Myths about Domestic Abuse
There are many myths about domestic abuse and sexual violence which are deep rooted in our society. These are very dangerous as they contribute to stigma and can prevent women from accessing support. There are some common myths that we often hear or know of which not only excuse abusive behaviour, but also create a culture of victim blaming.
“It’s not abuse unless they hit you”
Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) can take many forms and all of these can have traumatising effects on the survivor. Domestic abuse can also be psychological, economic, emotional or sexual. You do not have to have been physically assaulted to have experienced domestic abuse. Perpetrators will use any means available to them to assert power and control and therefore any form of gender based violence should be taken seriously.
“More people would leave if the abuse was that bad”
Leaving an abusive relationship is not as simple as packing up one day and leaving for good and this is a huge misconception. There are many barriers women face when deciding whether or not to leave, and sometimes they may feel that the safer option at that time for their family is to remain in the abusive relationship. At Hillingdon Women’s Centre we do not force anyone to make decisions that they are not comfortable with, and will support you for as long as you need. Our Caseworker will help you with safety planning and can outline your options but the decision on how to proceed is always yours.
“She didn’t say no, so it means there was consent”
Consent is not just about saying “no” or “yes”. Consenting partners should feel safe to have a conversation about what they are comfortable with and this should always be respected. Many women feel afraid of the repercussions of saying no to their partner. For example they may have been threatened or pressured into consenting to a sexual act. Informed, genuine consent is also not possible if you are under the influence of a substance, or are unconscious.
“It’s her fault, she should have known that wearing those clothes would have that reaction”
This is another example of victim blaming which is deep rooted in the misogynistic idea that by dressing in clothing which exposes parts of your body means that you are ‘asking for it’. This is degrading to women and takes the responsibility away from the perpetrator. There is never an excuse for sexual violence or abuse.
“Children should have contact with both parents, no matter what happened between them”
The reality is that children also become victims of domestic abuse. In fact, the government will be amending the Domestic Abuse Bill in 2020 to create a statutory definition of abuse which will include children as victims in their own right. Witnessing or being forced to participate in the abuse is extremely traumatising for children and should be taken very seriously as they will have also experienced the effects of violent behaviour. The safety and arrangements for child contact should be carefully considered when there is a report of domestic abuse within a family.
“She provoked him”
Again, there is never an excuse or a reason which justifies domestic abuse. No matter what the situation, to use violence (in any form) against your partner is unacceptable. Perpetrators choose to be abusive and they consider how and when they are going to hurt their partner. Domestic abuse is often justified as momentary ‘loss of control’ or a ‘lapse in judgement’ which is untrue and removes the fault away from the violent partner. Domestic abuse is more than just an argument and is not something that needs to be kept private or ‘in the family’. Remember that domestic abuse is about power and control.