Dispelling 5 Myths about Domestic Violence

Woman cowering in corner under shadow making a fist
Woman cowering in corner under shadow making a fist

Domestic violence only happens when someone hits you.
Physical abuse is the first thing people think about when it comes to domestic violence. However, verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse are just as painful and damaging. Sometimes, even more so. The bruises will heal in about a week, but the echoes in your mind of a partner telling you that you're crazy, selfish, and sick can last for years.

If he isn't hitting me it isn't that bad.
The constant putdowns, control over how you live your life, and false accusations can make you a shell of the woman you are. Abuse is worse than problems with anger management. You live in a constant state of anxiety and fear, and this is no way to live. And it isn't what relationships are supposed to be like. Love should not hurt.

If my partner abuses me, it's because I'm worthless.
Many abusers destroy their partner's self-esteem and confidence. They tell her what to do, what to wear, and insinuate that she's never good enough. She then begins to internalize this, thinking that she is unworthy of being loved. She can never please her husband or boyfriend, so she feels worthless. This also leads to dependency -- if he won't love her then no one else will. These are all mind games that the abuser plays to trap his partner and make her stay.

But we still have good times together.
Yes, and this is one of the tools that abusers use to make you stay. Abuse happens in a cycle. After an abusive incident, he might pretend that it didn't happen or bring you three dozen roses to 'make up' for it. You're afraid to talk about it and life seems to settle down for awhile. You have good times together, and then things start getting tense again. He then exerts control, lashes out verbally, or threatens to leave unless you do whatever he wants. You feel confused because things had seemed fine for awhile, you don't think you did anything wrong, and you can never please him. Then things cool off, he tells you he loves you and gives you the roses, and the cycle continues. This is what happened to me. It can be like living with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

There isn't a way out.
Even if you don't believe in divorce, you can protect yourself and your family by leaving an abusive partner. Having some money set aside for this can be helpful, but it isn't necessary to escape. In many cases, abusers discourage their partners from working to isolate them and make them dependent. However, you can stay with friends and family members until you get back on your feet again. There are also domestic violence shelters in many communities that can provide housing at no or low cost. However, make sure you have a safety plan in place before you leave. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is an excellent resource that can help. Call 1-800-799-7233 for 24/7 advice. Some communities have a YWCA and other nonprofits dedicated to helping women in these situations. Their support groups can help you heal from the emotional scars that an abusive relationship leaves.

If you are experiencing domestic violence, know that it is not your fault. You might not understand why he's treating you like this, and that's ok. There are some things in life we will never understand. But you don't have to keep making excuses for your partner, and you don't have to continue living this way. Leaving does not make you a bad wife, woman, or mother. If you're religious, it doesn't make you unfaithful. You owe it to yourself and the people who love you to do what it takes to seek help.


Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.