Common Misconceptions About Abuse In Relationships

This article clears up some misconceptions about abuse in relationships.

In a previous Factoid ( this is a shameless plug), I talked about warning signs of an abusive relationship. I wrote that article because I was in an abusive situation at one point and hoped to give someone else information that can help them not have to deal with that in their own lives. I know several people who have been in similar situations and one thing I have heard from almost all of them is, "I didn't know it was abuse at the time". I didn't either, because I had many misconceptions about abuse in my head. Here, I will make an attempt to dispel these misconceptions. Some things might seem pretty obvious to others, but I can't stress enough that the person inside the relationship often will not see the relationship for what it is.  Let's begin.

Misconception #1-Only The Physical Aspects 'Count' as Abuse.  This is what I thought, so I understand this. After all, the physical fights are the ones that make the news, aren't they? But physically isn't the only-or even the most harmful-way a partner can hurt you. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is very common among survivors of abuse, even if the abuse is not physical. I was not hit, but I had the emotional, psychological, and somewhat sexual forms of abuse. He had me believing that this was just something I had to accept, that I didn't deserve or couldn't get much better.  He was very manipulative in terms of lying and playing mind games. If you think about it, there really isn't any way that only physical hitting *could* be abuse, since the perpetrator has to break the victim down to the point where she will accept this treatment. If someone hit you on the third date,  you'd think they were crazy and drop them flat. However, if over a period of time a person plays on your insecurities and/or makes you feel as though you don't deserve any better or that you brought it on, that's psychological abuse. This may 'open the door' to other forms of abuse, including physical. Abuse is *never* a one-time occurrence, but occurs in various forms over time. 

Misconception #2-It's Normal, Part of 'Taking the Good With the Bad'. I don't think I'm allowed to use the word I would normally use for this, but let's just say 'bovine scatology'. Yes, every relationship has its ups and downs. However, if you have consistent feelings of injury or offense, have to continually make excuses for your partner or have any sort of fear toward them, something is VERY wrong. It is NOT normal to feel the need to walk on eggshells so that you won't get yelled at or to be pressured or coerced into doing things you do not want to do.  

Misconception #3-Abuse Only Happen To Women By Men.  While it is true that most victims of relationship abuse are women (thus my use of feminine pronouns), it does happen that a man is abused.  A 2006 University of New Hampshire study showed that women are as likely to perpetrate violence as men are ( This misconception ties into #1 in the sense that controlling behavior can be a sign of abuse, and this happens in both genders. Maybe it's true that the physical abuse men can inflict on women might make the news more often because men are often physically stronger than women and can overpower them more easily. However, as I've mentioned before, abuse is not only physical. Also, abuse can happen in gay or lesbian relationships, as was the case with a friend of mine.  

I could go on about this for days, but I'll leave you here for now. Keep in mind that most statistics about abuse are probably not completely accurate because so many cases of abuse are not reported. I think a big part of that is due to misconceptions about what exactly constitutes abuse in a relationship.  If you feel that you or someone you love is possibly in an abusive relationship. please talk to someone about it. A parent, a friend, a counselor-just talk to *someone*. You are worth it, even if you don't think you are. 

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Martine Pauwels
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Posted on Apr 28, 2010