5 things everyone should know about domestic abuse

This International Women’s Day, millions of women will continue to suffer domestic abuse in silence. Let’s tackle the stigma that prevents women from speaking out. Let’s challenge some of the biggest (and most unhelpful) myths – starting with these fateful five.

The world is talking about celebrating and empowering women. However, as the global epidemic of domestic abuse continues to devastate lives, millions of women will carry on suffering in silence. Many feel unable to reach out, fearing they will be blamed or misunderstood. As part of the fight-back against abuse, we must banish the misconceptions that fuel suffocating stigma.

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MYTH #1 Only vulnerable women experience domestic violence.

It’s true that vulnerable women are at increased risk. According to the World Health Organisation, women who have witnessed domestic violence as children are more likely to be abused themselves in later life. Women who have experienced domestic abuse  may also be drawn to men who appear strong enough to ‘protect’ them from their abuser – only to wind up in another destructive relationship.

However, women who consider themselves successful and educated also find themselves on the receiving end of domestic abuse. In particular, sociopaths and narcissists target successful women, hoping to leech on to their social and economic status – or, worse, to demonstrate their own ‘power’ by destroying them.

Photo by antwerpenR

Photo by antwerpenR

MYTH #2 It is easy to identify (and avoid) an abuser. Women that don’t only have themselves to blame.

Whilst there are usually early warning signs, abusers are accomplished manipulators. Few declare their true colours at the start of a relationship, and they often wear a carefully constructed mask. Conditioning begins early, so a power-dynamic is already in place by the time full-blown abuse becomes obvious – making it harder for women to escape.

MYTH #3 It’s unfair to focus on women when talking about domestic abuse.

Both men and women can perpetrate domestic abuse, and it happens in same-sex relationships too. Thanks in part to much-needed awareness programmes, reporting of female on male intimate partner violence is improving. Statistics vary, but some sources say that men are the victims one in three cases of domestic violence in Britain. However, women overwhelmingly remain most at risk:

“women are considerably more likely to experience repeated and severe forms of violence, including sexual violence. They are also more likely to have experienced sustained physical, psychological or emotional abuse, or violence which results in injury or death.” (Women’s Aid)

MYTH #4 Men are violent because they are angry.

Photo by ozan

Photo by ozan

Abusers do not abuse because they are angry. According to perpetrator programmes, abusers deliberately manufacture anger so they can abuse their partner. Some actually admit they were not as angry as they seemed. Survivors of domestic violence report that they have been attacked for no apparent reason. Often, abusers change their ‘rules’ without notice, to provide an excuse to abuse their partner. Many will use drink or drugs as a cover for their abuse.

Abusers abuse for only one reason: to establish and maintain control over their partner. For this reason, anger management courses are not effective solutions in the fight against abuse.

MYTH #5 Women that stay are weak and ‘ask’ to be abused.

Women don’t stay with their abuser because they are weak, or because they accept the way they are treated. Many women develop sophisticated coping-mechanisms and actively seek to manage the risk of abuse. They are resourceful and strong (though they may not always realise this).

Leaving is hard. Women may remain in the relationship because of practical factors, such as a lack of financial independence. However, the biggest obstacles are a complex web of emotional attachment – including trauma-bonding – and fear. To escape, they must overcome a variety of challenges and often endure emotional blackmail and determined hoovering campaigns.

Around 76 per cent of women that do leave a violent partner will still be assaulted by him (Humphreys and Thiara 2002). Women are more at risk from being assaulted or killed by a violent partner, after they leave (Paradine and Wilkinson, 2004). Violence and abuse often don’t end when a women ends the relationship.

Photo by xJasonRogersx

Photo by xJasonRogersx

Which myths have you encountered? What’s the most important thing that you want the world to understand?

ALSO SEE: Why your abuser isn’t broken, and you can’t fix him in Is your abuser giving you FIB syndrome?

