Domestic Violence Myths and Facts

MYTH: Abuse is caused by alcohol or drugs.

FACT: Studies show that while factors such as substance abuse can increase the severity of the abuse and violence, it does not cause the violence.

  • Substance abuse can be a co-occurring issue with domestic violence. The batterer may use alcohol as an excuse for his behavior and the violence. For example, the batterer may claim he was violent because he was drunk. This may also lead the victim to believe that the batterer is abusive because of alcohol or drugs.

MYTH: If it were that bad, she would leave.

FACT: There are many reasons why a woman may not leave. Not leaving does not mean that the victim wants to be abused. There is a real fear of death or more abuse if they leave. In fact, a victim’s risk of getting killed greatly increases when they are in the process of leaving or have just left. Bachman, R. and Salzman, L., U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Violence Against Women: Estimates from the Redesigned Survey 1. (January 2000).

  • Batterers are very good at making victims think that the abuse is their fault. Victims often believe that if they caused the violence, they can stop it. Victims stay because they are made to think they cannot survive on their own, financially or otherwise. Often abusers create a financial situation that makes leaving nearly impossible.
  • Survivors sometimes want the abuse to end, not the relationship. A survivor may return to the abuser because that’s the person she fell in love with, and believes his promises to change. It’s not easy for anyone to let go of hopes and dreams.

MYTH: Some people deserve to be hit.

FACT: No one deserves to be abused. Period. The only person responsible for the abuse is the abuser.

MYTH: Men and Women are victims of domestic violence at approximately the same rate.

FACT: Women experience more intimate partner violence than do men: In 2008, the rate of intimate partner victimizations for females was 4.3 victimizations per 1,000 females age 12 or older. The equivalent rate of intimate partner violence against males was 0.8 victimizations per 1,000 males age 12 or older. Catalano, Smith, Snyder, & Rand (2009). Bureau of Justice Statistics Selected Findings: Female Victims of Domestic Violence. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, NCJ 228356.

  • Females were murdered by intimate partners at twice the rate of males. In 2007, the rate of intimate partner homicide for females was 1.07 per 100,000 female residents compared to 0.47 per 100,000 male residents. Id.
  • Violence against women is primarily intimate partner violence: 64 percent of the women who reported being raped, physically assaulted, or stalked since age 18 were victimized by a current or former husband, cohabiting partner, boyfriend, or date. In comparison, 16.2 percent of the men who reported being raped and/or physically assaulted since age 18 were victimized by such a perpetrator. National Institute of Justice and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (1998). Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey.
  • While some people may believe that there is a higher reported incidence of women experiencing violence by their male partners due to men underreporting when they are victims, the reality is the opposite. In 2008, 72 percent of the intimate partner violence against males and 49 percent of the intimate partner violence against females was reported to police. Catalano, Smith, Snyder, & Rand (2009). Bureau of Justice Statistics Selected Findings: Female Victims of Domestic Violence. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, NCJ 228356.
  • An estimated 40 percent of female homicide victims were killed by an intimate partner in 1993; the percentage increased to 45 percent in 2007. An estimated six percent of male homicide victims were killed by an intimate partner in 1993; this figure was five percent in 2007.Id.

Myth: Sexual and domestic violence occurs only in poor, undereducated, or dysfunctional families and communities.

FACT: Sexual and domestic violence crosses all age, ethnic, socioeconomic, religious, and educational boundaries.

  • Sexual and domestic violence may impact victims within a certain age group, ethnic or cultural background, socioeconomic class, religious affiliation or educational background because of the additional barriers experienced by these victims when attempting to access services. However, this does not mean that men from these groups are more violent, or that women in these groups are more likely to be victims.
  • For example, immigrant women may face unique difficulties because of lack of appropriate interpreters within agencies, severe economic barriers, and cultural isolation. These barriers may make it difficult for an immigrant victim to reach out for help.
  • Culture is, at times, mistakenly used by service providers working within the sexual domestic violence field as a way to explain behaviors that may be different from their own. Warrier, S. (2006). Culture Handbook.
  • Using age, ethnicity, culture, socio-economic status, religion, or educational background as a justification for domestic or sexual violence generalizes information and creates stereotypes that are not only misleading, but detrimental to victims and their children and the quality of safety services they receive.

Myth: Children who are abused or who have witnessed abuse in their homes often become batterers or victims as adults.

FACT: Research indicates that experiencing or witnessing domestic violence as a child does not automatically lead to being involved in intimate partner violence as an adult. Many people have grown up in homes where domestic violence was occurring; however, not all of those children become adults who use violence. While experiencing domestic violence can be a risk factor, many factors also contribute to children’s resiliencies and their ability to grow up to become productive, safe adults.

Myth: Batterers are abusive because they cannot control themselves or because they have anger management problems. Myth (cont.): Batterers suffer from low self-esteem. They abuse and put down their partner to make themselves feel better.

FACT: Domestic violence is about dominance and control. Most batterers do not have anger management problems. For example, they do not beat up their boss or co-workers when they are upset. Most batterers do, however, have beliefs consistent with entitlement.

  • Anger management class is not an appropriate intervention for batterers.

