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.


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