"She must have done something to deserve it", "It's just a one-time thing", "It's none of our business, this a private family matter" and "Why didn't she leave if it was that bad?" – we get these questions so frequently, we thought we'd address them and all other misconceptions about women abuse once and for all.
Myth #1: Woman abuse is more common among certain groups of women.
Woman abuse happens regardless of age, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, marital status, religion, or sexual orientation. However, young women under the age of 25 are often at greatest risk of abuse and spousal homicide (Statistics Canada).
Myth #2: Woman abuse is not a health issue.
Woman abuse is a growing public health and social concern. An estimated 25% of Canadian women have experienced violence at the hands of current or past marital partner since the age of 16. The effects of woman abuse can result in a combination of negative physical, emotional, and psychological health outcomes.
Myth #3: Pregnancy is a time when women are safe from abuse.
Pregnancy increases women's vulnerability to violence and abuse. According to Statistics Canada, 21% of assaulted women reported being assaulted during pregnancy. Many women further reported that they were first abused when their pregnancy began.
Myth #4: Women who separate from their abusive partners or spouses are no longer at risk for abuse.
The most dangerous time for a woman in an abusive relationship is the first 3-4 months following separation.
Myth #5: Woman abuse occurs because of alcohol or drug use by the abuser.
- Drug and alcohol abuse are separate issues.
- While men will often use drug or alcohol use as excuses for their abusive behaviour, woman abuse occurs because of the abuser's desire to establish and maintain power and control in the relationship.
- Ending the abuser's drinking or alcohol problems will not end the abusive behaviour. They must be seen and treated as separate issues.
Myth #6: If an abused woman really wanted to leave the relationship, she would.
Leaving an abusive relationship can be very difficult and potentially dangerous. Many reasons exist for why women stay in the abusive relationship, including:
- Fear her partner will harm her.
- Fear that she might lose her children.
- Financial dependency on her partner/spouse.
- Not feeling she has anywhere to go.
- Shame that the community might 'find out'.
- Guilt for breaking up the family unit.
Myth #7: Woman abuse is a private matter and no one else's business.
Woman abuse affects the whole community and is considered a criminal offence. In Canada, certain categories of abuse, such as physical abuse, sexual abuse and criminal harassment (stalking) are punishable under the Criminal Code of Canada. The pernicious effects and high costs to society make violence against women everyone’s business.
Myth #8: Women often provoke assaults and deserve what they get.
No woman ever deserves to be beaten. Assaulted women report a wide range of incidents that trigger violence. For example: "I fried his eggs the wrong way." "I didn't turn down the radio enough," or I went out with friends without asking his permission." Abusive men often claim their partner provoked an assault to avoid responsibility for their own behaviour. In fact, the true source of violence is the batterer's desire for power and control over his partner.
Myth #9: Men are abused by their partners as often as women.
More than 92% of charges related to spousal assault in Ontario are laid against men. Most charges laid against women are counter-charges laid by violent partners or stem from acts of self-defense.
Myth #10: Abusers are violent in all their relationships.
Abusive men are not necessarily violent towards others which makes it hard for others to believe the reality of the situation.
Myth #11: An abusive man is not a loving partner.
Often, women stay on in abusive relationships because the abuse may be intermittent and her partner may be very loving to her during the interim periods.
Myth #12: Nobody can help people in a violent relationship.
People have broken the cycle of violence in their lives. Most had help from others. It is not easy, but it is possible. So yes, you can help. Check out this post to learn how you can support someone in a violent relationship.
Some of these myths have been adapted from the Peel Public Health website and PCAWA (Peel Committee Against Woman Abuse)