The issue of domestic violence is ever present in our community with 31% of Australian women over the age of 18 reported to have experienced violence at the hands of an intimate partner*. Despite the concerning statistics surrounding the frequency of domestic violence, community awareness of the issue is peppered with myth and these gaps in understanding can impact a woman’s decision to reach out for help. So, let’s dispel some common misconceptions about domestic violence and help women turn knowledge into power.
MYTH: Only physical violence counts are domestic violence.
FACT: Domestic violence takes many forms; physical and/or sexual assault, emotional and psychological intimidation and abuse, denying access to money, isolation from friends and family and stalking and harassment are all examples of domestic violence. Any one of these behaviours represents a red flag and may escalate to other forms of violence and abuse.
Myth: Domestic violence is caused by anger and rage
Fact: Anger and rage are emotional responses felt by most people at some point, but not everyone is violent towards others when they’re angry. Domestic violence is a pattern of behaviour used to dominate, hurt and control a family member and while anger and rage are often evident during episodes of domestic abuse, they are not the cause of violence.
Myth: Women that are financially or intellectually vulnerable are more likely to experience domestic violence.
Fact: The statistics clearly demonstrate that domestic violence doesn’t discriminate. It’s a broad social issue that impacts women of any socioeconomic position, qualification, culture, religion, sexual orientation, marital status and age.
Myth: Alcohol and drug use leads to domestic violence.
Fact: Alcohol and drugs do not cause domestic violence. Domestic violence is a behavioural issue and a choice the perpetrator makes to hurt and control family members. The misuse of alcohol and other drugs may increase the frequency and intensity of violence but dealing with a substance addiction will not singularly resolve domestic violence.
Myth: Children aren’t impacted by domestic violence if they’re not there to see or hear it.
Fact: Domestic violence has significant developmental and social consequences for children and young people. Even if they don’t directly experience abuse, children have an incredible capacity to feel changes in the family dynamic and may also be impacted by seeing injuries to a parent or damage to their home. Domestic violence can impair a child’s physical, emotional and brain development, their sense of security in relationships, their mental health and their ability to cope in different situations and contexts.
MYTH: It won’t happen again
FACT: In some instances, perpetrators of domestic violence do feel regret for their actions and this can lead to their re-assurances that this was a one-off incident that will never be repeated. Unfortunately, the very act of violence or abuse indicates a significant behavioural issue and in this instance, there is real potential for re-offence.
Understanding what constitutes domestic violence and acknowledging its prevalence and impact in our community is a vital step towards keeping yourself – and those you love – safe. If you have questions about healthy relationships and how to recognise unhealthy behaviours, or if you need support leaving violence, reach out to our Newcastle Domestic Violence Resource Centre today.