Common myths about domestic abuse

One of the most distressing things about being a victim/survivor of domestic abuse can be dealing with others' attitudes. So many myths surround the issue of domestic abuse and many people, including workers from other agencies, your friends and family, may believe them to be true and therefore not understand what you are going through.

Myth: Alcohol and drugs make men violent.

Fact: Many men are violent when stone-cold sober. Others never touch alcohol, yet regularly abuse their partner.  Blaming drink or drugs is an excuse and a way of denying responsibility. Alcohol and drugs may be the trigger for an abusive incident, but they are not the cause.

Myth: It only happens in poor families on council estates.

Fact: Anyone can be abused, no matter where they live or how much income they have. Domestic abuse is about the perpetrator exerting power and control over others. It is a worldwide problem and it crosses all economic, social, educational, ethnic and religious sections of society. Men who abuse women are as likely to be lawyers, accountants and judges as they are milkmen, cleaners or unemployed.

Myth: More women would leave if the abuse was that bad.

Fact: There are many reasons for staying with an abusive partner.

The abused woman may fear what her partner will do if she leaves, or she may believe that staying with him is better for the children.  The abuser may have made threats to harm her, the children or pets, or to end his own life if she leaves. 

An abused woman’s self-esteem will have been steadily worn down and she may not believe she will manage on her own or that she has any other options.  She may have been brainwashed into thinking she’s worthless.  She will no doubt feel ashamed of what has happened and will probably have been convinced that everything is her fault.

Many women will be emotionally and financially dependent on their partners and will often be very isolated, particularly if English is not the first language.

Women from different cultures can find it particularly difficult to leave an abusive man as this would bring shame on both themselves and their family. They may feel they are betraying their community if they contact the police.  

An abused woman often lives in hope that her partner will change. She will remember the good times at the start of the relationship and hope they will return. In emotional terms, she has made a huge investment in the relationship and she wants it to work.

Myth: Abusers grow up in violent homes.

Fact: Growing up in a violent home is a risk factor and some children who experience abuse do go on to be abusive in their relationships. However, many do not and are repelled by violence as adults because they have seen the damage it causes: they would never dream of hitting their partner.

Abusers learn to be violent from the society they grow up in. Inequality between the sexes means that men have more power over women: inevitably some of them abuse or exploit that power.

People who blame abuse on their childhood experiences avoid taking responsibility for their actions. Violence is a conscious choice made by the abuser in order to exert power and control over a victim(s).

Myth: Some women like violence.

Fact: Women do not enjoy violence, or find it a turn-on, and most live in fear and terror.  This myth is victim-blaming and removes the responsibility for abuse from the perpetrator.


Myth: Women ask for it. They deserve what they get.

Fact: Women are often attacked by their partner for no apparent reason.  Even if a woman has behaved appallingly, she does not deserve to be beaten. Violence and intimidation are not acceptable ways to solve conflict in a relationship.   Again this is a way of justifying and making excuses for the abuser’s behaviour.  It allows a violent man to avoid responsibility for his actions.

Myth: Abusive men have a mental illness.

Fact: The vast majority of men who abuse are not mentally ill. Research shows that the proportion of abusers with mental health problems is no higher than in society as a whole. If an abusive man were mentally ill, how is it that he only abuses his partner; not his colleagues, strangers, or friends?

Myth: He only hit her because he was under stress.

Fact: Some men who abuse their partners are suffering from stress; this is a factor, not a cause.  Many men who are stressed are never abusive.  Similarly, many men who do abuse their partner cannot claim to be under stress.  Blaming stress as a reason for being abusive is a way of perpetrators excusing their behaviour and not taking any responsibility for their actions.

Myth: He loses his temper sometimes, that’s all.

Fact: People argue that an abusive man loses his temper or is out of control. In fact, abusive men are very much in control.  Abusers can be selective about when they hit their partner e.g. when the children are asleep. Or they choose not to mark her face, or any part of her body which others will see. This demonstrates they are very aware of, and in control of, what they are doing.  Many men abuse their partners emotionally and psychologically, without ever using anger or physical violence. This also shows the extent of their control.

Myth: Domestic abuse is a private matter, you shouldn’t get involved.

Fact: For too long domestic abuse has been allowed to happen behind closed doors. People think that what goes on in the home is private and not their problem.  Domestic abuse is against the law; it is a criminal offence.

We are all affected by domestic abuse, and we all have a responsibility to speak out against it. Only then will we end it.


These and other myths may leave you feeling upset, uncomfortable and blaming yourself for what has happened to you.  Abuse is never the fault of the victim; it is 100% the choice and responsibility of the abuser. 

If you have been the victim of domestic abuse or, are supporting someone else who has, you can contact The Women’s Centre Cornwall for help and information. It doesn't matter whether this happened recently or a long time ago. You can phone the Women's Domestic Abuse Helpline and speak to someone in confidence.

Alternatively, if you think that you are at high risk of harm, you can self-refer to First Light where an Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA) will carry out a risk assessment with you.  The IDVA team provides advocacy and support to high risk victims of domestic abuse.

If you or your children are in immediate danger PLEASE CALL 999 and ask for the police emergency service.


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