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8 Myths About Domestic Abuse & Intimate Partner Violence

by Sophie S. Clark

Contributing Writer, KBI Inspire Magazine

Sophie Clark is a high school student from Northumberland County, Ontario.  She launched @dvvawarenesscanada on Instagram as part of a social justice project in 2021, to raise awareness and support for girls and women who have been affected by domestic violence.

Domestic violence, and Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) are a widespread problem in our society. Most people don’t see, and don’t know, the reality of what goes on behind the scenes in an abusive relationship. That’s a problem, because what isn’t seen is difficult to change. And while IPV is a massive public health issue, myths and misconceptions about domestic violence and IPV prevent those suffering from seeking and accessing help.  The best way to stop domestic violence is to prevent it before it begins, so let’s talk about six of the most damaging misconceptions and myths out there:  


Myth #1: “Domestic violence is relatively rare”


Fact: In 2018, 99,452 people in Canada experienced intimate partner violence, according to police reported data (Government of Canada).  On top of that, it is widely believed that nearly 50% of IPV goes unreported.


Myth #2: “Only women can be affected by domestic violence and IPV”


While it is true that between 85% - 90% of victims are women, there is still a significant amount of violence against those who identify as men, transgender, and nonbinary. Believing that only women are affected is damaging, as it makes other victims scared to report and share their stories, fearing they won’t be believed. 


Myth #3: “Most of the time, abusers are poor and uneducated”


The truth is that abusers can be wealthy, poor, educated, or not. Domestic violence crosses cultural and socio-economic boundaries, and can happen regardless of economic status or education. There are many celebrities who have experienced IPV, for example most recently FKA Twigs opened up to Elle Magazine about the abuse she endured in her relationship with Shia LaBeof.  


Myth #4: “Those being abused must also be uneducated/unsuccessful”


As in myth #3, it is a common misconception that victims of abuse are less intelligent, or have a personality “type” that encourages or seeks out abuse. In reality, anyone can be  susceptible to the manipulation of an abuser. Thinking this way is a type of victim blaming, and is a very harmful ideology to carry. The abuser is always responsible for the abuse. 


Myth #5: “If you are being abused, you can just leave”


Survivors are often told this, especially when in the public eye. In circumstances where the partners stay in the relationship, they are questioned about their sanity and innocence. In truth, there are many factors that contribute to a partner choosing to stay, such as fear, financial constraints, children, and destroyed self worth. It is much more difficult to leave an abusive relationship than some think. 


Myth #6: “Domestic Violence is only physical abuse”


Because of mainstream media showing abuse as bruises, fights, and men hitting their wives, that has become the general idea. However, physical violence is usually part of a pattern of abuse. Other types of abuse include psychological manipulation, sexual abuse, financial abuse, and neglect. 


Myth #7: “If the abuser shows remorse and says they will change, it will stop”


Although it is true that people can change, abusers rarely stop without help, and more often the abuse will escalate over time. Showing remorse is part of the manipulation tactics that abusers use to get people to stay. Being controlled over a long period of time causes distorted thoughts, confusion and self doubt, which can make victims believe the abuse will end. 


Myth #8: “Substance abuse causes IPV”


While alcohol and drugs are often blamed for causing IPV, it is not an excuse for violent behaviour and one does not cause the other.


These are just a few of the pervasive myths surrounding domestic violence and IPV.  To learn more about identifying warning signs in a relationship, please read Relationship Red Flags in this issue of Inspire, as well as When it’s Time to Leave: Getting out of an Abusive Relationship Safely.  To learn more about IPV and domestic violence, check out the resources at the end of this article. If you are reading this and feel you are in danger, please call emergency services in your area (911 in Canada) or click here to find crisis services in your area.


Additional Resources:


Family Violence in Canada

THRIVE Northumberland

Gender Based Violence in Canada

Canada’s Domestic Violence Crisis

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