Intimate partner violence is complicated. Violence can be thought of as a learned behavior, often from the family of origin. A higher percentage of abusers were exposed to domestic violence growing up, although many children exposed to domestic violence do not abuse their intimate partners. The use of power and control can often become normalized and people may not realize there are different choices. When we see intimate partner violence through a trauma-informed lens, we realize that people's early experiences of trauma and abuse may greatly impact the way they relate with others. In addition, abuse in relationships is often influenced by social norms and the larger context of society around the use of violence and acceptance of force in intimate relationships.
Some common myths
MYTH: It is an easy option to leave an abusive relationship. “If it was really that bad they would leave. Why would someone stay if they were being abused? I wouldn’t stay for a second if that was happening to me.”
Leaving any relationship can be very difficult. The emotional ties, history, love, and commitment can all be rolled into a relationship. These aspects can make leaving very difficult for anyone. There are many people who don’t want to stop being with their partner they only want the use of violence and control to stop. Many want to maintain the family structure and keep their families together. Having the option to leave is much more complicated than packing a suitcase and walking out the door.
For many victims of intimate partner violence there are barriers to leaving such as: economic dependence; few viable options for a new place to live; lack of support from family and friends; and unhelpful responses from the criminal justice system or other agencies that question their reality and don’t want to believe them.
Study after study has shown that the process of separating from and leaving an abusive partner can increase rather than diminish the danger for victims of intimate partner violence and their children. Victims live with threats such as, “if you leave me you will never see tomorrow” or “if you leave me you will never see the children again.” Abusers often increase these threats, and increase the violence and control tactics if they believe their partner is leaving or preparing to leave.
MYTH: Children aren’t impacted by the intimate partner violence that is occurring in their home. “Children don’t know what is going on if they aren’t in the room.”
Even if children are not present in the room or seeing the domestic violence, they are experiencing it. Research on brain development is providing new insights to how children are impacted by intimate partner violence in the home. Children have a good sense of knowing what is going on with their parents. In addition, studies show that child abuse occurs in 30-60% of family violence cases that involve families with children.