Myths about domestic violence prevent solutions

Thursday, August 15, 2019

In recognition of the 20th anniversary of Carbon County DSVS, The Carbon County News re-publishes DSVS Founder Mitzi Vorachek’s editorial of Oct. 9, 1999, that essentially alerted the public to domestic violence issues and helped begin the organization. 


By Mitzi Vorachek

Domestic Violence 

Volunteer Advocate 


Each year for Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, domestic violence shelters and victims' advocates make a special effort to educate and sensitize communities about the epidemic of family violence in this country.  The statistics are mind-boggling: more than two million women each year are physically abused; six out of every ten couples have experienced violence at some time in their marriage; and approximately 20% of pregnant women are battered.  


Local news stories in the Billings Gazette this year illustrate just how close to home these statistics are.  On May 5 a story read, “A man accused of speeding through Billings while beating his pregnant girlfriend now stands accused of bail jumping...”  On Aug. 20 the front page story detailed, “a district jury...convicted Edward Giant III of beating his wife and stabbing her with an ice pick last year.”   And, on Sept. 3 was the story of a Yellowstone Valley man who, a few years ago, “poured gasoline over (his girlfriend) and smiled as he struck a lighter several times until it finally sparked, setting her on fire.” 


Myths about domestic violence are prevalent in our communities, and belief in these myths keeps us from addressing the issue. In order to assist victims and to prevent future violence, we must learn the realities of domestic violence:


Myth:  Only a few people are affected by domestic violence.

Reality:  According the FBI, every 12 seconds a domestic violence incident occurs.  Approximately 1,500 women are killed each year in the US at the hands of their partners. The cost to communities is staggering with health care, insurance, school and social service programs for traumatized children and adults, and civil and criminal justice expenditures.  Everyone is affected--everyone pays for domestic violence.


Myth:  Only women are victims of domestic violence.

Reality: While statistics show that in 95% of reported cases, women are victims of male battering, men can also be victims. Battering is about using violence to get power and control. Women can use some of the same tactics as male abusers, such as verbal and emotional abuse and use of weapons.  Unfortunately, there are not many resources for men who are battered, and often they are not believed by the police, courts, and shelters.  Also, because of traditional beliefs that men should be strong and in charge, many men who are victims are too ashamed to report abuse.


Myth:  Victims of domestic violence are masochistic.

Reality:  Victims do not want to be beaten.  They have asked their partners to stop the abuse; they have asked the police, their clergy, their doctors, their friends, their family members for help; and they have tried to leave. Those who believe victims are masochistic do not take into account the physical, emotional, and/or sexual trauma a survivor of battering goes through.  Many do not leave because they are afraid of more severe beatings, being stalked and even being killed. Many feel they have no place to go. Many cannot support themselves and their children without assistance.  Many victims are so traumatized by abuse that they cannot envision other options.


Myth:  The batterer simply “lost control.”

Reality:  Batterers are in complete control. Most individuals who batter use methods other than violence when dealing with frustration, anger, or “provocation” when  convenient. Generally, they do not beat up their bosses, the police officer who gives them a traffic ticket, their secretaries, or the noisy children in the next yard. In the privacy of their homes, when there are no consequences for their actions, batterers abuse their partners.   


Myth:  Stress, drugs, and alcohol cause domestic violence.

Reality:  Stress, drugs, and alcohol do not cause domestic violence. While there is a high correlation between the use of alcohol and/or drugs and violence, current research points to domestic violence as a learned behavior. There are many individuals who are under high stress, do drugs, and/or drink heavily and do not batter their partners; there are many individuals, who have never touched drugs or alcohol, who batter.  For those who desire power and control in the home, violence works, and consequences are few. Friends and neighbors look the other way because of traditional beliefs about marriages and partnerships being private affairs.  The justice system is over-burdened by other crimes and tends to be lenient when domestic violence is the crime.  

A recent study of domestic violence in patients at rural health clinics has shown that the rate of abuse, approximately 19%, is similar to rates in emergency room admissions in the country as a whole. (Hightower and Gorton, 12/9/98) Carbon and Stillwater Counties probably have similar rates of domestic violence.

Rural areas have particular problems in preventing domestic violence.  With relatively small populations, individuals tend to know most people in their communities; therefore, anonymity in counseling and support groups is more difficult to achieve. The fear that “everyone will know about our personal problems,” makes it harder for victims to come forward. The isolation of families on farms and ranches makes it difficult to get help, and resources are either stretched very thin or are non-existent.

In spite of the difficulties we face in our rural communities, domestic violence can be prevented.  Dispelling the myths, educating ourselves, making use of existing resources, developing additional resources, and having a zero tolerance for domestic violence can go a long way toward preventing future violence.


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