4 Dangerous Myths About Domestic Abuse
Have you ever wondered if you are being abused by your partner? You know that something is wrong in your relationship, but could the problem really be called abuse? You sometimes feel hurt and demeaned by his actions but he can also be a really nice guy when he wants to be.
If you are like most women, you could never imagine that abuse could happen to you. No one wants to consider themselves as “abused”, and no one wants to think of their partner as being abusive. Plus, you probably think you don’t fit any of the stereotypes of an abused woman. But here’s the thing: those myths about domestic abuse and stereotypes that go along with them are untrue and unhelpful.
We are taking on four of the most prominent and dangerous myths about domestic abuse to help you evaluate for yourself if perhaps you or someone you care about is experiencing abuse. Here are four of the most common myths about domestic abuse in relationships.
Myth #1: Physical abuse is the only serious type of abuse
Many people mistakenly believe that abuse only includes physical abuse. The reality is that abuse takes many different forms, including emotional, verbal, financial and sexual. All of these forms of abuse are just as damaging as physical abuse.
Does he try to control your relationships with other people, jealously hoarding your time? Does he control your finances, withholding money for necessities or making you account for every penny? Has he ever scared you by driving recklessly or by threatening you with intimidating body language? Is he critical of you? Does he put you down or change moods unpredictably? All of these behaviors signify abuse.
What is most confusing for women is that, in between these frightening and confusing events, your partner can appear to be attentive, helpful and kind. These and many other examples are not generally thought of as abuse, but they are abuse. If any of these things are happening to you, you may be experiencing abuse.
Myth #2: Abuse only happens to certain women
A cliche, stereotypical picture of an abused woman is that she is weak, timid and lacking in self-esteem. Often people think that abuse only happens to low-income women, uneducated females, or foreign women. This is, of course, wrong – abuse can happen to any woman. It can happen to women who are struggling and vulnerable. It can happen to strong, capable, professional women. So let’s repeat: Abuse can happen to any woman – even those who may appear strong and independent on the outside. If you are fearful of your partner, feel like you are being controlled or like your choices are being taken away from you, you may be experiencing abuse.
Myth #3: It takes two to tango
There is a strong, socially accepted idea that both partners are always responsible for every problem in a relationship. Women particularly feel a lot of responsibility for making their relationships work. However, if your partner is abusive, there is nothing you can do to change that. You have probably tried many things already. You may have tried counselling, you’ve probably even read self-help books or blogs, but nothing is getting better and you keep feeling hurt and disrespected.
If your partner is abusive, your partner is not interested in making sure the relationship is working. He is interested in making sure that he stays in control. It’s important to realize that it is not your job to “fix” him or remain with someone who is hurting you.
While this post is geared towards women, it’s important to acknowledge that women can also be abusers. If you’re a man in an abusive relationship, we recommend the post “When Men Are the Victims of Abuse” on The Good Men Project.
Myth #4: Abusive men are monsters
People think that abusive men are easily identified. On the contrary, abusive men look and act like any other men when they are in public. Men who are abusive and violent to their partners in private are often liked and respected in their communities. They may be a soccer coach or the head of the neighborhood watch committee. They may be police officers or truck drivers, lawyers or business people. If your community sees your partner as a “good guy” but he behaves in appalling ways behind closed doors, you are not alone. This is the experience of many other women.
If challenging these myths has been helpful for you and if parts of this article reflect your own experience, you may be experiencing abuse. If you are currently in an abusive relationship or have left an abusive man, you deserve understanding and support. Pick up a copy of When Love Hurts: A Woman’s Guide to Understanding Abuse in Relationships. It can be a helpful guide as you continue to ask questions about your relationship.
Most importantly, do not be afraid to seek help. The National Domestic Violence Abuse Hotline provides free, confidential support in 170 languages, 24/7: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
About the Authors
Authors Jill Cory and Karen McAndless-Davis share their decades of experience in supporting abused women in their book, When Love Hurts, offering insights and sharing stories from women with firsthand accounts to help make sense of abusive relationships. This practical guidebook addresses all forms of abuse including verbal, emotional, financial, sexual and physical and serves as a supportive and non-judgmental resource for women who have been in the position of feeling powerless and confused.