Myths and Facts for Therapist Training

Facts to Dispel Myths for Therapist Training

This training content was adapted from Safe Connections Bay Area Collaboration.

The following facts can be used to dispel common myths when providing a training for social workers and therapists:

  • Fact: Once an abuser uses violence, the abuse tends to get worse and more frequent, sometimes causing permanent injury or death. What may begin as an occasional slap or shove will turn in to a push down the stairs, a punch in the face or a kick in the stomach.
  • Fact: Relationship abuse is not about anger or losing control. Abusers choose not to beat their bosses or terrorize their friends when they are angry. Relationship abuse, far from being an uncontrolled act, is used specifically to maintain the abuser’s control over the partner.
  • Fact: The abuser is responsible for the violence— not the victim. Victims are blamed for the violence by the abuser, friends, family and society. Systems theory is not appropriate for domestic violence cases.
  • Fact: Violence does occur in same gender relationships, and the issues of power and control are similar to those found in heterosexual relationships. Homophobia allows society to trivialize the violence in same gender relationships and compounds the effects of the violence for the victim.
  • Fact: Violence inflicted by an intimate partner is viewed as less serious than violence inflicted by a stranger. In order for domestic violence to be taken seriously, we must challenge society’s and the abuser’s firmly held belief that one partner has a right to control another.
  • Fact: Relationship abuse crosses all economic, educational, ethnic, sexual orientation, age and racial lines in equal proportions. There is no “typical” victim.
  • Fact: Racism compounds the effect of relationship abuse for women of color. Services for women of color are often not culturally sensitive or language appropriate, which makes seeking safety more difficult.
  • Fact: Abusers do not abuse because they are crazy, mentally ill, insecure, jealous, have an anger problem or poor communication skills. These things may contribute to or worsen the abuser’s violence, but they do not cause violence.
  • Fact: Relationship abuse is not mutual. Using self-defense or retaliating against years of violence is not the same as intent to dominate or intimidate. Women who choose to use violence against the male abuser face more severe consequences by the criminal justice system.
  • Fact: Relationship abuse is a widespread social problem. Our society presents violence as a normal part of intimate relationships. By encouraging male dominance, reinforcing stereotypical gender roles and promoting a “power over others” ideology, our whole society is responsible for the violence, not individual families.
  • Fact: It doesn’t matter how a woman acts or what she says, whether she is passive or assertive. No matter what the victim does, no action warrants or provokes violence. The abuser makes the choice to be violent. Even when partners disagree, no one deserves to be beaten or threatened.
  • Fact: Abusers are unlikely to change or stop their violence. Abusers absolutely will not change until they recognize that they have a problem and this will not happen if they still blame the victim. Abusers must be held accountable for their actions. Participation in a batterer’s program does not guarantee that an abuser will not be violent again. Short-lived reconciliation periods are common in which the abuser is liable to say or do anything. In all likelihood these “good intentions” will quickly pass and the violence will begin again.

Please see Frequently Asked Questions for more myths and facts.

This training content was adapted from Safe Connections Bay Area Collaboration.

A Note on Terminology

Domestic violence/relationship abuse refers to intimate relationships, not child abuse. Because the vast majority of relationship abuse is committed by men against women in heterosexual relationships, this website sometimes contains the female gender pronoun when referring to the abused person. Domestic violence/relationship happens at the same rate in LGBTQQ relationships and all of the information on this site is relevant for male victims and for individuals in same-gender relationships. In addition, please see our resources on same-gender relationships. Our goal is to encourage helping professionals to be gender inclusive. This includes using gender-neutral language when working with individuals, while continuing to analyze gender as a construct that has implications on gender-based violence in both heterosexual and same-gender relationships.