MCEDV was pleased to welcome Columba Bush on her July 9th visit to Maine. Mrs. Bush, a longtime supporter of domestic violence services, toured Family Crisis Services in Portland and discussed the statewide response to abuse in Maine.
Myths About DV
The abuser is “out of control.”
The abuser is actually in control. The abuser decides who to abuse, when and where, the parts of the body to batter, and the length and severity of the episode. The abuser may remove rings or a belt as a signal, or threaten that s/he is “going to do something” and when.
The abuser has a hard time controlling anger. Anger management classes might help.
This myth feeds into the belief that battering is a crime of passion. In fact, many batterers admit to calmly planning violent incidents. Additionally, most batterers are able to control their emotions when on the job, with friends, in court, or when dealing with police. Accordingly, anger management classes won’t appropriately address the causes of the abuser’s behavior.
The abuse is caused by stress.
Batterers do not experience more stress than non-batterers do. They choose to deal with stress violently. Abusers believe they have the right to control and get their way.
The abuser has low self-esteem.
Batterers do not differ from non-batterers in their level of self-esteem. The difference lies in batterers’ belief systems regarding what they are entitled to in their relationships, and who they are entitled to have power over. The problem is not how batterers feel about themselves; it is the permission they give themselves to control and hurt other people.
Substance abuse causes abuse.
Getting sober and into a program does not stop the abuse or the violence. In addition, being a “recovering addict or alcoholic” may be used to sidestep responsibility for abusive behavior. Substance abuse is another way for an abuser not to be held accountable. While substance abuse issues may exacerbate the abuse, they do not cause it. Getting sober is just the first step in dealing with the underlying issues of power and control.
Abusers were themselves abused as children, and that experience causes them to be abusive as adults.
Many batterers were abused as children. Statistics show that men who witnessed their father abusing their mother are more likely to batter than those who have been physically abused themselves. Both are big risk factors, but do not cause abuse. Many men were abused growing up and choose not to abuse their partners.
The abuser has poor communication skills.
This myth is grounded in the belief that the abuser wouldn’t abuse if his or her needs were met. It is a form of victim blaming. Batterers demand that their needs be met before the needs of all others. For their safety, victims learn to read subtle, non-verbal communications well. Even when victims meet the needs of abusers, those abusers continue to exercise power and control to get their needs met.
Battering is provoked or enjoyed by the victim.
Battering and other abuses are degrading and humiliating. No behavior on the part of the victim ever justifies battering. No behavior on the part of the victim can change the abuser’s decision to batter. While sayings like “it takes two to tango” and “there are two sides to every story” might make sense in relationships where both partners have equal power, they do not apply in relationships where one partner uses coercive tactics to maintain power and control over the other partner.
Batterers need to learn non-violence
Batterers know non-violence. The problem is not their inability to resolve conflict non-violently, but their unwillingness to do so.