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Domestic abuse: an issue shrouded in misinformation

Domestic abuse is nothing to take lightly. Whether you are a victim of violence or harassment, or accused of being the offender, the effects are very real and could have long-lasting impacts, such as impacting custody and parenting time determinations. Victims of violence have a right to seek court help. At the same time, if allegations are leveled against you, you have the right to defend yourself. In each situation, you deserve legal help dedicated to protecting your rights.

Abuse in its many forms is currently big news. The #MeToo movement is partly responsible for bringing new light to the issue. So, too, are headlines out of Washington, D.C.

The entire subject of domestic abuse is one that exists under a veil of misunderstanding. Lifting the veil is difficult. The latest effort comes from Maryland criminologist Susan Paisner who wrote a column that appeared recently in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. In the piece, she highlights persistent myths about domestic violence, such as:

  • It is always physical. Abuse can be inflicted psychologically, emotionally and verbally. Victims might never have a finger laid on them, but if the behavior of another is coercive in some way, it can still be defined as abuse.
  • Only men are abusers. To refute this perception, Paisner points to the story of a male engineer in Utah who called a domestic violence shelter after a brutal assault by his physician wife. Officials were stymied, saying, "We're here to help women." Paisner goes on to cite federal statistics showing that 1 in 7 U.S. men, both heterosexual and gay, report being assaulted by intimate partners.
  • The situation can't be too bad if victims don't leave. Paisner offers that leaving an abusive relationship can be a "damned if you don't, damned if you do" proposition. Staying could mean death, but so could leaving if the abuser lashes out at the impending loss of control.
  • Education is a factor. Despite a view expressed by some politicians, judges and sociologists, the evidence shows that abuse is neither gender-bound, nor education-bound, and affects people of all different backgrounds.

Paisner wraps up her myth list debunking with the idea that abusers cannot help it. She quotes an attorney who says, "One of the oldest myths is that the abuser is out of control. ... Violence for them is not a random act, it is a way of controlling a situation."

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