Campus Against Violence Program


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The Truth About Relationship Violence

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MYTH: Relationship violence usually only happens between people who are married.

FACT: As many as 1/3 of all high school and college-age young people experience violence in an intimate or dating relationship. Physical abuse is as common among high school and college-age couples as married couples.

MYTH: Most people will end a relationship if partner hits them.

FACT: Nearly 80% of girls who have been physically abused in their relationship continue to date their abuser after the onset of violence. Ending a relationship is always difficult, especially when violence is involved. There are a multitude of reasons why women find it difficult to leave an abusive relationship. Generally, an abusive partner has isolated their partner and eroded their self-esteem so much so that they may come to believe they deserve the abuse. The judgment of others -"She's staying so she must like it on some level." - make it even harder to leave. The real question isn't "Why does she stay?" but instead "Why is he being abusive?"

MYTH: People abuse their partners because they can't control their anger.

FACT: People who abuse others are not usually out of control nor do they have anger problems. Think about it, everyone has times when they lose their temper, however, they choose not to become physically or emotional abusive. Abusers use anger as a way to  gain power and control over another person. They often use tactics such as threats, intimidation, psychological abuse and isolation from friends and family to control their partners.

If abusers were truly out of control, there would be many more relationship violence homicides. In fact, many abusers do "control" their violence, abusing their partners in less visible places on their bodies, such as on the torso. Furthermore, researchers have found that domestic violence often occurs in cycles, and every episode is preceded by a predictable, repeated pattern of behavior and decisions made by the abuser.

MYTH: Relationship violence doesn't happen in the LGBTQ community.

FACT: Relationship violence occurs in the LGBTQ community, but is often hidden. Between 25%-33% of relationships between LGBTQ partners include abuse, a rate equal to that of heterosexual relationships.

MYTH: Most relationship violence incidents are caused by alcohol or drug abuse.

FACT: Many people have alcohol and/or drug problems but are not violent, similarly, many perpetrators are not substance abusers. How people behave when they are "under the influence" of alcohol and/or drugs depends on a complex combination of personal, social, physical and emotional factors. And like many other types of behavior, alcohol or drug affected behavior patterns are learned.

It is often easier to blame an alcohol or drug abuse problem than to admit that a partner is violent even when sober. Episodes of problem drinking and incidents of relationship violence often occur separately and must be treated as two distinct issues. Neither alcoholism nor drugs can explain or excuse relationship violence.

MYTH: When a couple is having a relationship violence problem, it is just that they have a bad relationship. Often, poor communication is the real problem.

FACT: Bad relationships do not cause or result in relationship violence. The idea that bad relationships cause violence is one of the most common misconceptions about relationship violence. First, it encourages all parties involved - including and especially the abused partner - to minimize the seriousness of the problem and focus their energies on "improving the relationship" in the false hope that it will stop the violence. It allows the abuser to blame the bad relationship and the violence itself on their partner, rather than acknowledging his/her own responsibility.

More importantly, improving the relationship is not likely by itself to end the violence. Violence is learned behavior. Many couples have bad relationships yet never become physically violent. Many abusers are violent in every one of their relationships, whether they consider them bad or good. The violent individual is the sole source and cause of the violence, and neither his/her partner nor their relationship should be held responsible.

MYTH: The person being abused must have done something to provoke the abuse.

FACT: No one deserves to be beaten, battered, threatened or victimized by violence. Abusers will rarely admit that they are the cause of the problem. In fact, putting the blame for the violence on the abused person is a way to manipulate their partner and other people. Abusers will tell their partner, "You made me mad" or "You made me jealous" or will try to shift the burden by saying, "Everyone acts like that." Most abused partners try to placate and please their abusive partners in order to deescalate the violence. The abuser chooses to abuse and bears full responsibility for the violence.

MYTH: Low self-esteem causes victims to get involved with abusive relationships.

FACT: Traditional theories presumed that individuals with adequate self-esteem would not "allow" themselves to be abused by intimate partners or spouses. In fact, studies have demonstrated that people who are in abusive relationships fail to share common characteristics other than being female. There is little support for the theory that low self-esteem causes partners who are abused to become involved in abusive relationships, however, some abused partners may experience a decrease in self-esteem as a result of being abused, since perpetrators frequently degrade, humiliate and criticize them.

MYTH: Relationship violence happens most often among people of color and people in lower socio-economic groups.

FACT: Relationship violence happens among all classes, races and cultural groups in society. Researchers and service providers have found, however, that economic and social factors can have a significant impact on how people respond to violent incidents and what kind of help they seek. Affluent people can usually afford private help - doctors, lawyers and counselors while people with fewer financial resources (i.e., those belonging to a lower social economic class or a minority group) tend to call the police or other public agencies. These agencies are often the only available source of statistics on relationship violence, and consequently, lower class and minority communities tend to be overrepresented in those figures, creating a distorted image of the problem.

Source: Jane Doe Inc.