© Avalanche of the Soul, 2013-14

40 responses to “5 things everyone should know about domestic abuse

  1. I think it’s very hard for people to understand the complexities involved in an abusive relationship, and how much manipulation and control there is over those who are the victims. As you said, for abusers it’s more about power and control than it is being angry. If it was just a matter of getting smacked or beaten, I think most anyone could easily walk away. But there is some much more going on than physical violence. It’s a complete breaking down of spirit, independence and will by the abuser in order to make the victim dependent on them for all of those things. Victims are financially, spiritually and physically manipulated into believing they are powerless. It’s hard to have the courage to leave when when you are emotionally destitute; the threat of violence is merely the set of chains that bind them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is really an excellent and necessary post. No, it is not about anger and that is why anger management sentences do not change a thing. It is about control and power, 100%.


  3. This was very interesting. I do think many violent people just view violence as another way of getting their way because they should always be in charge, they are always right. Narcissism, hmm… Explains a lot.


    • HI Brenda, you make a really interesting point – I guess all forms of domestic abuse (emotional, financial, physical etc) are about power and control. Exactly, as you say, getting the abuser what they want.


  4. Reblogged this on Ladywithatruck's Blog and commented:
    Exactly!! I have heard every single one of these at some point. This should be included in police training and other “resources” that are supposed to be there to help the victim and end up doing more harm than good.


  5. This was an excellent post! You are right on all counts, I remember my ex setting things up so he could be angry; there was no avoiding it. I could see it brewing and almost looked forward to him exploding because then it would be over instead of waiting for the shoe to drop. The physical abuse was no where near as bad as the emotional, psychological and financial abuse I suffered, the physical abuse didn’t leave near the scars.
    One I would like to add is when family or friends think that by disowning you they will force you to leave. My mom withdrew all support, well she stopped talking to me totally for two years because she thought it would force me to leave him or something. I still am not sure what her motive was to be honest, but all it did was hand me to my ex on a silver platter. When you don’t have support from friends or family and you only have the abuser screaming in your face that you are so lucky to have him and you have a warped sense of reality; you start to have a warped sense of reality and doubt your own sanity. He used to laugh and say, “What are you going to do? call your mother? you’ve got no one but me.”
    The abuse was SOOOO much worse and I was even more determined to make it work and prove her wrong. It makes me sick thinking about it.
    My ex’s sister was my saving grace, she was my voice of sanity and she was there for me every step of the way when I finally left.
    I reblogged this, tweeted it and put it on Facebook. I feel like photo copying it and handing out on the street corner tomorrow. Hey, maybe I will!!


    • Hi Carrie, and thank you for sharing your experience. I’m so sorry that you went through what you did with your narcissistic ex. I think a lot of us feel the psychological abuse was harder to deal with than physical violence, and I believe the mental trauma is one of the reasons blogging is so therapeutic!

      You make a really important point about family and friends threatening to cut us off, or even actually doing it. I wish I could highlight your comment somehow as it’s so crucial!

      I can understand why concerned and frustrated family members may think they are ‘helping’ by doing this, but I wish they knew that they were actually enabling the abuser. Our total isolation is exactly what the abuser wants. As you say, your mother handed you to him on a silver platter.

      My parents especially were so upset each time I went back to my abuser, we used to have rows about it. They were trying to help me get the will to leave, but it really just added to my stress and made me feel more alone than ever.

      Thank you for the re-blog and sharing, with or without the photocopier 😉 I just hope it reaches someone who needs to hear it.


      • Its pouring rain today so i think the photocopies will have to wait. I am shocked at how little information is actually out there. Our local welfare office has absolutely nothing on domestic abuse, there should be information every where
        I can certainly understand the frustration of family and friends, i feel it on my blog sometimes myself, when someone keeps going back and can’t understand why he keeps hurting her. And although I care I am not family watching a person I love walking straight into an oncoming train. And, my family had helped me financially which was awesome but the victim needs a lot of validation. They have to rehash and rehash and be told over and over they are not the crazy one, it is not their fault and people don’t realize for how long after that person is very fragile.
        God help me if I ever use this phrase, “You should be happy he’s out of your life.”
        for one thing the word “should” should be stricken from the English language LOL


      • Hi Carrie, I know from your excellent blog how much you care about this. It is extremely hard when you know someone is leaping to their own destruction. It’s human nature to want to ‘save’ them, but you have exactly the right approach. It’s about being there to listen, patiently not pushing, and – exactly as you say – never ever telling someone they ‘should’ do something or other! I hate that word too!


