Domestic Violence Myths and Facts

MYTH Domestic violence happens only in low-income families:

FACT Domestic violence happens in all kinds of families, rich and poor, urban, suburban and rural, in every part of the country, in every racial, religious and age group.

MYTH Alcohol and drugs cause domestic violence.

FACT Alcohol and drugs do not cause domestic violence. Domestic violence is a choice. Many abusers will make sure they have alcohol or drugs on hand, in order to use them as an excuse for their actions. Abusers will also claim their actions resulted because they could not have the alcohol or drugs.

MYTH Domestic violence is an anger control issue.

FACT Domestic violence has nothing to do with anger. Anger is a tool abusers use to get what they want. We know abusers are actually very much in control because they can stop when someone knocks on the door or the phone rings; they often direct punches and kicks to parts of the body where the bruises are less likely to show; and they are not abusing everyone who makes them “angry”, but wait until there are no witnesses to abuse the one they say they love.

MYTH Abusers and/or victims have low self-esteem.

FACT Abusers do not have low self-esteem. They believe they are entitled to have power and control over their partner. Abusers may pretend to have low self-esteem, if it will make others believe the violence is not their fault. FACT Survivors of abuse may have had great selfesteem at the beginning of the relationship, but the abuser uses emotional abuse: calling names, using put downs, telling them it is all their fault, in order to destroy their self-esteem. Some abusers look for partners with low self-esteem, as they believe they will be more likely to blame themselves and less likely to report the abusive behavior. Other abusers will seek partners with high self-esteem, as they may represent a greater challenge to control over time.

MYTH Domestic violence happens only once or twice in a relationship.

FACT Abusers usually escalate violent behaviors in frequency and intensity over time.

MYTH Some survivors want to be beaten. They ask for it. They deserve it. Some survivors go from abuser to abuser - it must be something about them.

FACT No one deserves to be abused. Everyone has the right to live free of violence. No one would want to have their partner be abusive. People who find that their second or third partner are abusers will often be blamed by others for the violence – “it must be something about them” or they will blame themselves - “I always seem to pick abusers.” In reality, the abuser uses the tactic of charm early in the relationship to find out about previous abuse. The abuser uses this information to blame the survivor for the violence - “see it must be something that you are doing wrong, or there would not have been two of us” or to silence the survivor - “you are not going to tell anyone, because if you do they will never believe you because you said that before.”

MYTH Children aren’t aware of the violence in their home.

FACT Studies show that most children are aware of the violence in their homes.”

MYTH Boys who witness violence will grow up to be abusers.

FACT Studies have found that 30% of male child witnesses choose to become abusers as adults. This means that 70% do not become abusers and are committed to ending the cycle of violence in their lives. Many children, male and female, who witness domestic violence become advocates for children when they grow up; committed to raising their children without the use of violence and going into professions where they work to end violence against all children.

Young men in our society must never feel they are destined to become violent. We send a dangerous message to young men and boys when we imply they are fated to become violent and we give abusers an excuse for their behavior.


FACT: Domestic violence is a crime. It is against the law for anyone to physically harm or harass another person. In Oregon, the law says police shall arrest a person who they have reason to believe has abused another person.

FACT: Domestic violence may lead to murder. Three-quarters of all women who are murdered are murdered by their husbands, ex-husbands or domestic partners.

FACT: Domestic violence costs the U.S. economy an estimated $3 to $5 billion annually in job absenteeism and another $100 million annually in medical expenses.

Adapted from Center for Hope and Safety, Myths and Facts About Domestic Violence