Unpacking The Misconceptions About Domestic Violence In Australia

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Domestic violence is a pervasive problem that’s affecting Australia more than we know it. 

At Stella Insurance, we’re committed to empowering women and creating a fairer world. 

It’s why we’ve partnered with WAGEC (Women’s and Girls’ Emergency Centre) to donate $5 from every new car insurance policy to help women and children in crisis.

But we know that shifting perceptions and shattering misconceptions is just as important to sparking lasting, meaningful change. Recent studies have shown that despite the progress we’ve made, many Australians still hold misguided notions about domestic violence, with outdated attitudes and victim-blaming still persisting. 

It’s time to set the record straight and bust these myths around domestic violence. 

We’ve compiled a list of some of the most harmful myths still held by everyday Australians as well as some compelling data to bust these myths, challenge the status quo, and work towards a society where domestic violence has no place. 

Myth 1: Domestic violence is perpetrated equally by men and women.

Recent surveys show that 41% of Australians believe that men and women are equally as likely to be perpetrators of domestic violence. 

But here’s the truth: almost half of Australians have it wrong. When it comes to domestic violence, gender plays a significant role. Women are disproportionately affected, enduring physical, emotional, and psychological harm at higher rates. 

We’re not saying men can’t also be victims of domestic violence. It’s important to recognise that while men can experience domestic violence, the overwhelming majority of cases involve women as the targets.

Let’s have a look at some of the facts:

When it comes to physical and/or sexual violence by a current or former partner since the age of 15:

  • 1 in 6 women has experienced this type of violence. 
  • 1 in 16 men has experienced this type of violence. 

And when it comes to emotional abuse by a current or former partner since the age of 15.

  • 1 in 5 women has experienced this type of violence.
  • 1 in 21 men has experienced this type of violence.

By acknowledging this disparity, we can work towards creating a society that supports and protects all individuals affected by domestic violence.

Myth 2: Sexual assault accusations are frequently used as revenge tactics.

Women survivors of domestic and sexual violence have been grappling with this myth for years: the “she’s just making it up” stereotype. And it seems like this misconception isn’t budging.

More than a third of Australians believe that women going through custody battles make up or exaggerate claims of domestic violence, and a similar number believe that sexual assault accusations are commonly used as revenge tactics against men.  

But it’s time to set the record straight. Survivors who come forward seeking justice are not seeking attention: they need support.

Reporting sexual offences is a brave and difficult decision for survivors, as it involves grappling with fear, shame, and vulnerability. False accusations are relatively rare, and the majority of survivors share genuine experiences. The Victorian Police reveal that approximately only 5% of rape allegations are proven false.

By dispelling this myth, we can create an environment where survivors are more likely to seek help and where perpetrators are held accountable. 

Myth 3: Domestic violence is just a normal reaction to stress and frustration.

There is no place for domestic violence in Australia. It is never normal, and can never be justified. Yet recent studies have shown some troubling misconceptions about its prevalence and causes. 

Studies show that:

  • A fifth of Aussies think that  “a lot of what is called domestic violence is really just a normal reaction to day-to-day stress and frustration”. 
  • 18 per cent believe that “sometimes a woman can make a man so angry that he hits her when he didn’t mean to”.
  • 15 per cent agreed that domestic violence “can be excused if it is a result of people getting so angry they temporarily lose control”.

The truth? Domestic violence is not a mere momentary loss of control due to stress or frustration. It is a deliberate and intentional act of power and control. Perpetrators employ manipulative tactics, coercion, and physical violence to assert dominance over their partners.

While there’s no one reason that perpetrators behave the way they do, it’s more systematic than a temporary lapse in judgement. Some research has found that perpetrators often:

  • Hold deep-rooted beliefs around masculinity
  • Believe they have the right to behave however they want in their own home
  • Believe that men are entitled to sex from their partners

Oftentimes, men cite ‘losing control’ when angry around their families as the reason for their actions. But interestingly enough they never lose their cool around other people, for example, around friends, bosses, work colleagues or the police, suggesting that this excuse is merely a way to shift blame. 

By dismissing domestic violence as a normal reaction to daily stressors, we minimise the experiences of survivors and undermine efforts to combat this pervasive issue. It’s time to recognise that violence is never justifiable. 

Myth 4: Domestic violence doesn’t happen in my neighbourhood. 

Over 90 per cent of Australians recognise violence against women as a national issue,  but only 47 per cent believe it’s a problem in their own neighbourhood

Domestic violence can happen anywhere to anyone. It’s time to open our eyes, acknowledge the issue, and take action within our communities. Domestic violence knows no boundaries, and it does not discriminate based on location. 

By acknowledging that domestic violence can affect our own communities, we create space for awareness, prevention, and support services.

It’s time to bridge the gap between perception and reality. By understanding the simple fact that domestic violence can happen in our anywhere.

By challenging these myths, raising awareness, and promoting a culture of empathy and support, we can work towards a future free from domestic violence, where all individuals are safe, respected, and empowered. Together, let’s break the cycle and create lasting change.

If you or someone you know needs support in Australia, call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or visit wagec.org.au

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