Domestic Violence Statistics

Intimate Partner Violence

  • 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have been a victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner. (NISVS, 2010)
  • Around 48% of both men and women have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner. (NISVS, 2010)
  • An estimated 36.2 million women have been slapped, pushed or shoved by an intimate partner at some point in her lives. (NISVS, 2010)
  • 75% of intimate partner violence victims between the ages of 18 and 49 reported multiple abuse incidents by the same perpetrator.
  • 81% of intimate partner victims report significant long-term impacts of abuse including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms and physical injuries. (NISVS, 2010)


Reproductive Coercion

  • Approximately 10.3 million women in the United States reported having an intimate partner try to get them pregnant when they did not want to, or refused to use a condom during intercourse. (NISVS, 2010)
  • One study of teen mothers on public assistance, found that 2/3 of mothers experiencing intimate partner violence, had also experienced birth control sabotage at the hands of their dating partner. (Futures Without Violence, 2008)
  • 15% of young women who experienced forced sex report having an STD as compared with just 7% of young women who have not experienced forced sex. (Futures Without Violence, 2008)
  • 40% of pregnant women who have been exposed to abuse, report that their pregnancy was unintended, compared to just 8% of non-abused women. (Futures Without Violence, 2008)
  • Homicide is the second leading cause of death for pregnant and recently pregnant women in the U.S., accounting for 31% of maternal injury deaths. (Futures Without Violence, 2008)


Sexual Violence

  • Nearly 1 in 5 women have been raped in their lifetimes. (NSVRC, 2011)
  • On average, almost 500 women (483) are raped or sexually assaulted each day in the United States. (Futures Without Violence, 2008)
  • Approximately 75.5% of 2010 Kansas rape offenders were known by their victims (KBI, 2010).
  • Male rape victims and male victims of non-contact unwanted sexual experiences reported predominantly male perpetrators. (NISVS, 2010)
  • Nearly 1 in 2 female victims of sexual violence reported perpetration by an acquaintance. (NISVS, 2010)
  • 52.4% of male victims report being raped by an acquaintance. (NSVRC, 2011)
  • 98.1 % of female rape victims reported only male perpetrators. (NISVS, 2010)
  • Each rape costs approximately $151,423. (NSVRC, 2011)



  • 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men have experienced stalking victimization during their lifetime in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be killed. (NISVS, 2010)
  • 66.2% of female stalking victims were stalked by a current or former intimate partner. (NISVS, 2010)
  • 18.3% of female stalking victims were stalked before age 18. (NISVS, 2010)
  • 2/3 of stalkers pursue their victims at least once per week, many daily, using more than one method. (Stalking Resource Center, 2012)
  • Almost 1/3 of stalkers have stalked before. (Stalking Resource Center, 2012)
  • Repeatedly receiving unwanted telephone calls, voice, or text messages was the most commonly experienced stalking tactic for both female and male victims of stalking (78% for women and 75.9% for men). (NISVS, 2010)


Teen Dating Violence

  • Among adult victims of rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner, 22.4% of women and 15.0% of men first experienced some form of partner violence between 11 and 17 years of age. (NISVS, 2011)
  • 41% of female child sexual violence victims did not complete high school. (PCAR, 2007)
  • 1 in 3 adolescents tested for sexually transmitted infections and HIV have experienced domestic violence. (Futures Without Violence, 2008)
  • 35.2% of women who reported a completed rape before age 18, also experienced a completed rape as an adult. (NISVS, 2010)
  • Nearly 10% of high school students report being hit, slapped, or physically hurt by their boyfriend or girlfriend. (CDC, 2011)


Violence Against People With Disabilities

  • In 2007, persons with disabilities were victims of about 47,000 rapes, 114,000 aggravated assaults, and 476,000 simple assaults. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Crime Victimization Survey, 2007)
  • The age-adjusted rate for persons with disabilities experiencing rape or sexual assault is more than twice the rate for persons without disabilities. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Crime Victimization Survey, 2007)
  • 60% of rape or sexual assault victims in the National Crime Victimization Survey, had more than one disability. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Crime Victimization Survey, 2007)
  • In 2007, persons with cognitive disabilities reported the higher rates of rape and sexual assault than any other type of disability surveyed including physical disabilities, sensory disabilities, and self-care disabilities. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Crime Victimization Survey, 2007)
  • Intimate partners were responsible for 16% of nonfatal violence against females and 5% against males with disabilities. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Crime Victimization Survey, 2007)


Violence and Immigrant Women

  • In one study, 62% of immigrant women reported that they were subjected to weekly physical and emotional abuse. (Ayuda, 2011)
  • 1/5 of female immigrant victims reported that their spouses use threats of deportation, of not filing immigration papers, or withdrawing papers as a power and control tactic in their relationships. (Ayuda, 2011)
  • Immigrant women report exceptionally high rates of sexual assault during their first two years in the United States. (JWI, 2010)
  • When their spouse is a United States citizen, abuse rates rise to 59.5% for immigrant women. (JWI, 2010)
  • 18% of the United States population is immigrant or foreign-born but less than 1% of reported sexual assaults are against foreign-born women.(National Violence Against Women Survey)


