October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month — a time for people and communities to come together to raise awareness and help end this devastating and deadly crime. The statistics are shocking. In the U.S., 1 in 4 women has been a victim of physical violence by an intimate partner in her lifetime, and 1 in 5 women have been raped. 1 in 6 women has been stalked.
A report last year by the CDC highlights the tremendous lifetime impact that sexual violence, domestic violence and stalking has on women. The study shows that female victims of violence had a significantly higher rate of long-term health problems, including irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, frequent headaches, chronic pain, and difficulty sleeping. And nearly twice as many women who were victims of violence reported having asthma, compared to women who did not report violence victimization.
These high rates of violence against women and the lasting lifelong impacts domestic violence has makes it imperative that we all do our part to help reduce and end the scourge of domestic violence. The myths regarding domestic violence have persisted for decades. Let's highlight five of the most prevalent myths about domestic violence and provide the real facts, as education is critical to ending the cycle of domestic violence.
Myth #1: Domestic violence only occurs in poor, uneducated, and minority families.
Truth: Studies have consistently shown that battering occurs in all types of families, regardless of race, income level, educational level, ethnicity, and region. Women of all races are about equally vulnerable to violence by an intimate partner. Intimate partner violence affects people regardless of income, however, people with lower annual income (below $25K) are at a 3x higher risk of intimate partner violence than people with higher annual income (over $50K). It is important to note though, that those with fewer resources are more likely to report incidents of violence.
Myth #2: Alcohol, drug abuse, and stress cause domestic violence
Truth: Many abusers also abuse alcohol and drugs, but these are not the causes of domestic violence, they are excuses. Abusers often use alcohol or drugs as a way to place the responsibility for their violence elsewhere. It is important to understand that stopping the abusers’ drinking or drug use will not stop the violence. Both battering and substance abuse need to be addressed separately, as overlapping yet independent problems.
Myth #3: Victims of domestic violence don't leave or accept help, so why bring it up?
Fear and/or lack of confidence and resources are frequent reasons why many victims don't leave. This is very understandable, as a common tactic that abusers use is to isolate their victim from friends and family. Fear of retaliation, depression, exhaustion, fear for the safety of their helpers, and a lack of real resources such as affordable housing, childcare, transportation, and health care, easily trap victims in the abusive relationship even if they would like to separate from their partner. Battered women often make repeated attempts to leave violent relationships, but are prevented from doing so by increased violence and control tactics on the part of the abuser. And truthfully, studies show that domestic violence tends to escalate when victims leave the relationship, so it is very important to help the victims come up with a safe plan to escape.
Myth #4: Battered women often provoke the abuse.
Truth: Focusing on the victim's behavior takes the focus off the abuser's responsibility for abuse, and is absolutely wrong! Many couples who have relationship issues, or are in relationships with difficult people do not respond with violence. No one asks to be abused, and nobody deserves to be abused, regardless of what they have done or said. Battering is a behavioral choice for which the batterer must be held accountable. Many battered women mistakenly think that changing their behavior will stop the abuse, but this does not work.
Myth #5: Perpetrators of domestic violence are easy to identify because they are violent in all relationships.
Truth: Abusers are often violent towards their partner, and would never display violence to others. Some abusers are successful in their profession, and very charming to co-workers and friends. In fact, maintaining a good image to friends, employers, family, and neighbors often gives the abuser a feeling of more control because people will be less likely to believe the abuser is capable of violent behavior.
Though the statistics and facts are scary, many victims do successfully escape the cycle and live healthy, violence-free lives. If you live locally here in Orange County, please refer to our previous blog post which highlights many wonderful domestic violence resources that are available locally. For legal questions regarding domestic violence, please don't hesitate to call our office at 714.969.9910 for a free consultation.