Myths about Violence against Women

A myth is a traditional tale. But tales are stories and are not the truth. There are a lot of myths about violence against women. They are often used to blame the victim of the violence and protect the person using the violence.

Below is a list of common myths about violence against women. It can be helpful to understand the myths -

You might have a chance to 'be the hero' by standing up and talking about how these myths are not true, and are never excuses for violence.

Myth 1: Violence against women is not a common problem

Reality: Violence against women is all too common; it is just hidden and we don’t talk about it. There is more violence against men than against women but the violence is usually by men (1 [ABS]). When women are violent it is often in response to a history of domestic violence or in self-defence (2 [VLRC]).

Myth 2: She deserved it

Reality: No-one deserves or asks to be hurt. "Violence is never a way to sort things out". Saying to someone, “You deserve this because you didn’t do what I want or because you nagged me”, etc is just an excuse for violence (3 [Children, Youth and Women's Health Service]). It also makes no sense to say a girl asked to be sexually assaulted or raped by the way she behaves or dresses. Responsibility for violence rests solely with the abuser (4 [SECASA]).

Myth 3: Alcohol or drugs caused the violence

Reality: Alcohol and illicit drug use is a risk factor for violence,ie, some studies have shown increased violence when the abuser is intoxicated with alcohol or drugs. But lots of drinkers are not violent.  Some people try to excuse their violence by blaming alcohol and other drugs. But, we are all responsible for our own behaviour, including how much alcohol or other drugs we take. We are responsible for what we do under their influence. Blaming violence on alcohol and other drugs is a cop out (5 [VicHealth], 9 [White Ribbon]).

Myth 4: Violent men lose their temper and cannot control themselves

Reality: Acting violently is a choice. It is about trying to dominate and control someone else. Usually violent men don’t try it on with, for example, their boss but they will be violent with their partner or kids. They can control their violence when they want to (6 [VLRC]).

Myth 5: It’s a man’s right to have sex if he is in a relationship

Reality: "Forcing anyone to have sex when they don’t want to is rape" (7 [Friedman]).

Myth 6: Sexual assault happens because men lose control

Reality: No sexual urge gives a man the right to sexually assault. Men who sexually assault a woman know very well what they are doing. Again, it is about power and control (8 [NSW Rape Crisis Centre]).

Myth 7: Abuse against women is only a problem in some communities

Reality: "Violence against women occurs across all aspects of our societies regardless of race, religious beliefs, levels of education, sexual orientation, occupation, community position, or cultural/ethnic background" (9 [White Ribbon]).

Myth 8: She could have just left

Reality: It can be extremely difficult for a woman to leave a violent or abusive relationship. Women may find it difficult to leave a violent relationship due to a range of reasons including she could be threatened with violence or death if she leaves, she cannot financially afford to leave, or she feels like she has nowhere to go. Due to these kinds of factors, "most victims take several attempts to leave a violent relationship before they are successful " (10 [VLRC]).

1. Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2007). Interpersonal violence. Catalogue No. 4102.0. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra, p.1-2.

2. Victorian Law Reform Commission. (2008). Family violence: Fact sheet. Victorian Law Reform Commission, Melbourne.

3. Children, Youth and Women's Health Service. (2008). Relationship violence: Yeah right! myths. Children, Youth and Women's Health Service, Adelaide.

4. South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault. Mythbusters about girls South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault, East Bentleigh, Victoria.

5. VicHealth (2007), Preventing violence before it occurs, p.41.

6. Victorian Law Reform Commission. (2008). Family violence: Fact sheet. Victorian Law Reform Commission, Melbourne.

7. Friedman, B. (1998). Rape myth-busters: A program for young men about rape prevention. Sexual Health Information Networking and Education (SHine), Kensington, South Australia, p.92. 

8. NSW Rape Crisis Centre. Myths and facts. NSW Rape Crisis Centre.

9. White Ribbon. (2007). Ten common myths and misconceptions. White Ribbon Foundation, Sydney, p. 1-2.

10.Victorian Law Reform Commission. (2008). Family violence: Fact sheet. Victorian Law Reform Commission, Melbourne.