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 to finally put these domestic violence myths to bed.
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. Abusers often create a cycle of domestic violence, and after a survivor experiences abuse initially, they can perceive subsequent abuse as normal or even as an expression of 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 blame victims, even when victims behave poorly or are unfaithful. However, the victim’s actions can’t justify violence; it’s solely the abuser’s responsibility. Domestic violence is the abuser’s fault. Aggression stems from violent individuals, even when provoked. Believing an attack was deserved indicates a serious violence issue.
Domestic Violence is Rare and Inconsequential
Research indicates frequent domestic violence, affecting roughly 1/3 of women and 3% of men. These assaults can be lethal, especially for women in Australia and globally causing harm and death. A single slap often snowballs into a sustained attack; men who initiate violence tend to persist beyond the initial instance.
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.