FAQs/Myths and Facts
- What is Relationship Abuse?
- 1. Isn’t Relationship Abuse a Rare Occurrence?
- 2. Does Relationship Abuse Happen in Same-Gender Relationships?
- 3. Does Relationship Abuse Happen to Teens?
- 4. Isn’t Relationship Abuse Caused by Alcohol?
- 5. What About Mental Illness?
- 6. How Do We Hold Abusers Accountable?
- 7. Don’t Women Abuse Just as Much as Men Do?
- 8. But What About Those Studies That Show Women Are Just as Violent as Men?
- 9. Isn’t Most Violence Against Women Committed by Strangers?
- 10. Why Don’t Women in Abusive Relationships Just Leave Their Partners?
- 11. What About Culture?
- 12. Won’t Therapy for the Abuser Stop the Violence?
- 13. Do All Boys Who Witness Domestic Violence Grow Up to Be Batterers?
- 14. Isn’t Domestic Violence Usually a One Time, Isolated Occurrence Due to Anger or Stress?
- 15. Don’t Battered Women Provoke the Abuse? Explain the Myth of Masochism.
- 16. Why Does Language Framing Matter?
- 17. Doesn’t Abuse Occur When the Perpetrator Loses Control?
1. Isn’t Relationship Abuse a Rare Occurrence?
* American Psychological Association, Violence and the Family: Report on the American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family (1996), p. 10.
Visit Futures Without Violence for more information on the prevalence of domestic violence.
2. Does Relationship Abuse Happen in Same-Gender Relationships?
For more information, please see our resources on Same Gender & LGBT Relationships.
3. Does Relationship Abuse Happen to Teens?
Adapted from Catalano, Shannan. Intimate Partner Violence in the United States. U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics (2007); Tween and Teen Dating Violence and Abuse Study, Teenage Research Unlimited for Liz Claiborne Inc. and the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline (2008); CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (February 2008); and Silverman et al. (2001).
4. Isn’t Relationship Abuse Caused by Alcohol?
Adapted from Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse.
5. What About Mental Illness?
Adapted from Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse.
6. How Do We Hold Abusers Accountable?
7. Don’t Women Abuse Just as Much as Men Do?
* Bureau of Justice Statistics Selected Findings: Violence Between Inmates (NCJ-149259), November 1994; A Report of the Violence Against Women Research Strategic Planning Workshop sponsored by the National Institute of Justice in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1995.
8. But What About Those Studies That Show Women Are Just as Violent as Men?
Adapted from Susan McGee, Minerva, Inc.
For more information, please see A Critique of the Conflict Tactics Scale (PDF).
9. Isn’t Most Violence Against Women Committed by Strangers?
*Patricia Tjaden & Nancy Thoennes. Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey, 1998. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
10. Why Don’t Women in Abusive Relationships Just Leave Their Partners?
Please see Barriers to Leaving for more information.
11. What About Culture?
12. Won’t Therapy for the Abuser Stop the Violence?
13. Do All Boys Who Witness Domestic Violence Grow Up to Be Batterers?
* California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA) Resource Guide, 2006; Campus Advocacy Network, University of Illinois at Chicago.
14. Isn’t Domestic Violence Usually a One Time, Isolated Occurrence Due to Anger or Stress?
15. Don’t Battered Women Provoke the Abuse? Explain the Myth of Masochism.
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16. Why Does Language Framing Matter?
This sort of reframing is important when it comes to statistics about relationship abuse and sexual assault.
Most of the statistics are framed like this: “Worldwide, including in the United States, at least 1 in 3 women will experience relationship abuse or sexual assault in her lifetime.” (World Health Organization, 2013)
When they should be reframed to look like this: “Worldwide, including in the United States, a man will commit relationship abuse or sexual assault against at least 1 in 3 women.” (World Health Organization, 2013)
Here are some more examples of how to reframe the World Health Organization statistics so that we focus on who is committing the violence:
- Men will hurt 1 in 3 women in a relationship
- Men will rape 1 in 4 women and 1 in 33 men
- A man or woman will hurt his/her partner in 1 in 4 same-gender relationships
17. Doesn’t Abuse Occur When the Perpetrator Loses Control?
For more information, please see What Causes Relationship Abuse?
- 1. What is sexual assault?
- 2. What is the difference between regretted sex and sexual assault?
- 3. Why isn’t rape considered an act of uncontrollable sexual desire?
- 4. What constitutes consent?
- 5. Why do we focus on women as victims and men as perpetrators?
- 6. Does rape not affect men?
- 7. Does this affect college students?
- 8. Why does she change her story?
- 9. Why doesn’t she report?
- 10. How can I help a friend/respond to survivors?
- 11. What can I do right now?
