Myths & Facts
Myth: Only a small number of people in our community experience domestic violence.
Fact: Violence against women is a major issue in Australian society. It is also a hidden crime because it usually happens in the privacy of the home, and has low levels of reporting.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) National Survey in 2006 stated that over one third of Australian women reported experiencing one incident of physical violence or sexual violence since the age of 15. In any one year, nearly half a million Australian women experience physical or sexual assault (ABS 2006). A Victorian study in 2004 by VIC Health found that violence against women is the leading contributor to death, disability and illness in Victorian women aged 15-44, being responsible for more disease burden that many well-known preventable risk factors such as high blood pressure, smoking and obesity.
Myth: Domestic and family violence only happens in certain cultures or communities.
Fact: Violence against women occurs in ALL communities regardless of cultural, education or socio-economic background. Certain cultural groups may get more media exposure on the issue of Domestic Violence, and some communities have higher rates of Domestic and Family Violence specifically areas of economic or social disadvantage (Flood 2007). However it’s important to know that domestic violence impacts on all communities and cultures.
Myth: Violent men are violent in their relationships because they are stressed.
Fact: Like alcohol, stress is often used as an excuse for domestic and family violence. This means something else is always to blame for the violence –work, lack of work, the neighbours, the children, financial difficulties etc., and stops the perpetrator being responsible for his/her violence. There are no excuses that can be used to justify violence against women and children. The majority of individuals who are stressed are not violent. If someone is stressed they should seek support and assistance from their GP and appropriate services.
Myth: It’s easy to leave a violent and controlling relationship.
Fact: It‘s extremely difficult to leave a violent and controlling relationship. Women can often leave many times before they permanently leave a violent and controlling relationship.
There are many reasons for this including:
- the shame / embarrassment / humiliation associated with admitting you’re in a violent relationship
- still caring for their partners
- believing that the violence is their own fault
- limited or no access to financial assistance due to financial dependence
- lack of awareness of support services
- threat of suicide
- fear of isolation from community and support networks
- fear that the perpetrator will kill her or their children
- fear of rejection by friends and family
- a belief that families should stick together
- a belief that the situation will get better
- a belief that no-one else will love her
- a religious commitment to a partner
- fear of losing children in a custody battle, especially if the domestic violence hasn’t been documented
- fear of the legal system and the police
- low self-esteem and self-confidence.
Society can also hold women accountable for looking after relationships and blame women for a relationship failing, implying that she deserved or incited the violence somehow.
Myth: If women don't like it they can leave. Leaving a violent partner means the abuse will stop.
Fact: Women often believe it’s impossible to escape the violence and abuse. They are often threatened with death if they leave. In some cases, violence, harassment and intimidation can escalate during separation and can result in serious injury and sometimes death.
Women also often believe they and their children will be destined to a life of poverty if they leave. Obtaining suitable accommodation for themselves and their children is often difficult, particularly in regional and remote areas.
Myth: Some religions support domestic and family violence.
Fact: Abusers may use their religion as an excuse for their violence. There is nothing to support the view that it is God’s will for people to endure family violence. Use of scripture to justify domestic and family violence is unacceptable. Some women may feel pressure from their faith or community to ‘honour’ their commitment to marriage and stay in the abusive relationship. They may think that to leave or get a divorce is against their religious beliefs. Religion is no excuse for domestic and family violence.
Myth: Violent men come from violent homes.
Fact: The relationship between exposure to violence in childhood and becoming an adult perpetrator is a complex one. There are many factors that contribute to someone becoming a person who uses violence in their relationship.
Whilst it is true that some men who are violent to women do come from violent backgrounds, many men who abuse women do not. Other men who do come from abusive backgrounds do not abuse women. They choose to deal with their problems in a non-violent and constructive way.
Myth: All men are violent.
Fact: The majority of men and young men in our community are not violent. The use of violence is a choice. Men who use violence in their relationships choose where and when they are violent. The large majority of offenders who assault their partners control their violence with others, such as friends or work colleagues, where there is no perceived right to dominate and control.
Stating that 'All men are violent' places the blame for the violence elsewhere and stops the perpetrator being responsible for his violence. There are no excuses for violence against women.
Myth: There are as many male victims of domestic and family violence as there are women.
Fact: Violence against men is also a major issue in Australian society, although men are more likely to be hurt by a stranger, generally another man, than by their intimate partner. There are of course cases of violence against men by their intimate female partners. It’s essential to state that, regardless of the gender of the abuser or the victim, and regardless of whether it’s a heterosexual or same-sex relationship – domestic violence is a crime.
What the statistics say:
- Although some men are the victims of domestic violence, this is much less common and all the indications are that 9 out of every 10 domestic violence victims is a female (University of Western Australia CRC 2004)
- 87% of sufferers are women (Healy 2005) Domestic Violence Volume 228, Issues in Society
- Female victims are more likely to be abused by a current or former intimate partner and male victims are more likely to be abused by other family persons and other persons. Almost half of all victims under 15 are abused by a parent or guardian (Weatherburn 2005).
Myth: Women don't tell the truth about domestic violence.
Fact: Women experiencing domestic violence are more likely to deal with the issues themselves or talk to family and friends rather than seek outside support, due to barriers such as fear, isolation, lack of support and shame. This is supported by findings in the report Against the Odds: How Women Survive Domestic Violence (Keys Young 1998) which found that:
- Less than 20% of women interviewed had contact with domestic violence crisis services while they were in the abusive relationship.
- About 25% of women had contact with the police while they were in the abusive relationship.
Women are also more likely to downplay their experience of domestic violence, as opposed to a community perception that they exaggerate it.
Myth: Domestic violence is caused by the abuse of alcohol.
Fact: Even though alcohol is involved in about 50% of cases, these same offenders also beat their spouses when sober. (QLD Domestic Violence Task Force 1988). Alcohol has been shown to be a risk factor that does not actually cause domestic violence, but can contribute to greater frequency and severity of abuse.
Myth: Women provoke men to be violent by nagging and other annoying behaviours.
Fact: Most abused women try to do everything they can to please their partner and avoid further violent episodes. Victims of domestic violence are vulnerable to further episodes of abuse regardless of their behaviour.
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Myth: Domestic violence is not a widespread problem
Fact: The private nature of domestic violence has resulted in its remaining a hidden problem. However, it is one which has damaging effects on many victims each year. Over 1 in 5 women presenting to the Accident and Emergency Department of the Royal Brisbane Hospital, had at some stage of their lives been subjected to domestic violence (Roberts, 1993).