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Myths and Facts

Domestic Violence

Myth: Domestic violence does not affect many people.
Fact: Domestic violence is believed to be the most common, but least reported crime in the United States.
 
Myth: Domestic violence is only physical abuse.
Fact: Physical abuse is only part of a larger pattern which also includes psychological, emotional, sexual and/or economic abuse.
 
Myth: If the violent episodes don’t happen often, the situation is not that serious.
Fact: Even if the violence doesn’t happen often, the threat of it remains a terrorizing means of control. No matter how far apart the violent episodes are, each one is a reminder of the one that has happened before and creates fear of the one that will happen in the future.
 
Myth: Domestic violence is a momentary loss of temper.
Fact: Domestic violence is just the opposite of a “momentary loss of temper.” The abuser makes a conscious decision to abuse. The abuse is an ongoing technique to enforce control.
 
Myth: If the batterer is truly sorry and promises to reform, the abuse is going to stop.
Fact: Remorse and begging for forgiveness are manipulative methods used by abusers to control their victims. Abusers rarely stop abusing. The abuse often gets worse as time goes on.
 
Myth: Domestic violence is caused by drugs or alcohol.
Fact: Alcohol, drugs and stress are not causes of abuse. Not every batterer is a substance abuser. Not every substance abuser is a batterer. Substance abuse is not a cause of domestic violence. Substance abuse may lower inhibitors which may increase the frequency and severity of the abuse.
 
Myth: Domestic violence occurs more often in poorer families.
Fact: All racial and cultural backgrounds, income and educational levels are at risk for battering. Those having a higher income may have more resources available to them and therefore may be less likely to use shelter services; however, battering can happen to anyone.
 
Myth: Victims get hit because they provoke their partners or have the type of personality that seeks out abuse.
Fact: Many people look only to the victim to understand why abuse happens. However, battering is a choice, and the person who hits is the only one responsible for that behavior. No one can make another person hit them. There is never a time when hitting is an appropriate response.
 
Myth: The victim can walk away from the relationship.
Fact: Victims believe that they do not have any place to go where they will be safe from the abuser. The abuser often knows the victim’s friends and family members and can find a victim who leaves. It takes money, a support network and time for planning to ensure that a victim can escape.
 
Myth: Victims have the types of personalities that seek out and encourage abuse.
Fact: A number of studies have determined that there are no set of personality traits that describe victims of abuse. It is the abuser who is responsible for the abuse, NOT THE VICTIM.

Sexual Assault and/or Rape

Myth: Most rapes are committed by a stranger in a dark alley.
Fact: More than 86 percent of all rapes are committed by an acquaintance known to the victim. More than half of all rapes occur in the victim’s residence.
 
Myth: Women who say “no” to sexual advances often mean “yes.”
Fact: Although miscommunication can occur, it is never acceptable to force sex. If a woman says “no” she has a right for her wishes to be respected, and a man should never assume that she means “yes.”
 
Myth: Nice girls don’t get raped.
Fact: All women are vulnerable to sexual assault. Most victims are ordinary women with good reputations. Reputation has nothing to do with selection of rape victims.
 
Myth: Women provoke rape by their appearance and behavior.
Fact: Rape victims range in age from 2 months to 93 years. Rape is an assertion of hostility and/or power expressed in a sexual manner and is not in any way related to a victim’s behavior and/or dress. To be sexually assaulted is to be victimized, and therefore, is not the fault of the victim.
 
Myth: Women really want to be raped; they enjoy it.
Fact: Rape is a violent crime, and no one asks to be a victim of a violent crime.
 
Myth: A woman can prevent rape by communicating more clearly.
Fact: This myth places blame for rape on women. Men rape, so only men can prevent rape. Communication is important, but a woman can be raped even if she screams, cries or is incapable of saying “no” because she is drugged, intoxicated or has passed out.
 
Myth: A woman cannot be raped against her will.
Fact: Rape would not exist if women were willing participants. Physical and psychological fear may completely paralyze a woman’s ability to resist and prevent assault. A woman can be the victim of rape just as she can be the victim of murder or any other violent crime.
 
Myth: Physical force must be used for rape to have occurred.
Fact: The only physical contact necessary for rape to have occurred is intercourse. Even if the victim is psychologically intimidated, intoxicated or unconscious, rape can occur.
 
Myth: Rape is a natural product of male sexuality.
Fact: Rape is unknown in some societies, which indicates that rape is a choice and a learned behavior. Rape is an expression of male dominance and hostility, not innate male sexuality.
 
Myth: Most rapists are mentally ill.
Fact: Research has shown that men who rape are psychologically no different from other men in terms of psychiatric problems and are often involved in ongoing sexual relationships.
 
Myth: Many women falsely report rape.
Fact: Fewer than 2 percent of rape complaints are falsely reported. This is about the same rate of false reporting for other crimes.
 
Source: Gender Stereotypes and Roles by S.A. Basow (1992)
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