It is a myth that domestic violence is only physical, says Maryland criminologist Susan Paisner in a Washington Post article on five myths about the phenomenon. Besides physical abuse, there can be verbal and sexual abuse, isolation, coercion, stalking, economic control, abuse of trust, threats, intimidation, “emotional withholding,” property destruction, and harm to pets. It’s incorrect to think that all abusers are men. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 1 in 7 men in the U.S. have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner.
Many people believe that domestic violence is a crime of the poor and uneducated, but Paisner says it is “what might be called an ecumenical crime, with no regard for age, ethnicity, financial status or educational background.” Paisner calls it a “destructive myth” that if the victim does not leave, then the abuse must be tolerable. In fact, victims stay in relationships for many reasons, including fear of the abuser (who may threaten harm if they leave), lack of money, worry about children, lack of transportation, and the threat of deportation. A final myth cited by Paisner is that abusers “just snapped.” Actually, domestic violence is not about anger management or an inability to handle stress, she says. Abuse almost always recurs in a cycle that is based largely on demonstrating control. Another expert tells Paisner that for abusers, violence “is not a random act — it is a way of controlling a situation.”