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Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence Myths and Facts

•  MYTH: If the abuse was that bad, the victim would just leave.

FACT: Victims stay in abusive relationships for a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons include fear for physical safety, having no place to go, no access to money, hope that the violence will stop, etc. Some studies show that victims leave an average of 7 times before they leave for good, and that victims are more likely to be killed or seriously injured at the time of their departure.

•  MYTH: Domestic violence only happens in poor, undereducated families and relationships.

FACT: Studies of domestic violence have found that battering occurs among all types of families and relationships, regardless of income, profession, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, educational level or race. However, lower income victims and abusers are over-represented in calls to police and shelters because of a lack of other resources.

•  MYTH: Alcohol abuse causes domestic violence, not the abuser.

FACT : Although there is a high correlation between alcohol/drugs and battering, it is not the cause of abuse. Batterers use drinking as one of many excuses for their violent behavior. Blaming the alcohol is an easy way for abusers to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. Stopping the abusers' drinking will not stop the violence. Both battering and substance abuse need to be addressed separately, as overlapping yet independent problems.

•  MYTH : Children aren't aware of or affected by the violence in their home.

FACT: Studies show that 90% of children are aware of the violence directed at their parent. Children who witness violence are just as traumatized as they would be if the violence was directly targeted at them.

•  MYTH: Children aren't at risk for being hurt or injured when there is domestic violence in their home.

FACT: Men who abuse their partners are likely to abuse the children in the home as well. Domestic violence in the home is the number one predictor for child abuse.

•  MYTH: All boys who witness violence will grow up to be batterers.

FACT: Studies have found that 30% of male child witnesses choose to become batterers as adults. This means that 70% did not become batterers and are committed to ending the cycle of violence in their lives.

•  MYTH: The abuser is just "out of control".

FACT: The abuser is very much in control. An abuser chooses whom, when and where to use violence. The violence is not random, nor is it directed at the employer, neighbor or a stranger on the street—instead, the abuse is always directed at the intimate partner or family member. The abuser also typically chooses to be abusive when there will be the least consequences.

•  MYTH: Only straight women get battered; gay, bisexual, and transgendered men are never victims of domestic violence; lesbians, bisexual, and transgender women cannot batter. Battering is less common in same-gender relationships.

FACT: Men can be victims, and women can batter. Numbers reflect this: An annual study of over 2,000 gay men reflects that 1 in 4 gay men have experienced domestic violence. These numbers are consistent with research done around battering among opposite-sex couples, and lesbian couples. Stereotypes about gender and sexual orientation are repudiated by the fact that gay men are victims, and lesbians are batterers at roughly the same rate as heterosexuals are.

•  MYTH: Domestic violence only includes physical abuse, such as hitting, slapping, biting, pushing, etc. Other forms of abuse don't hurt the victim as much.

FACT: Physical abuse is only one of many types of abuse that are equally harmful. Domestic violence includes emotional abuse, verbal abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse, and social abuse/ isolation. Many victims report that emotional abuse is more devastating than physical harm.


This project was supported by Grant No. 2002-WA-BX-0011 awarded by the Office of Violence Against Women and the U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.