With the recent events involving former Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice and his wife, the epidemic of domestic violence has been in the spotlight of America. Various parties throughout the past few months have given many opinions and beliefs about domestic violence, more so in the past few weeks since a video of Ray Rice brutally attacking his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer, rendering her unconscious. Having spent most of my counseling career working with women and children who have experienced domestic violence, this has certainly stirred up a lot for me. There are several myths about domestic violence that are perpetuated by in the media and I think it is important to identify these are myths that many Americans believe to be true.
So, lets take a look at these myths about domestic violence and set some things straight. This conversation will be split into 3 parts, as there are over a dozen myths to be discussed. I would like to take a moment to acknowledge that for the purposes of this discussion, I will be referring to the abusive party as a man and the victim as a woman. This is because the vast majority of abusers are men and their victims are women. However, it is also important to note that abuse also occurs in gay and lesbian relationships. The information for these blogs is taken from the book, “Why Does He Do That: Inside the minds of angry and controlling men,” by Lundy Bancroft. This is one of the most widely used texts utilized by experts in the field of domestic violence. To learn more about Mr. Bancroft and his extensive work with abusive men, please click on this link: http://www.lundybancroft.com.
Now onto the myths:
Myth #1: He was abused as a child.
Research has shown there to be a weak connection between childhood abuse and later abusive behavior. The fact is that experiencing abuse in childhood does not cause a man to later become abusive towards his partners. The only influence of child abuse on later abusive behaviors is that men who are already abusive have a propensity to be more violently abusive if they experienced abuse in childhood. It is not uncommon for abusive men to use negative and often traumatic experiences in their childhood to explain their abusive behaviors, but this is actually a way to escape taking responsibility for their actions. Non-abusive men do not use their past as an excuse to mistreat their partners.
Myth #2: His previous partner hurt him.
As discussed previously, in that abusive men often use past incidents or relationships as excuses for their current abusive behaviors. Someone who was genuinely mistreated in a previous relationship would not be using that experience to get away with hurting others. An important point to remember about abuse, if it is an excuse for mistreatment, it’s a distortion.
Myth #3: He abuses alcohol or drugs.
Many individuals wish to believe that alcohol or drugs cause a person to become abusive. I completely understand why this myth would be so prevalent – “If he can get sober, then the abuse will stop.” It would be so much easier to accept it is something outside of the abuser, controlling him, such as alcoholism or drug addiction, to explain his behaviors. And this myth can provide hope that an abuser really can change if this aspect of his life is changed. However, it is simply not true. The fact of the matter is that alcohol and drugs cannot make an abuser, and thus sobriety cannot cure one. An abusive man must deal with his abusiveness in order to overcome his abusiveness.
I hope this introduction to the myths about domestic violence has sparked piqued interest in the readers at home into the true nature of domestic violence. Next week we will look at more myths about domestic violence. If you or someone you love is involved in an abusive relationship, please seek help. Following are some links for resources in the Austin area and you are also encouraged to contact us at Austin Family Counseling.
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline:1-800-799-7233, thehotline.org
- Safe Place: 512-267-SAFE (7233), safeplace.org
- Lifeworks: 512-735-2400, http://www.lifeworksaustin.org