1. What is sexual assault?
Under federal and state law, sexual assault includes, but is not limited to: rape, forcible sodomy, forcible oral copulation, sexual assault with an object, sexual battery, forcible fondling (e.g., unwanted touching or kissing for purposes of sexual gratification), and threat of sexual assault.
2. What is the difference between regretted sex and sexual assault?
Regretted sex is when two individuals consent to sexual intimacy, but one or both people experience regret or feel guilty afterwards. Though they may regret that encounter, they do not feel like they did not have a choice. In contrast to regretted sex, sexual assault is about one person taking control and proceeding without consent.
3. Why isn’t rape considered an act of uncontrollable sexual desire?
Rape is an act of dominance, hostility, control and violence. Rape is a means by which one person uses their power to violate another person. A rapist is in complete control and can stop at any time if he wanted to stop. To claim that men can become so consumed by a sexual desire that they cannot help raping someone is an insult to men and their sexual agency.
4. What constitutes consent?
“A person consents if s/he agrees by choice and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice.” Sexual Offenses Act, section 74.
- In the absence of mutually understandable words or actions, it is the responsibility of the initiator, or the person who wants to engage in the specific sexual activity to make sure that he or she has consent from the partner.
- Silence (or lack of resistance) does not equal consent.
- Consent to some form of sexual activity does not necessarily imply consent to other forms of sexual activity. Mutually understandable consent must be obtained by the initiator at every stage of sexual interaction.
- Kissing someone or going back to their room is not “implicit consent”.
- Consent which is obtained through the use of fraud or force, whether that is physical force, threats, intimidation, or coercion, is ineffective consent.
- Consent cannot be implied by attire, or inferred from the spending of money on a date.
- If the complainant was incapacitated, and the respondent knew, or should have reasonably have known of the incapacity, indications of consent are irrelevant.
5. Why do we focus on women as victims and men as perpetrators?
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, nearly 99% of sexual assault offenders in single-victim incidents were male. An estimated 91% of the victims of rape and sexual assault are female and 9% are male. We focus on the gendered nature of this crime.
6. Does rape not affect men?
Both men and boys are victims of rape. In addition, any man who knows someone who has been raped may be deeply affected. All men have something to gain by being a part of ending violence against women and the gender hierarchy that influences these crimes.
7. Does this affect college students?
A 2006 college survey indicated that 1 in 4 women have been victims of rape or attempted rape. (2006 CALCASA Report)
Women who are most often raped are between 16 and 24 years of age. Since this is the period when young women begin to date, they are particularly vulnerable to being a victim of date rape. The peak rate of victimization occurs in the 16 – 19 year old age group with the next highest rate of victimization occurring between 20 and 24 years of age.
Eight in ten college rapes involved someone the attacker knew, more than half involved a date. Eighty-six percent of these rapes occurred in off-campus housing or in a car. Prior to the rape 42% had not been sexually active. (Rape on Campus: Facts and Measures)
8. Why does she change her story?
Many victims of sexual assault will experience Rape Trauma Syndrome (RTS). As the victim works through the stages of RTS, denial and memory loss are often experienced, followed by flashbacks and slowly coming to terms with the trauma of the event. During this process, victims may not be able to remember specifics or order of details. The amount that they remember will change over time.
Survivors may also face social pressures to change their stories. She may be afraid of her attacker, especially in cases where sexual assault is linked to relationship abuse, and change her story once he finds out she has pressed charges. She may also be ashamed because of the way her family, friends, or other communities are judging her as a result of the incident and change her story so people will not judge her as much.
9. Why doesn’t she report?
There are many barriers to reporting. Consider the ways reports of sexual assault are usually handled in the media, in communities, and in the criminal justice system. Often, the victim’s sexuality and sexual history are questioned along with her clothing, drinking choices, and behaviors. Victims are often scrutinized just as harshly, if not more harshly than the perpetrators they accuse. This process is re-victimizing and does not make reporting an appealing option. Also, given the often private setting of the crime, there is rarely substantial evidence. Victims may recognize this and think that no one will believe them if they come forward. In many cases, women may not recognize what they experienced as a crime because of the proliferation of sexualized violence in the media and expectations that liberated women should be willing to have sex. Victims may also deny or minimize what happened to them as a coping mechanism. There are also substantial physical barriers to reporting. Women may not have the time, money, knowledge, support system, or language capacity needed to access the reporting process.
In one study, the following explanations were found as to why no report was made after a sexual assault:
43% thought nothing could be done
27% thought it was a private matter
12% were afraid of police response
12% felt it was not important enough
10. How can I help a friend/respond to survivors?
11. What can I do right now?
- Learn about sexual assault and its impact on society.
- Speak out against sexual assault and sexual violence – even the “little things” that might seem less important, like language that degrades women or makes a joke out of sexual assault.
- Change the conversation – move from victim-blaming dialogue to offender accountability when you here sexual assault discussed.
- Support agencies that are a resource for survivors.