Who are the victims?
Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, and religious groups. Although most victims of reported domestic violence cases are women who are abused by men, there are reported cases of women who abuse their male intimate partners, women who abuse women, and men who abuse men. A person may be a victim even if s/he is not legally married to the abusive partner, is gay or lesbian, is separated or divorced, or is abused by someone else in the household, such as a parent or a child (source).
Myths About Abuse
“Victims of domestic violence like to be beaten”
Evidence does not support this theory. Victims of domestic violence desperately want the abuse to end, and engage in various survival strategies, including calling the police or seeking help from family members, to protect themselves and their children. In some cases, silence may be a survival strategy.
“Low self-esteem causes victims to get involved in abusive relationships”
Some assume that individuals with adequate self-esteem would not “allow” themselves to be abused by intimate partners or spouses. But studies demonstrate that victims of domestic violence fail to share common characteristics other than being female. However, some victims experience a decrease in self-esteem as a result of being abused.
“Batterers abuse their partners because of alcohol or drug abuse”
Substance abuse does not cause perpetrators of domestic violence to abuse their partners, although it is frequently used as an excuse. Substance abuse may increase the frequency or severity of violent episodes, but domestic violence is caused by a desire to exert power and control over an intimate partner, not drugs or alcohol.
“Batterers abuse their partners because they are under a lot of stress”
Stress does not cause batterers to abuse their partners. If stress caused domestic violence, batterers would assault their bosses or co-workers rather than their intimate partners. Domestic violence flourishes because society condones partner abuse, and because perpetrators learn that they can achieve what they want through the use of force without facing serious consequences.
“Domestic violence is irrelevant to parental fitness”
Because children often suffer physical and emotional harm from living in violent homes, domestic violence is extremely related to parental fitness. More than half of children whose mothers are battered are likely to be abused themselves, and children are frequently used as pawns to control the parental victim. An abuser’s focus on controlling the victim undermines the abusers ability to parent because the primary concern is not the child. Courts in most states are now required to consider domestic violence in custody determinations, recognizing the victimization of one parent and the danger of the abusing parent.