Adapted from: Woman Abuse Protocols, New Brunswick
There are a number of myths or fallacies surrounding woman abuse. These myths, some of which are listed below, consciously or unconsciously serve to color our perception of violence against women.
MYTH: ABUSING OR THREATENING TO ABUSE IS A PRIVATE MATTER. NO ONE SHOULD DISRUPT FAMILY SANCTITY.
REALITY: 97% of people in a recent PEI survey disagree with the above statement.1 Families should be protected from the invasion of their privacy except when the interests of individual family members and/or the community are jeopardized. The interests of family members and the community are jeopardized when individuals suffer from the threat or reality of family violence.
Woman abuse is assault and assault is a crime, whether it occurs inside or outside the home. The belief that family violence is "private" stigmatizes those caught in violent relationships, makes others reluctant to intervene, and thus perpetuates the problem.
MYTH: MALE VIOLENCE IN RELATIONSHIPS IS RARE, OR WE WOULD HEAR MORE ABOUT IT.
REALITY: Of 22,000 victims of spousal violence reported to a sample of 179 Canadian police agencies in 1997, 88% (19,575) were female and 12% (2,679) were male.2
We don't hear about abusive relationships because both abusers and abused persons hide the facts from others. Their secrecy is made easier because communities find it difficult to believe abuse occurs. Societal values may accept violence, especially directed against woman or children, so violent incidents are not recognized as abuse.
MYTH: CHILDREN WHO GROW UP IN ABUSIVE SITUATIONS GET USED TO IT AND LEARN TO DEAL WITH THE ABUSE.
REALITY: Evidence suggests that in a significant number of cases where children grow up seeing their mother abused, as adults the males become abusive and the females become submissive to abuse. Those who do not grow up to become abusers or victims are always be affected in some way by the abuse they witness.
MYTH: ONLY POOR WOMEN ARE ABUSED.
REALITY: 49% of Islanders believe that women in economically stable families are not abused by their partners.4 However, woman abuse is a widespread problem that cuts across all socioeconomic levels as well as all ethnic, cultural, rural and urban populations.
MYTH: PREGNANT WOMEN ARE RARELY ABUSED.
REALITY: 17.4 % of Islanders believe that expecting mothers are safe from abuse.5 In fact, women who are pregnant are more vulnerable to violence. 40% of victims of woman abuse first experience violence during pregnancy.6 For many women the abuse started, or became more severe, during a pregnancy. Pregnant women may have even less access to resources and thus are more dependent on their partners than at non-pregnant times.
MYTH: FAMILY VIOLENCE HAPPENS WHEN THE ABUSIVE PARTNER DRINKS TOO MUCH ALCOHOL.
REALITY: 92% of Islanders believe the above to be true.7 Though drinking and abuse are often associated, one does not cause the other. The abuser has qualities which are contributing factors to both drinking and violence.
MYTH: THE ABUSER IS NOT A LOVING PARTNER.
REALITY: Most men do feel guilt and remorse about their actions. The abuser may be passionately loving and affectionate at times, especially during the "honeymoon phase" of the cycle of violence. Such loving behaviour often keeps the abused woman in the relationship..
MYTH: NOBODY CAN HELP PEOPLE IN A VIOLENT RELATIONSHIP.
REALITY: Across Canada, people have broken the cycle of violence in their lives. Most had help from others. Experience has shown that appropriate legal and psycho-social interventions can stop abuse.
1. Community Coalition for Family Violence Prevention, Family Violence Survey 2000, Prince Edward Island, April 2000: 15
2. Robin Fitzgerald, Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile 1999 (Ottawa: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 1999): 11
3. Bradford: 13
4. Bradford: 13
5. Bradford: 13
6. Noel, N. and Yam, M. "Domestic Violence: The Pregnant Battered Woman", Women's Health 27 (4), 1992.
7. Bradford: 13