Get the Facts on Domestic Violence
Domestic Violence Myths and Truths
Myth: Battering is uncommon.
Truth: Battering is extremely common. A woman is beaten every 15 seconds in the United States. More woman are injured each year in the U.S. as a result of domestic violence than from car accidents, muggings and rapes combined.
Myth: Domestic violence occurs only in poor, poorly educated, minority or dysfunctional families.
Truth: Domestic violence crosses all socio-economic levels. Batterers can be ministers, teachers, politicians, judges, prosecutors, CEO's, and police officers. Reporting rates among lower income families may be slightly higher because they are more accustomed to involving the police in their problems.
Myth: Battering is out-of-control behavior.
Truth: Battering is very much in-control behavior. The appearance of being out of control is a technique used for instilling fear and compliance. Recent research actually shows that men who batter actually have a lowering of blood pressure and heart rate during an apparent out-of-control incident.
Myth: The problem is not really woman abuse. It is spouse abuse. Women are just as violent as men.
Truth: 95% of the reported victims are female. Clearly there are male victims and the reporting rates among men are very low. However, when a female is the abuser, you typically have a battering without the power and control issues that are central to domestic violence.
Myth: Domestic violence is usually a one-time event, an isolated Incident.
Truth: Battering is a pattern, a reign of force and terror. Once violence begins in a relationship, it gets worse and more frequent over a period of time. Battering is not just one physical attack. It is a number of tactics (intimidation, threats, economic deprivation, psychological and sexual abuse) used repeatedly. Physical violence is one of those tactics. Experts have compared methods used by batterers to those used by terrorists to brainwash hostages. This is called the "Stockholm Syndrome."
Myth: Battered women always stay in violent relationships.
Truth: Many battered women leave their abusers permanently, and despite many obstacles, succeed in building a life free of violence. Almost all battered women leave at least once. Women are at a 75% greater risk of being killed once they leave the relationship. Thus, staying with the abuser and implementing a safety plan for leaving may be the best options.
Myth: The community places responsibility for violence where it belongs: on the criminal.
Truth: Most people blame the victim of battering for the crime, some without realizing it. They expect the woman to stop the violence, and repeatedly analyze her motivations for not leaving, rather than scrutinizing why the batterer keeps beating her, and why the community allows it.
Myth: Drugs or alcohol cause domestic violence.
Truth: Abusers often use drinking as one of many excuses for violence, and as a way of putting responsibility for their violence elsewhere. There is a 50%, or higher, correlation between substance abuse and domestic violence, but no casual relationship. Stopping the assailant's drinking will not end the violence. Both problems must be addressed independently.
Myth: Stress causes domestic assault.
Truth: Many people who are under extreme stress do not assault their partners. Assailants who are stressed at work do not attack their co-workers or bosses.
Myth: The criminal justice system has traditionally supported victims when they have decided to leave.
Truth: Police have traditionally been reluctant to respond to domestic assaults, or to intervene in what they think of as a private matter. Police have usually temporarily separated the couple, leaving the woman vulnerable to further violence. Laws have been improved; however, there is still considerable change needed in law enforcement agencies.
Myth: Men who batter are often good fathers, and should have joint custody of their children.
Truth: At least 70% of men who batter their wives, sexually or physically abuse their children. All children suffer from witnessing their father assault their mother.
Myth: If a battered woman really wanted to leave, she could just pack up and go somewhere else.
Truth: Battered women considering leaving their assailants are faced with the very real possibility of severe physical damage or even death. Assailants deliberately isolate their partners and deprive them of jobs, of opportunities for acquiring education and job skills. This combined with unequal opportunities for women in general and lack of affordable child care, make it excruciatingly difficult for women to leave.
Sexual Assault Myths and Truths
Myth: Victims falsely report sexual assault to serve their own purposes.
Truth: The FBI reports that false reporting of crimes of sexual assault mirror the number of false reporters for other felonious crimes (3-5%). A case that is not prosecuted or does not result in conviction is not necessarily a false complaint.
Myth: If people are careful and alert, they can avoid being victims of crimes of sexual assault.
Truth: Over 78% of sexual assault victims know their assailant, and over 50% of sexual assaults occur in the victims home. Being careful and alert does not identify the people that you know and trust who may be rapists.
Myth: Sexual assault is an impulsive crime of sex conducted by a sexually frustrated individual.
Truth: Sexual assault is a violent crime of power and control. Rapists often carefully plan their attack and wait patiently for a vulnerable victim. Rapists often have intimate partners with whom they have ongoing sexual relationships.
Myth: Persons who are sexually assaulted call the police immediately following the assault.
Truth: There are victims who do not contact the police immediately after an assault. For those victims, 25% report after at least 24 hours have passed.
Myth: All victims of sexual assault have a similar, predictable response to the trauma.
Truth: Every victim experiences, deals with, and recovers from sexual assault in a different way. There is no set pattern of response.
Myth: Victims of sexual assault recover from their trauma and eventually "get over it."
Fact: Victims of sexual assault report that it is a life-changing event that impacts the rest of their lives.
Lynn Police Department
Domestic Violence Unit
300 Washington Street
Lynn, MA 01902