We’ve all heard them. I remember when I was in school, and hearing a debate between two other students about domestic violence. The problem, one of them said, was because male and female roles were not clear anymore. Apparently, back in the old days, guys and girls each knew their place so there wasn’t a problem like there is now. Amazingly, people agreed.
I remember thinking that this is a little bit of what I might call faulty reasoning. Sure there were very specific gender roles but those gender roles allowed violence within a relationship as part of the norm. It’s not like there wasn’t violence between spouses (there has always been violence throughout the history of time between spouses), it just wasn’t something that generated as much media or awareness or condemnation because it was considered normal and in fact, expected.
Like most social issues where there is a victim and an offender, there is a lot of misinformation out there and this seems to generate myths and misconceptions making it difficult to know what to believe. Here are a few common ones;
1. Spousal abuse happens between certain cultures and certain ethnicities and certain socio-economic groups of people.
The reality is that spousal abuse happens across all cultures, all ethnicities and amongst all groups of people. Some cultures have rules or legislation prohibiting the violence and some don’t so you see variations in how it is dealt with or responded to but that doesn’t change the fact that the violence is still happening everywhere. Sometimes it is well hidden due to differing levels of resources and access of resources but it still exists. It is a global problem that impacts all socio-economic groups.
2. Any guy that’s going to hit his wife has got a problem. Only guys who are mentally ill do stuff like that.
While I might agree that the guy’s got a problem, chances are mental illness is not it. There is not a single set of personality characteristics that sets an abusive person apart from a non-abusive person. There’s no test, no diagnosis, no category in the big manual that tells doctors how to categorize various mental health issues. Most men who assault their partners are not violent outside of the home. They might threaten others to their wives and leave a general sense that they “could do something” but this is part of the pattern of terrorizing and creating fear in the victim. Most abusers do not beat up their bosses or their colleagues and lead what appear to be normal lives outside of the home.
3. It wasn’t his fault, he was drinking. He would never have hit her if he wasn’t drinking.
It’s funny to me how drinking is used to excuse guy’s behaviour (he didn’t know what he was doing) but is used to blame girl’s behaviour (she should have known better since she was drinking – her fault for getting so drunk). Sorry, got distracted there for a minute. Drinking is not an excuse. Alcohol is often associated with many domestic violence incidences but it is not the cause of the abuse. The abuser chooses to hurt another, alcohol might make it easier to do that sometimes but it still happens without the alcohol.
4. If a woman didn’t like it, she would leave – or – if it was really that bad, she would leave.
Two things, leaving is not that easy nor does it actually stop the abuse if children are involved. It just changes what the abuse looks like on the surface. There is an entire post dedicated to why a victim may be too fearful or too battered in their heart and soul or too exhausted to leave. Please read here if you want a better understanding of why people stay.
5. Men who grow up in violent homes become violent as adults.
Not necessarily. All kids are likely impacted by domestic violence. In fact, domestic violence is the leading cause of childhood trauma in North America. Kids don’t have to be hit to be impacted, they just have to live there. There is definitely some risk that if you grow up in a violent home you will learn how to use violence to solve problems. Between potential trauma from the environment and what you’ve learned, there are definitely people who grow up and perpetuate the cycle from one generation to the next. But there are also people who have taken the time to learn how to do things differently. Either through counseling or finding ways to help teach and / or heal themselves, I have met many souls who have made commitments to not continue to violence with their own children. It’s not always been easy because it can be difficult to relearn so many things about problem solving and relationships when you’re an adult, but it is absolutely doable to those who are motivated to try.