Why it happens, gender, myths/facts
Why do some men abuse women?
Most men do not abuse their partners or children. However, a small number do.
Men who abuse believe they are entitled to get their own way. Their abuse is intentional behaviour, usually because they think they have the right to take control of their female partners. They are usually only violent to their partner in private. Making their partners and families afraid of them is a common way of holding the power within the relationship.
This sense of entitlement enables abusive men to avoid responsibility for their actions. They generally have very little consideration for the feelings or wishes of their partners. Instead they will put the blame and responsibility for anything that goes wrong onto their partner.
Men are not abusive or violent because they have a problem managing their anger. They are generally capable of managing their anger in situations where there are more likely to be consequences, such as at work. Using abuse and violence is a choice.
Three reasons for using violence:
- to make someone do something
- to stop someone from doing something
- to punish.
They might say to their partners:
“If you loved me you would do what I want."
This is never OK.
What about women who abuse?
Some women use a pattern of abuse (like in the power and control wheel) against their male (or female) partners. Some men need protection from violence.
Shine helps men who are in fear of their partner or family. Sometimes these men are ashamed or find it hard seeking help to be safe. Many men who seek help have been assaulted by other men in their family – by an adult son, a brother,an uncle -- or the ex-partner of their wife or partner.
There are also some women who are victims of abuse but who themselves abuse their children. In these cases the safety of the children is paramount, and Shine will always make this the priority. Sometimes we work together with the Department of Child, Youth and Family. We are, however, careful not to hold a parent responsible for abuse of their children committed by another parent or someone else.
It is usually best for the short and long-term wellbeing of children to stay with the safe, or non-offending, parent, which is usually the mother.
Female offender research
Shine carried out a review of all domestic abuse cases resulting in arrest in Auckland City over a 6 month period in 2008. This study showed that:
- Females arrested for family violence only represented 10% of all family violence arrests
- One-third of these women had offended against another woman – either a partner or family member
- Of the 35 cases of women offending against their male partners, over half (54%) were known to be the usual and historic victim of violence from her male partner.
Overall, most female offenders did not present as dangerous offenders (62% being assessed by Police to be ‘of no apparent risk’) and overwhelmingly male victims did not report feeling scared of the female offender.
> View the full report Arrested Female Offenders in Auckland City, accessed through the NZ Family Violence Clearinghouse.
Myths and facts
Here are some myths and facts about domestic abuse within all types of relationships:
Myth: It takes two to tango - abuse in relationships is usually caused by both people.
Fact: Genuine ‘mutual abuse’ is not common. A ‘fight’ where both people are equal is rare. A pattern of violence that includes control and domination by one of the partners is more common. Many victims will attempt to defend themselves by fighting back, but are not trying to gain control over the other person.
Myth: When there is abuse in a relationship, both partners are allowing it to happen, and therefore both must change for the abuse to stop.
Fact: Only the perpetrator has the responsibility and ability to stop the abuse by seeking help. No matter what the other person does, the person who uses violence is responsible for his or her own behaviour. Victims often make many changes in their behaviour, hoping that this will stop the abuse. This does not work.
Myth: Victims exaggerate the level of abuse. If it really was that bad, they would leave.
Fact: Most victims actually play down the abuse because of fear, self-blame, guilt or shame. Victims considering leaving their abusers are faced with the very real possibility of continued threats and harassment, severe physical injury and even death. Domestic abuse is the only crime in which the victim, in order to escape the dangers, has to leave behind home, friends, family, economic security, pets, belongings and sometimes the city, for a safer, more peaceful life.
Myth: People always blame the perpetrator for the violence anyway.
Fact: People often blame the victim of domestic abuse, some without realising it. They may expect the victim to stop the violence, say ‘they provoke it’ and repeatedly analyse their motivations for not leaving. It is more important to question why the perpetrator continues the abuse, and why the community tolerates and allows it.
Myth: Domestic abuse is a heterosexual thing and is rare in lesbian and gay relationships. When this does happen, the physically larger one is always the abuser and the patterns of abuse are the same.
Fact: There is the same incidence of domestic abuse in lesbian and gay relationships as in heterosexual relationships. The abuser may be the larger or the smaller partner, and there can be different tactics of control used, e.g. one partner may threaten to out the other partner to their family or employer.
Myth: Drinking, stress and poor impulse control cause domestic abuse.
Fact: Abusers may use drinking/drug abuse as one of the many excuses for violence. It is a way of putting responsibility for their behaviour elsewhere. Stopping the drinking/drug use will not usually end the abuse. Most people under stress do not abuse others. Perpetrators who are stressed at work rarely assault their co-workers or bosses because of the consequences their actions might bring. Victims are usually abused in private, and, when beaten, are often hit on parts of their bodies where bruises will not show. Read more about the relationship between alcohol and drugs and domestic abuse in the following section.
Myth: Children need fathers
Fact: Children need safety, security and loving caregivers above all else. Children who grow up with a father who abuses their mother are emotionally scarred and often repeat similar patterns in their own families as adults. This is true even when their father is always loving and gentle with them. A man cannot be a good father when he is violent or abusive to his children’s mother. Of course children are better off with fathers than without, but only if their father consistently provides them with love and security.
Myth: Domestic abuse perpetrators are monsters
Fact: Many violent men are at times loving, sensitive and playful. It may be this side of his personality which attracted his partner to him initially and which induces her to stay. His partner may also think of him as a good father.