Myths and Misconceptions
Domestic Violence is only physical.
This is one of the biggest misconceptions about domestic violence. Abuse is unique for every individual’s case and can include a wide range of abuse such as: emotional, psychological, financial, sexual, physical and spiritual. All are forms of abuse that impact one’s overall wellbeing and should never be invalidated because a victim does not have any visible injuries of violence. There are many less visible injuries of violence such as: depression, self-harming behaviors, acute anxiety, passivity and memory loss.
There is no such thing as sexual violence/consent in marriage.
Relationship status such as common-law and marriage does not provide immediate and ultimate consent. Consent should always be explicit and is reversible at any point of a sexual encounter, additionally, consent cannot be given while under the influence of substances that impair judgement such as alcohol. Sexual abuse and assault in a valid form of abuse and is a chargeable offense by Police and Criminal Court system. Sexual violence is often used as a bargaining tool by abusers, victims are often coerced into sexual acts by threats to complete other forms of abuse such as physical or financial.
Only men can be abusers.
Women are the most vulnerable population to domestic violence including family violence and intimate partner violence. According to the Government of Canada: almost 8 in 10 victims of intimate partner cases reported to police were women. However, abusers can also include women and non-binary identifying individuals, as men often under-report for cases of domestic violence due to stigma within society. Moreover, family violence can include women and non-binary individuals such as parents, in-laws, extended family and children.
- About Gender-Based Violence (link)
- Women in Canada are more likely than men to experience intimate partner violence. According to 2018 police-reported data, women accounted for almost 8 in 10 victims (79%) of intimate partner violence.
Domestic violence is a private family matter.
Many communities perpetuate this idea that “what happens within the home must stay in the home”, as it is a private family matter. However, domestic violence does not just impact the individuals involved within the relationship but rather harms the whole family unit including children. Keeping violence a secret does not help anyone and creates negative impacts within our communities that normalize abusive behaviour and results in substantial costs to society.
Children are naïve and do not understand what is happening.
Often one of the most daunting challenges that prevent women from leaving abusive relationships is children as women often stay to maintain the family unit. There is the misconception that staying within the relationship would be better for children as they would have access to both parents within the household. However, there are significant impacts on children when they stay within the matrimonial home with the abuser. These impacts include: isolation from friends and family due to the abuse inflicted on the victim, diminished trust in adults, fear of expressing feelings around the abuser (to avoid instigating a back-lash), low self-esteem, feelings of guilt and shame, learning inappropriate sexual talk and learning/mimicking the abuser’s behaviours.
Myth: If they stay in the relationship, then it must not be that bad.
Abusive relationships cannot be categorized as ‘bad’ or ‘not bad’ as it is not a simple black and white situation. Often, there are many parts of the victim’s life that is integrated and dependent on the abuser. The abuser creates dependency to ensure their power and control over the relationship, i.e. financial dependency. The abuser often prevents their victims from being financially independent by either preventing them from finding employment or draining their income. Additionally, abusers isolate victims from their supports like family and friends so they remain dependent on the abusers. It is important to consider the whole situation and understand how integrated the abuse is and the significant impacts it has on the victim. Often victims feel hopeless and that there is no way out of the relationship, which is why it typically takes women between 10 to 15 attempts to leave an abusive relationship.
Victims provoke their partners’ violence.
In many communities, there is a perpetuated idea that violence occurs within a relationship due to the deficiencies of the female partner. It is important for us to recognize that this is victim blaming, and that one’s behaviours and actions cannot justify the way that another acts or behaves. When an adult partner consistently avoids blame or ownership of their actions, denies or minimizes what they do, they create a pattern in which they are consistently right. This is a manipulation tactic that perpetuates their power within the relationship.
If they apologize, then they will change.
It is important to recognize that every individual makes mistakes, however, it is the frequency and intensity of these incidents that determine whether the relationship is abusive. It is abusive when there is a constant cycle in which incidents of physical, emotional, financial, sexual and spiritual abuse occurs that involves the abuser consistently apologizing or promising to reform. When an abuser promises to reform, the abuse with stop if they recognize that their behaviour is unacceptable. However, if the abuse occurs over and over again, the abuser does not see their behaviour as problematic. Apologizing and promising to reform is a manipulative tool intended to maintain the abuser’s control. The abuser maintains the cycle of abuse through manipulation. Abuse rarely stops. Please refer to the Cycle of Abuse to learn more about how this cycle is maintained.