Violence and Poverty

  • 45% of domestic violence survivors in one study reported experiencing financial difficulties including not being able to pay their bills. (NCRDV, 2010)
  • 13% of homeless adults in the cities surveyed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors were victims of domestic violence. (A Status Report on Hunger and Homelessness in American Cities, 2011)
  • In a 2008, 99% of domestic violence victims surveyed had experienced at least one form of economic abuse. (VAWnet, 2008)
  • 92% of a sample of homeless mothers had experienced severe physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lives. (PCAR, 2007)
  • Studies of welfare caseloads find that as much as 23% of women receiving public assistance are current or past victims of domestic violence.(VAWnet, 2001)
  • 27.5% of “street youth” and 9.5% of “shelter youth” engaged in survival sex (selling sex for shelter, food, drugs, or money). (PCAR, 2007)
  • 50% of sexual assault victims lost their jobs or were forced to quit after being raped. (PCAR, 2007)

Safety Tips: Internet and Computer Safety

If you are in danger, please try to use a safer computer that someone abusive does not have direct or remote (hacking) access to.


  • If you think your activities are being monitored, they probably are. Abusive people are often controlling and want to know your every move. You don’t need to be a computer programmer or have special skills to monitor someone’s computer and Internet activities – anyone can do it and there are many ways to monitor with programs like Spyware, keystroke loggers and hacking tools.

  • It is not possible to delete or clear all the “footprints” of your computer or online activities. If you are being monitored, it may be dangerous to change your computer behaviors such as suddenly deleting your entire Internet history if that is not your regular habit.

  • If you think you may be monitored on your home computer, be careful how you use your computer since an abuser might become suspicious. You may want to keep using the monitored computer for innocuous activities, like looking up the weather. Use a safer computer to research an escape plan, look for new jobs or apartments, bus tickets, or ask for help.

  • Email and Instant/Text Messaging (IM) are not safe or confidential ways to talk to someone about the danger or abuse in your life. If possible, please call a hotline instead. If you use email or IM, please use a safer computer and an account your abuser does not know about.

  • Computers can store a lot of private information about what you look at via the Internet, the emails and instant messages you send, internet-based phone and IP-TTY calls you make, web-based purchases and banking, and many other activities.

  • It might be safer to use a computer in a public library, at a trusted friend’s house, or an Internet Café.

Source: National Network to End Domestic Violence

Forms of Abuse

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is a powerful way that an abusive person gets and keeps their partner under control and it instills an environment of constant fear. While physical abuse is the form of abuse that is most commonly known, it may or may not be a part of an abusive relationship. If physical abuse is present early in the relationship, it commonly gets worse over time. If there is no physical abuse in the relationship, it may begin to occur when the victim is pregnant or when the victim is considering leaving the relationship. Physical violence may include: hitting, punching, kicking, slapping, strangling, smothering, using or threatening to use weapons, shoving, interrupting your sleep, throwing things, destroying property, hurting or killing pets, and denying medical treatment.



Sexual Abuse

Some form of sexual abuse is common in abusive relationships but it is often the least discussed. It can be subtle or overt. The impact on the victim is commonly feelings of shame and humiliation. Sexual abuse may include: physically forcing sex, making you feel fearful about saying no to sex, forcing sex with other partners, forcing you to participate in demeaning or degrading sexual acts, violence or name calling during sex, and denying contraception or protection from sexually transmitted diseases.



Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse occurs in some form in all abusive relationships. It is a very effective tactic used by abusive partners to obtain power and control and it can cause extreme damage to the victim’s self esteem. Commonly, emotional abuse makes the victim feel like they are responsible for the abuse and to feel crazy, worthless and hopeless. It is so damaging that many survivors of domestic violence report that they would have rather “be hit” than endure the ongoing psychic damage of emotional abuse. Emotional abuse can include: constant put downs or criticisms, name calling, “crazy making”, acting superior, minimizing the abuse or blaming you for their behavior, threatening and making you feel fearful, isolating you from family and friends, excessive jealously, accusing you of having affairs, and watching where you go and who you talk to.



Financial Abuse

This form of abuse is one of the least commonly known but one of the most powerful tactic of entrapping a victims in the relationship. It is so powerful that many victims of abuse describe it as the main reason that they stayed in an abusive relationship or went back to one. Some forms of financial abuse include: giving you an allowance, not letting you have your own money, hiding family assets, running up debt, interfering with your job, and ruining your credit. Source: National Network to End Domestic Violence

Red Flags of Abuse

The following is a list of early warning signs that someone may be abusive. This list was put together by survivors of domestic violence who reflected on the early phases of the battering relationship and identified some of the early warning signs of abusers.   Someone who:


Pay attention to the “red flags” and trust your instincts. Survivors of domestic violence frequently report that their instincts told them that there was something wrong early on but they disregarded the warning signs and didn’t know that these signs were indicative of an abusive relationship. Always take time to get to know a potential partner and watch for patterns of behavior in a variety of settings. Keeping in touch with your support system and participating in good self-care can lower your risk of being involved in an abusive relationship.


Source: National Network to End Domestic Violence