Domestic Violence Myths and Realities

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

While abuse has been something that we’ve talked more about in the mainstream in recent years, there is still a lot of stigma and misinformation surrounding domestic violence (also known as intimate partner violence). In an effort to reveal some untruths today we are sharing some myths and realities about domestic violence.

First, consider this statistic:

On average, 20 people per minute are victims of physical abuse at the hands of their partner in the United States of America (source).

Given the scope of this issues, it’s something that deserves everyone’s attention and awareness.


Myth: “Domestic violence is only physical abuse.”

Reality: Domestic violence (or abuse) is a pattern of abuse and manipulation that leaves a partner feeling anxious, trapped and at times, fearful for their own life. This abuse can be physical, including but not limited to hitting, punching, kicking, choking, sexual assault, etc. It may also include behaviors such as harassment, stalking (in person and/or on social media), manipulation, isolation and coercion.

Myth: “Men are not survivors of domestic violence. They should be able to protect themselves!”

Reality: This is a common myth and one I’ve heard over and over again in my conversations with both men and women. The reality is that many men are survivors of domestic violence. Unfortunately, this myth reinforces stigma and stereotypes that leaves men feeling silent and even more isolated when they are being abused. Women can be perpetrators of all kinds of abuse and violence. Men are also be subjected to domestic violence from other men. And physical abuse is just one aspect of domestic violence. Stalking and surveillance (including social media), coercion and emotional manipulation are also common tactics abusers use to get their way and terrorize their partners. It has been estimated that “1 in 7 men (13.8%) aged 18 and older in the United States have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.”

Myth: “Strong women don’t let themselves get abused.”

Reality: Abusers are manipulative and very crafty. While we all would like to think we would never allow ourselves in this kind of situation, the reality is that the abuse often escalates slowly over time. Often the abuse will start in the form of jealousy and other seemingly benign controlling behaviors or comments “I don’t want you to dress like that. I don’t want people seeing what I’ve got.” Over time, abusers wear down their victims using emotional and verbal abuse, isolation and financial abuse to ensure that their partner feels so low that they can’t possibly escape. This makes early recognition and intervention key. It can be incredibly difficult to discern if the abuse is just a “bad day” or a pattern. These warning signs will help.

Myth: “Abusers are obviously nasty men that you can spot from a mile away.”

Reality: As stated before, serial abusers are often crafty and manipulative. And let’s not forget that abusers can also be women and trans folks. Statistically, however, male abusers are more common especially as it relates to physical violence. Abusers often have charming personalities that make them alluring to many. They use this to their advantage to get the things that they want from the people in their lives.

Myth: “If a man grows up with an abusive father he’ll grow up to be an abuser.”

Reality: Trauma history does not justify violent behavior, nor does it accurately predict it. The reality is that there are far more men who are childhood survivors of abuse who never go on to batter their partners. History does not equal destiny. However, behavior is learned. Men who have been continuously rewarded for misogynistic attitudes, aggressive and violent behavior are at greater risk to become serial abusers.

There are many more myths and realities about domestic violence that need to be addressed in order to bring about greater awareness and our collective safety. This is just a small sample of some of the most common myths and realities I often come across. If you are a survivor in need of help please visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline. You do not deserve to suffer in silence.

If you are a survivor and would like support in finding safety or recover and heal from a past violent relationship, our team of therapists are available to help. Please submit an inquiry on our new client page.

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