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Five Domestic Abuse Misconceptions Refuted

02 February 2023

woman checks phone of suspicious partner

We regularly use our blog to highlight some commonly heard domestic abuse misconceptions in the hope that it might break some of these down and raise awareness of the issues surrounding domestic abuse.

Here are 5 examples that we have seen or heard – there are often many more though.

1. “Domestic abuse is always physical.”

Whilst physical abuse is a form of domestic abuse, it is not exclusively what defines domestic abuse. There are many other forms of abuse included in the definition of domestic abuse, which was legally defined by the Domestic Abuse Act.

The Act says:

“Behaviour is “abusive” if it consists of any of the following: physical or sexual abuse, violent or threatening behaviour, controlling or coercive behaviour, economic abuse, psychological, emotional or other abuse.”

The definition was introduced to provide clear guidance around what domestic abuse is, supporting the police and courts to be consistent with their application of it.

2. “If it was that bad, they would just leave.”

There are many barriers that someone experiencing domestic abuse will face when making a decision about leaving. First of all, they may be scared of the consequences of leaving and how their partner may react to this. They may also worry about the impact that the decision will have on children, pets, family, or friends. The cost-of-living crisis has also presented many financial challenges, making it harder for people experiencing domestic abuse to leave. Many people have been worried about managing on their own, financially, which has also been exploited by perpetrators. In summary, it is never an easy decision and there are many reasons why someone may not come forward for support straight away.

3. “Domestic abuse is a private matter.”

We all have a role to play to tackle domestic abuse, which includes looking out for friends, family, neighbours, and work colleagues that may be experiencing it. It is our duty, as a society, to challenge behaviours that constitute domestic abuse, setting a standard for a respectful and tolerant community. If we do not call it out and instead consider it a “private matter” it makes it harder for those experiencing it to access support and the behaviour of perpetrators goes unchallenged. Domestic abuse is everyone’s business.

4. “Celebrities don’t experience domestic abuse.”

The misconception is that those with wealth and fame have perfect lives and do not experience issues like domestic abuse. Sadly, this is not true. Anyone can experience domestic abuse, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, wealth, religion, age, race, or lifestyle. This includes celebrities, and there has been some high-profile examples in recent years – perhaps most notably the former Spice Girl, Mel B. Likewise, celebrities can also be perpetrators of abuse.

5. “Checking your partner’s phone isn’t a form of abuse.”

Regularly checking your partner’s phone is a form of coercive control and is often designed to manage what they are doing, who they are talking to, and who they are friends with. This can limit a survivor’s independence and also cause them to become withdrawn from support networks, such as friends and family. A phone is personal and that person should feel free to use it as they like, without being monitored.

Leeway offers training for organisations and businesses, raising awareness of domestic abuse and the forms it takes. Our training helps participants to spot the signs of domestic abuse and effectively respond to any disclosures. We also offer bespoke packages, as well as advice on domestic abuse policy and procedures for organisations. Visit our training page for more information.