  6. Really great post. It is a complex set of circumstances that get us hooked on these people in the first place and and even more complex set of circumstances and most of all hope, that keeps us there.

    I thought I was one of those strong independent women that would never allow myself to be abused – but it happened to me too. I would like to reblog too.


    • Hi Frogstale, thank you for contributing and for the re-blog. The stigma attached to abuse keeps a lot of people quiet about their experiences, which fuels ignorance about abuse – so it becomes ever-harder for us to admit it is happening and reach out. Sometimes, I think if we consider ourselves strong and successful, it is even harder to reach out because we think we will be judged weak.

      Well done you for getting out, and sharing your experiences – the more we talk about domestic abuse, the more we can challenge it!


  7. Reblogged this on The Frog's Tale and commented:
    Another great explanation about who people stay with their abusers. It is not a simple or easy thing to spot an abuser in the first place, and once involved it is even harder to leave.


  8. You are so right, it is all about power & control plus the way abusers put on a mask, I know of someone who was in a very abusive relationship for 15 years, when eventually got up the courage to leave him, and it does take a lot of courage to leave, as I said in my own blog abusers destroy all your self confidence so they have complete control, leaving you feeling worthless.
    This is how this lady was left feeling that no one believe her because her partner wore the mask of being so caring and considerate, when she told her family and friends what had been going on no one believed that the nice, sociable, friendly guy they knew could ever do such a thing! But, to coin the phrase; no one ever knows what goes on behind closed doors.
    What made me cringe was the state she was in after so many years of abuse; asking for permission to have a shower, to go to bed.. how can any human being treat another person like that???


    • Hi Dazzler – thank you for contributing your experience here. One of the most traumatic things about psychological abuse in particular, is the fear that we won’t be believed – particularly when the abuser’s ‘outside’ mask is so persuasive.

      Unfortunately, these are invisible wounds so few people that haven’t been through it themselves will understand. You’ve a great post on your own blog about domestic abuse from a male perspective – which I’d urge people to read.


  9. I love how you counteract the myths, especially the ones that “blame” the woman- i.e. she should be able to recognize an abuser (despite their incredible manipulation skills) or she is weak if she stays (when in fact she has probably worked hard to develop survival skills that no person should ever have to create). great posting!


    • Thank you Kimberly – it’s funny how much misinformation there is about domestic abuse. The conscious and sub-conscious victim-blaming that goes on really makes me mad – how many times have we heard that women have ‘provoked’ the violence they suffer?!


  10. Reblogged this on Army of Angels and commented:
    It only takes one act of abuse to begin breaking a woman’s spirit. I grew up with no healthy relationship models, and had no relationship education…I thought this was “normal” and that I needed to learn…after all, there were no bruises…who would believe me?


  11. I loved this and re-blogged! So many women suffer in silence…including myself. When I recollect the single events of abuse which at the time, seemed insignificant, I am alarmed at what I endured without protest…life became about survival-walking on eggshells… Thank you again!


    • Hi armyofangels and thank you for the re-blog. I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been on the receiving end of abuse. It is usually on reflection that we realise the extent what we went through. I sometimes think it is some kind of survival instinct that kicks in… Thank heavens you’re free now – and doing great work reaching others on your blog.


  12. My ex was quite interested in the fact that I could help make money for his real estate company; however, I was also in a vulnerable position because I had two small boys I received no child support for. Two of his ex wives retired from the U.S. Army (active duty) as full-bird colonels. All women he married (he’s on #5) are college & post BS educated. People have told me I was stupid for marrying him & stupid for staying. I address these comments in my blog, which mainly focuses on Parental Alienation, but that is domestic violence and almost always involves a narcisstic parent (obviously, since part of parenting is working to keep your child’s relationship with all family members, not destroying it with brainwashing hate & fear). Thank you for your blog. I hope & pray my daughter will break free from the alienating parent’s domestic terrorism and have this kind of information available to her.


    • Hi Torn 2 Peaces and thank you for your comment and re-blog. It is a big myth that some women are ‘immune’ to domestic abuse – it really can happen to anyone, as your story illustrates.

      I too hope that these fables about abuse are rapidly resigned to the history books.

      Your blog is certainly worth a visit to anyone experiencing either side of parental alienation.


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