No matter how you define domestic violence, no matter what you think about the topic, and no matter who you know who has been a victim, one thing is clear: Australia has a serious issue with domestic violence. More than a third of Australian women have experienced domestic violence, with a million women assaulted each year. We often work with domestic violence survivors, and we know it’s a long road from abuse to survival, and from survival to recovery. Sadly, a number of myths about domestic violence continue to deter victims from seeking help, and undermine the ability of bystanders to offer meaningful assistance. It’s time for these domestic violence myths to be put to bed once and for all.
Therapy Can’t Fix Domestic Violence
Therapy is the single most effective tool for victims trying to recover from the aftermath of domestic violence. If you are a survivor, you may need help to rebuild your self-esteem, move beyond depression, and avoid finding yourself in this situation again. Domestic violence is often a cycle, and once a survivor has been abused once, subsequent abuse can feel normal, and even like love. Therapy helps you break free from that damaging cycle.
But what about couples involved in domestic violence relationships. Research consistently shows that therapy can be dangerous if the abuse is ongoing. Therapy is built upon the notion that both partners share responsibility for their struggles, but the abuser—and the abuser alone—is the party responsible for domestic violence. If the abuse has stopped and the abuser is willing to take responsibility, therapy can help. Otherwise, we recommend that victims seek individual counselling instead of couple counselling and that perpetrators seek assistance from a therapist or a psychologist who works with abusers.
Domestic Violence Only Happens to Women
About 90% of domestic violence perpetrators are men, but this does not mean that women are the only people who are abused. Abuse against men is increasingly common, particularly in same-sex relationships. But don’t allow yourself to be fooled by false claims about women’s violence. Though women can and do become violent, research shows that women’s violence is comparatively less severe, usually limited to slaps and other low-level forms of violence. Men are significantly more likely to kill or severely wound their partners. Therapists who treat a woman who slaps a man once and a man who bludgeons a woman into unconsciousness as equally responsible commit a grave error.
Domestic Violence Victims Cause Their Own Abuse
Abusers often try to escape responsibility by pointing the finger at the victim. No matter how badly the victim behaves, even if he or she is unfaithful or dishonest, there is nothing he or she can do to cause the violence, and similarly nothing he or she can do to stop it. Domestic violence is the fault of the abuser, and the abuser alone. Only violent, angry people become aggressive—even when provoked. If you think the person you attacked did something to deserve the attack, it’s a sure sign you have a serious problem with violence.
Domestic Violence is Rare and Inconsequential
Research consistently suggests that domestic violence is common, with about a third of women and three percent of men experiencing it at some point. Domestic violence assaults are potentially deadly. Indeed, domestic violence is a leading cause of injury to women in Australia, and a leading cause of death and disfigurement globally. A single slap quickly escalates into a full-fledged attack, and men who attack others cannot be trusted to stop after the first attack.
Anyone Can Snap
Domestic abusers often say that thy snapped, or lost control. The truth is that normal, healthy people do not suddenly snap and attack people they love. Domestic violence is not normal, and it’s not acceptable to attack someone you claim to love. Love is about protection and service, not violence and control. If you or someone you care about is involved in a domestic violence relationship, please seek help now, before it’s too late. Abusers can and do kill their victims, but leaving before things get out of control could save your life.