Domestic Violence Program
MYTHS AND MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT BATTERERS
Beliefs that Contribute to Battering
Many of us have misconceptions about domestic violence because information services and the media do
not provide accurate information or insight into the lives of batterers or the women who are abused.
The following myths are particularly prevalent.
MYTH: "Abusers batter because they have low self-esteem."
Many people believe that batterers are violent because they feel bad about themselves. They pick on their
partners to make themselves feel better. While it may be true that many or all batterers have low self-
esteem, this does not explain why they batter. There are many men and women with low self-esteem who
are not violent.
MYTH: "Batterers hit because they lose control of their emotions."
Group facilitors who work with men who batter often hear the excuse, "I lost control of my emotions."
One facilitator responds, "At the point you lost control and decided to start hitting your partner, who
decided to start hitting? When you stopped hitting, who decided the beating would stop?" batterers
remain very much in control.
"Various studies of violent men show that careful planning goes into many violent episodes and that great
discretion is used in choosing who and how to victimize. Because of the possibility of arrest and
imprisonment, abusers rerely direct violence toward a neighbor, co-worker, or friend. Instead, they
carefully direct repated violence toward family members. Violent men often deliberately plan the steps
leading up to a violent episode. For example, they may cancel appointments, lock or bar windows and doors, hide keys, or
unplug telephones. Abusers are careful to maintain enough control during a violent outburst to inflict
injuries in places normally covered by hair or clothing. They may call ahead from work or a bar
to make threats about the abuse or pubishment they have planned upon arriving home.
"A great amount of self-control and forethought is required for these kinds of selective and premeditated
acts fo violence. Consequently, the most importment issue in addressing family violence and alcoholism or
problem drinking is not why the violent drinker has so little control. but why societal attitudes that
excuse the violent behavior attibuting it to excessive drinking are still prevalent." (Rainbolt and Greene, 1990)
MYTH: "Battering is an organic defect ... like a disease."
It's worth noting that in an extremely small percentage of cases, violent behavior may stem from a brain
disorder or damage. However, people with this condition commit violent acts at random toward anyone
with whom they are in contact. This is not the situation in the vast majority of battering relationships.
While some batterers use excuses such as physical problems, drinking, and war flashbacks to justify their
actions, these "afflictions" usually do not cause them to harm anyone else except their partners.
Battering is not a disease, but rather a learned behavior. Abusive behavior is within a person's control.
A person uses violence to obtain and maintain control over another person. More importantly, battering can
be lethal; a deadly crime that can be perpetuated by social institutions unless they intervene to stop it.
Each of these myths fail to explain the causes of domestic violence. Battering is not a disease, nor
is it the inevitable result of emotional problems. Battering is a learned behavior in which a person
uses violent means to control another. The relevant questions to be answered are: Why do batterers
wish to control their partners? and How do batterers learn to use physical force?
From Safety First (1992) by the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women
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