There are many popular myths and prejudices about domestic violence. These stereotypes are often at the root of the negative responses abused women receive when they seek help. Not only does this lead to wrong advice being given, but it causes much unnecessary suffering.
These stereotypes are not backed up by any research and can prevent the needs and circumstances of the woman seeking help from being properly understood.
Below are some of the more common prejudices women who have suffered violence encounter some of them contradictory, most of them is some way blaming the victim of domestic violence, or minimising the experience.
It's just the odd domestic tiff''
Fact: Violence by a man against the woman he lives with commonly includes rape, pulling her hair out, punching or hitting her, and even attempting to strangle her. The mental abuse can include depriving her of money for food and clothes, keeping her a virtual prisoner in the home, depriving her of sleep, constantly telling her she is ugly, stupid or useless, and threatening her with violence. The woman may live in constant fear.
' I didn't need a clock in my house, I used to start shaking around about half past ten each evening because I knew that he was due through the door.'
'I was afraid of everything, I was allowed out occasionally and to pick up the children from school. I was timed, I was watched'.
'Physical battering may last from five minutes to two hours, but the mental battering is 24 hours, even while you're asleep'.
'It can't be that bad or she'd leave'.
Fact: Women stay in violent homes for reasons ranging from love to terror. There are also practical reasons why many women do not leave. They may be afraid of further assaults if they seek help. They may be worried about money to support themselves and their children. They may be worried about losing their home, their possessions, and even their children. They may fear the poverty and isolation of living as a single parent family.
Despite all these problems the fact that more and more women are coming to Women's Aid is testimony to the fact they are no longer going to put up with that sort of treatment.
'No-one should interfere in the domestic affairs of man and wife'.
Fact: 25% of reported violent crime is wife assault. Women need far more protection than they actually get against domestic violence.
'Domestic violence only happens in working class or problem families'.
Fact: Any woman can be abused. She might be any woman you come into contact with - your sister, your daughter, your mother, your friend, your workmate or your neighbour. Many women (who use refuges have less access to money or other places to go.)
'We've had a woman of seventy four in our refuge, we've had a girl of sixteen. It seems to go straight across the board from all walks of life. We have had women in our refuge with partners from all professions.
'She must ask for it/ deserve it/ provoke it'.
Fact: No-one deserves being beaten up or mentally tortured, or the abuse women coming to refuges have received. The so-called provocation has often been simply to ask for money for food, or, not to have a meal ready on time etc. Women often blame themselves at first but there is never justification for violence.
'It's only drunks or macho men who beat their wives'.
Fact: Domestic violence can't be blamed on alcohol alone. Some men may have been drinking when they are violent, but drink can provide an easy excuse. It can also be easier for a woman to believe that a man wouldn't have hit her if he were sober. There isn't only one type of man who beats a woman.
You'd be in a pub and they'd say 'Oh he's a great fella' I would sit and think,'well you don't know him, I do, You don't know the other side of him'. 'Your husband's not the same person out as he is in the house'.
'They must come from violent backgrounds'.
Fact: Many men who are violent towards their partner come from families with no history of violence. Many families in which violence occurs do not produce violent men. The family is not the only formative influence on behaviour. The power men have within the family reflects legal, social and economic inequalities in society as a whole.
'Abused women tend to abuse their children'.
Fact: There is no evidence to suggest that the children of women threatened by violence receive any more violence than the children of other women. The problems of child abuse and domestic violence are different in many ways and should not be confused. However many children who enter refuges have witnessed or suffered abuse.
'She's not really threatened by violence, it's just an excuse to get rehoused'.
Fact: A refuge is no palace. Few women would choose to go there unless they were desperate. Women's Aid groups have their limited resources over stretched accommodating women and children. Most refuges are limited in space.
Local authority resources can mean that it takes over a year to get rehoused. Not all local authorities are sympathetic to abused women, and not all women are accepted as 'homeless' or 'vulnerable' despite their experience of violence.
'Wife assault is rare, or we'd hear more about it'.
Fact: We don't hear about abusive relationships because both partners hide the facts from others. Their secrecy is made easier because communities find it difficult to believe abuse occurs. Values in society tolerate violence in men - when directed against wives, violent incidents are not recognised as assault.
'There's no point in helping battered women, they'll just go back'.
Fact: When abused women are trying to decide whether to go or stay the forces pulling them away are as strong as forces pulling them towards the relationship. They leave to test if they can survive outside the relationship, and return to test if the relationship can change. While frustrating to outsiders, this stage can enable women to finally resolve their situation. It is essential to hear her experience and support her in empowering herself.
'Abusers are violent in all their relationships'.
Fact: Men who believe wives are their property and must be controlled do not have the same belief about other people, so are not necessarily violent towards others. Sometimes outsiders cannot believe the abuse occurs, because the abuser seems quiet and controlled outside his home.
'The batterer is not a loving partner'.
Fact: The batterer may be passionately loving and affectionate. Such loving behaviour often keeps the battered partner full of hope in the relationship.
Fact: Using violence to try and stop violence doesn't work. Violence generates more violence. However, several pilot projects in Canada and the USA indicate that arresting and prosecuting batterers does reduce repeat offences. Abusers need to know their behaviour will not be accepted.
Fact: People have broken the cycle of violence in their lives. Most had help from others. Helping those in violent relationships is not easy, but it is possible.
This document was downloaded from: http://www.basildonwa.org