe that domestic abuse is class specific; in other words, that it only occurs within communities of lower socioeconomic status. While there is some evidence to suggest that it may be more common in these communities, the majority of statistics indicate that intimate partner violence is prevalent across every area of society.
“Sometimes, it’s the victim’s fault.”
This should be an easy one. The only person who is responsible for carrying out domestic violence is the perpetrator. Anti-feminist groups often campaign that victims (specifically women in this case) dress or act provocatively and are therefore culpable for any verbal or physical abuse which they experience. This is NOT the case. Abusers are prone to rationalizing and excusing their behavior by attempting to blame the victim for triggering their actions, but it is crucial that we do not lose sight of that fact that they, and they alone, are the guilty party.
“Emotional abuse doesn’t count as domestic violence.”
FACT: a person who isn’t physically violent is still capable of perpetrating domestic abuse. Verbally attacking somebody, being possessive or excessively jealous, making threats, destroying personal property, using shame and fear to provoke guilt and exert control- ALL of these things can be categorized as psychological abuse. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, nearly half of all women in the USA have reported experiencing psychological aggression from a romantic partner. This makes emotional abuse the most common form of IPV, but it is also the least reported; those who experience it are often unaware that in many states it is illegal, as it falls under regular domestic violence laws.
“We shouldn’t get involved.”
Intervening in a situation where you suspect domestic violence is a disconcerting prospect, but what’s more concerning is the idea that you’re complicit in enabling this violence to take place. As a bystander it’s easy to bury your head in the sand and ignore your suspicions, but if you’re aware of domestic abuse then you’re capable of making a difference. If you’re interested in finding out how you can do this in a safe and secure way, there are several articles regarding bystander intervention in our blog archive, including this one.
“Victims should just leave their abusers.”
It’s easy to ask why victims of domestic violence don’t simply walk out on or throw out their abusers, but a terrifying 75% of women murdered by abusive partners are killed while attempting to leave. One of the most influential factors is fear; the fear of being disbelieved, being a single parent, or being pursued by an abuser can thoroughly eclipse the fear of leaving. Many victims may be unable to survive or provide for their children without their partner’s income; some may also be in denial about the danger they are in. Others may feel that their abuser is mentally unwell, and therefore assume responsibility for helping them to recover.  Regardless of the reason, a bystander should never judge a victim of domestic violence for standing by their partner through the abuse, as it is impossible to be fully aware of their circumstances. For more information on this topic, check out our article about Why Women Stay in Abusive Relationships.
“It is impossible for men to experience domestic abuse.”
Societal expectations of masculinity have created a stigma which often prevents men from coming forward as victims, especially if the perpetrator is female. Although it is true that historically, statistics have shown that women are the most common victims of domestic violence, more recent studies have suggested as many as 1 in 4 adult men will be subject to domestic abuse in their lifetime. It is important that we do not dismiss men who experience intimate partner violence but acknowledge that they are affected by this epidemic, especially as there are far fewer charities, refuges and safe spaces available for male victims.
“Victim’s exaggerate or make false accusations about their abusers.”
This one is really troubling, especially given the influx of allegations that have flooded the media in the last few months. Men’s rights groups and defense lawyers will often attempt to argue that victims of domestic violence are simply lying, especially in cases where there is little physical evidence. The Domestic Shelters charity reports that in the context of custody battles, only 2% of allegations made against abusers are false. This statistic is blown dangerously out of proportion by the media, discouraging victims from coming forward and increasing the stigma of shame and silence around abuse.
 Cisnormative: a person who identifies clearly as the gender they were assigned at birth.
 Statistics from: https://nomore.org/domestic-violence-transgender-community/
 Statistics from: https://ncadv.org/assets/2497/who_is_doing_what_to_whom.pdf
 Statistics and information from: http://www.domesticabuseshelter.org/infodomesticviolence.htm