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Domestic Violence: Myths and Realities



Myths & Realities
There are common misconceptions about intimate partner violence. The following myths and realities highlight a few.

Myth: If it was really that bad, she would leave the relationship.

Reality: That victims stay in relationships is in itself a myth. Many do leave. Some stay away; others come back. They come back for many reasons, for example, in response to promises that the perpetrator will change, that violence will never happen again, that the perpetrator can't live without the victim and may commit suicide if they don't return, to see their children. There are many reason all of which play to the victims vulnerability.

A person may stay in an abusive relationship for a multitude of reasons, including survival. Often people who have not been abused by an intimate partner say that if their partner ever abused them they certainly would leave. Victims may stay because of: terror, economic dependence, love, isolation, religious or cultural beliefs, homelessness, shame, or fear of losing custody of their children. Batterers prevent their partners from leaving by threatening to harm or kill themselves, the children, and the victim. Many victims recognize that if they take steps to leave, they risk the violence escalating against them and their children. In fact, many of the worst injuries and deaths occur when victims of domestic violence try to leave and as many as 50% of batterers find their partners and continue to abuse and harass after separation. Remaining in or returning to an abusive relationship may be a rational survival mechanism for victims. Thus, victims of domestic violence may attempt to protect themselves through a variety of mechanisms short of leaving.


Myth: Even if she leaves, she will just find another abusive relationship.

Reality: Victims of domestic violence are not masochistic. They do not seek out or enjoy being abused. While some victims may become involved with other partners who later begin to abuse them, there is no evidence that the majority of victims have this experience. Low self-esteem, childhood victimization, mental illness, and depression do not cause a person to be battered. However, the effects of violence on the survivor may include loss of self esteem, the use of drugs, post-traumatic stress symptoms, or depression.


Myth: Battered parents care more about their abusers than their children.

Reality: Most battered parents surviving in abusive relationships routinely act in conscious ways to protect their children and to minimize the abuse directed toward them. There are numerous things that can bear upon a battered parent’s decision-making with regards to the children. Some of these are her overall situation; the timeframe in which she has to consider her options; the possible removal of children; factors impacting the safety of both her and her children; and her knowledge and understanding of the child abuse/neglect, the systems involved, and the services offered and available. Parents who are battered often go to tremendous and courageous lengths to protect their children from an abusive partner. Research has shown that the non-abusing parent is often the strongest protective factor in the lives of children who are exposed to domestic violence. Battered parents will and often do resist abuse directed toward their children, including withstanding violence perpetuated on them, in order to ensure their children’s safety. Many victims worry that if they leave, they may pay the price by losing custody of their children. This fear is especially real for victim parents who have histories of drug or alcohol abuse or among victims who are less financially independent or educated than their partners.


Myth: Batterers abuse their partners because of alcohol or drug abuse.

Reality: Alcohol or substance abuse does not cause perpetrators of domestic violence to abuse their partners, though it is frequently used as an excuse. Substance abuse may increase the frequency or severity of violent episodes in some cases. Rates of simultaneously occurring domestic violence and alcohol abuse vary from as low as 25 percent in some studies, to as high as 80 percent in others. Chemical dependency treatment will not stop someone from battering; the two problems need to be dealt with separately



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