Myths about Family Violence in Australia

Dec 21, 2018

There are many myths and misunderstandings surrounding Family Violence in Australia. These myths are often shaped by a community’s beliefs, attitudes and biases that are sometimes developed without conscious thought or reflection. These myths can lead people to excuse violent behaviour, or place fault on the person who is experiencing domestic or family violence.

MYTH: A person in an abusive relationship should just leave the relationship

REALITY: It is not always easy to leave an abusive relationship. People stay in abusive relationships for various reasons, including:

  • The fear that the violence will get worse if they leave, and that they will be followed and harmed
  • The intimidation and control felt by the abusive partner
  • A belief that violence is normal
  • Concern for children
  • Financial dependence
  • Isolation
  • Social embarrassment
  • Lack of self-confidence
  • Cultural background
  • Religious and moral values
  • Family pressure
  • Lack of community support

There are many reasons that a person may not feel they are able to leave an abusive relationship. Their choices can be limited in ways that are not clear from outside the situation.

MYTH: Women are the only people who experience domestic violence.

REALITY: Domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of their gender identity or circumstances. While women are more likely to experience physical and/or sexual violence by a current or previous partner (1 in 6 women) men do also experience domestic violence (1 in 16 men)[1]. Men are more likely to experience from strangers in public places, whereas women are more likely to know their abuser, and violence usually takes place in their home.

MYTH: Family violence is a private matter.

REALITY: Family violence is a criminal offence in Australia and impacts on everyone in a community. It affects children and families, often creating a cycle of violence passed on through generations. Family violence should not be viewed as an issue for individuals to deal with alone. People in violent relationships need help and support and the whole community benefits from stopping family violence.

MYTH: Men should make the decisions and take control in relationships

REALITY: Violence is more common in families and relationships where men control decision making, and less so when women have greater independence[2]. In societies where men and women are more equal in their relationships, violence is less common.

MYTH: Violence doesn’t impact children as they are too young to remember or understand what is happening.

REALITY: Children who experience or witness violence can be harmed physically and emotionally, no matter what age. It can impact their relationships, self-esteem and education. They may believe that violence is normal, become violent themselves, or become victim to violence in their adult relationships. With the right help and support, children can recover from family violence.

MYTH: Family violence is a normal part of society and cannot be stopped.

REALITY: Some people think that family violence is a normal part of life. They excuse violent behaviour by saying that offenders can’t control themselves or their anger. This is a negative perspective that’s harmful to both men and women. Violence is not acceptable in our community and with the right support and education we can change the attitudes and behaviours that lead to family violence.

If you, or someone you know, are experiencing family or domestic violence, you can get in touch with our workers via phone 1800 806 189 or email – Our workers will work hard to provide a variety of safe options to best meet your needs and will make sure that your safety is their priority.

If you contact Safe Choices during the day, our workers will endeavour to get back to you as soon as possible, however they will not be available during the evening/night or weekends.

Safe Choices is not an emergency or crisis service, but our workers will refer you to a crisis service that best meets your needs if required. In case of an emergency, please call 000 or 1800 RESPECT.

[1] ABS 2017b. Personal Safety Survey 2016. ABS cat. no. 4906.0. Canberra: ABS.

[2] VicHealth 2014, Australians’ attitudes to violence against women. Findings from the 2013 National Community Attitudes towards Violence Against Women Survey (NCAS), Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, Melbourne, Australia.