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OFFICE OF THE PROSECUTING ATTORNEY

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE MYTHS

MYTH: THE REAL PROBLEM IS COUPLES WHO ASSAULT EACH OTHER. WOMEN ARE JUST AS VIOLENT AS MEN.

FACT: The Kalamazoo County Prosecutor's Office prosecutes women, as well as men, for domestic violence. A well-publicized study conducted by Dr. Murray Strauss at the University of New Hampshire found that women use violent means to resolve conflict in relationships as often as men. However, the study also concluded that when the context and consequences of an assault are measured, the majority of victims are women. The U.S. Department of Justice has found that 95% of the victims of spouse abuse are female. Men can be victims.

MYTH: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AFFECTS ONLY A SMALL PERCENTAGE OF THE POPULATION AND IS RARE.

FACT: National studies estimate that 3 to 4 million women are beaten each year in our country. A study conducted in 1995 found that 31% of women surveyed admitted to having been physically assaulted by a husband or boyfriend. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in our country, and the FBI estimates that a woman is beaten every 15 seconds. Thirty percent of female homicide victims are killed by partners or ex-partners and 1,500 women are murdered as a result of domestic violence each year in the United States.

MYTH: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE OCCURS ONLY IN POOR, UNEDUCATED, AND MINORITY FAMILIES.

FACT: Studies of domestic violence consistently have found that battering occurs among all types of families, regardless of income, profession, region, ethnicity, educational level or race. However, the fact that lower income victims and abusers are over-represented in calls to police, battered women's shelters, and social services may be due to a lack of other resources.

MYTH: ALCOHOL ABUSE CAUSES DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.

FACT: Although there is a high correlation between alcohol, or other substance abuse, and battering, it is not a causal relationship. Batterers use drinking as one of many excuses for their violence and as a way to place the responsibility for their violence elsewhere. Stopping the abusers' drinking will not stop the violence. Both battering and substance abuse need to be addressed separately, as overlapping yet independent problems.

MYTH: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IS USUALLY A ONE TIME, ISOLATED OCCURRENCE AND ONLY INVOLVES PHYSICAL ABUSE.

FACT: Domestic Violence is a term used to describe many different pattern types of partner abuse. Oversall, Domestic Violence is a pattern of coercion and control that one person exerts over another. Domestic Violence is not just one physical attack. It includes the repeated use of a number of tactics, including intimidation, controlling behavior, threats, economic deprivation, isolation, and psychological and sexual abuse. Physical violence is just one of these tactics. Often, physical abuse is both preceded by and accompanied by emotional abuse. Emotional abuse includes yelling, name-calling, blaming and shaming. The aim of emotional abuse is to chip away at your feelings of self-worth and independence. The various forms of abuse utilized by batterers help to maintain power and control over their spouses and partners.

MYTH: MEN WHO BATTER ARE OFTEN GOOD FATHERS AND SHOULD HAVE JOINT CUSTODY OF THEIR CHILDREN IF THE COUPLE SEPARATES.

FACT: Studies have found that men who batter their wives also abuse their children in 70% of cases. Even when children are not directly abused, they suffer as a result of witnessing one parent assault another. Batterers often display an increased interest in their children at the time of separation, as a means of maintaining contact with, and thus control over, their partners.

MYTH: WHEN THERE IS VIOLENCE IN THE FAMILY, ALL MEMBERS OF THE FAMILY ARE PARTICIPATING IN THE DYNAMIC, AND THEREFORE, ALL MUST CHANGE FOR THE VIOLENCE TO STOP.

FACT: Only the batterer has the ability to stop the violence. Battering is a behavioral choice for which the batterer must be held accountable. Many victims make numerous attempts to change their behavior in the hope that this will stop the abuse. This does not work. Changes in family members' behavior will not cause the batterer to be non-violent.

MYTH: VICTIMS ARE MASOCHISTIC AND PROVOKE THE ABUSE. THEY MUST LIKE IT OR THEY WOULD LEAVE.

FACT: Victim provocation is no more common in domestic violence than in any other crime. Victims often make repeated attempts to leave violent relationships, but are prevented from doing so by increased violence and control tactics on the part of the abuser. Other factors which inhibit a victim's ability to leave include economic dependence, few viable options for housing and support, unhelpful responses from the criminal justice system or other agencies, social isolation, cultural or religious constraints, a commitment to the abuser and the relationship and fear of further violence. It has been estimated that the danger to a victim increases by 70% when they attempt to leave, as the abuser escalates use of violence when they begin to lose control.

MYTH: MEN HAVE A RIGHT TO DISCIPLINE THEIR PARTNERS FOR MISBEHAVING. BATTERING IS NOT A CRIME.

FACT:  While our society derives from a patriarchal legal system that afforded men the right to physically chastise their wives and children, we DO NOT live under such a system now. Women and children are no longer considered property.

Source: Clark County Prosecuting Attorney

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