Top 10 misconceptions about domestic violence
This week, Alesha Dixon led domestic violence survivors, families of victims and campaigners on a walk of hope around Westminster, as part of Avon’s ‘Speaking Out in Her Name’ campaign.
‘I’m passionate about supporting the domestic violence cause,’ says Alesha Dixon. ‘We need to ensure that future generations can speak out for themselves and it is particularly important to educate young women about the dangers. We also want to ensure that women of all ages know how to recognise the signs of an abusive relationship and how to access support should they need it.’
So what are the 10 most common misconceptions about domestic violence?
1. Alcohol and drugs make men violent.
‘Drink or drugs may trigger an attack, but they are not the underlying cause of violence,’ says Polly Neate, chief executive of Women’s Aid. ‘There is only one person responsible for domestic violence – the person who is perpetrating the abuse.’
2. More women would leave if the abuse was that bad.
‘An abused woman may fear what her partner will do if she leaves, may not have any money or anywhere to go, or think it would bring shame on her family,’ says Neate ‘She may hope that her partner will change, and believe him when he promises the violence will stop.’
3. Men who are abusive grow up in violent homes.
‘Some children who grow up in violent homes go on to be abusive themselves but many are actually repelled by violence having seen the damage it causes,’ says Neate. ‘One in four women experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Many of us will see this in our families and most of us will not choose to perpetrate abuse.’
4. Men who are abusive have a mental illness.
‘Research shows that the proportion of abusers with mental health problems is no higher than in society as a whole,’ says Neate. ‘If an abusive man were mentally ill, why is it that he only abuses his partner not other people?’
5. Domestic violence is a private matter
‘For too long domestic violence has been hidden behind closed doors,’ says Neate. ‘But it is a crime. We are all affected and we all have a responsibility to speak out against it.’
6. Domestic violence only happens in poor families on council estates.
‘Domestic violence is a crime that crosses all boundaries of class, race and age’ says Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge. ‘We support women from all walks of life. Men who abuse women are as likely to be lawyers and accountants as they are unemployed.’
7. Victims of domestic violence are weak and submissive.
‘Women have to be strong and resourceful, adopting all kinds of coping strategies to survive living with an abusive partner,’ says Horley. ‘It takes enormous courage to escape.’
8. Some women provoke violence.
‘Women are often attacked by their partner for no apparent reason,’ says Horley ‘Violence and intimidation are not acceptable ways to solve conflict in a relationship. This is simply making excuses for the abuser’s behaviour.’
9. Men experience domestic violence as often as women.
‘Research shows the majority of domestic violence incidents are perpetrated by men against women,’ says Horley. ‘Two women are killed every week in England and Wales by a current or former partner.’
10. Violence happens when men lose their temper.
‘Abusers are usually selective about when they hit their partner and choose not to mark visible parts of the body suggesting they are very aware of what they are doing,’ says Horley. ‘Many men abuse their partners emotionally, without ever using physical violence.’