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Common Misconceptions

Many people are prone to accept commonly held beliefs about spousal assault. These beliefs unfortunately lead to inappropriate analysis of the problem, which in turn can result in ineffective interventions that they will fail to stop violent behavior.

The myths concerning spousal abuse are not only believed by people in general but also by families experiencing the violence in some cases. People have to be sensitized to the realities of violence as a necessary tool in effective intervention.

Some of the most common myths are as follows:

  1. Men who assault their partners are mentally ill.
  2. The fact is spousal assault is too widespread to be explained by mental illness. Most of these men confine the violence to the privacy of the home and do not become violent toward others. If the man were truly mentally ill, he would lack the ability to select his victim. He is not likely to attack his boss when he is frustrated.

    The abuse is often directed to parts of the body that will not be visible. This requires restraint and forethought. It is estimated that only three percent of abusers have some form of mental illness.


  3. Alcohol causes a man to abuse his partner.

    This is by far the most commonly held myth concerning spousal abuse. While alcohol is often abused by the violent partner, it is not the cause of the violence. Alcohol becomes a convenient excuse for the abuser. "I was drunk, I didn't know what I was doing," or I don't remember." Some professionals believe abusers become drunk in order to carry out their violence. In addition to this, studies have been done on alcoholics who abuse their partners that show they continue to abuse their partners even when they no longer drink. Many women who seek shelter in transition houses return to their partners because of his promise to stop drinking. She believes the violence is caused by alcohol. This takes us back to the statement of the beliefs held by people in general are also beliefs of the family experiencing the violence. 


  5. Only people on low-income or social assistance experience spousal abuse. 
  6. Victims of spousal abuse come from all walks of life: Rich, poor, educated, uneducated, professionals, non-professionals. There are no exceptions. A probable reason, for people believing only low-income families, experience this problem is those are the people most visible to social service and community agencies such as transition houses. Women from upper classes have far more financial resources and, for the most part, would not seek assistance from an outside agency. Those women are more likely to hide their abuse from the public scrutiny because they feel they have the most to lose by exposing their situation. Those women are afraid, ashamed and are less likely to expose their abuser.


  7. Women Provoke the Violence
  8. This is a myth that can get someone working with abused women quite upset. A woman never deserves to be beaten, regardless of what kind of person she is or what she does. Provocation is another great excuse the abuser uses to avoid taking responsibility for his own behavior. This belief that women provoke the violence is very detrimental to the victim. She assumes the guilt for the problem as it is, and having other people place the guilt on her does absolutely nothing to help her or her partner. Abused women even hear statements such as, "what did you do to make your husband hit you" from professionals such as doctors. It has to be kept in mind that men whoa re the abusers have the problem and it is the abuse who must take responsibility for the violence. Otherwise, the violence will never cease.

  9. Abused women could leave their partner if they wanted to.

  10. There are many reasons why women stay in abusive relationships. The most prominent reasons are fear of harm and poverty. Poverty is a very real possibility for the women who leave especially those with children. For some of these women, leaving s not an option at all because they have no place to go and no money to live on.
    These are some of the myths associated with spousal abuse. Dispelling those myths is all-important in helping families experiencing violence. In order to help we must first understand. Only then can we be effective in solving the problem.
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Committee on Family Violence
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