As we join the nation in recognizing Domestic Violence Awareness Month (“DVAM”) one of our goals is to help disprove some of the biggest myths surrounding Domestic Violence, some of which could be the largest factors preventing victims of domestic violence from seeking help.

  1. Domestic violence is only physical abuse.

Domestic violence is not limited to only physical abuse. Domestic violence also constitutes mental, sexual, verbal, psychological, and financial abuse. In a world where technology and electronics now play an everyday role in our lives, cyber abuse and intimate partner surveillance is becoming increasingly alarming. Domestic violence may be one act, or it can be a pattern of acts.

  1. Domestic violence only affects women.

Domestic violence is most commonly thought of as intimate partner violence toward women. However, domestic violence affects both men and women. Domestic violence occurs in heterosexual and/or same-sex relationships. It may also affect children and domestic animals.

  • 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • 2 in 5 lesbian women and 1 in 4 gay men will experience rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • Nearly half of all women and men in the United States will experience psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

These statistics are made available from Safe Horizon, which incorporates statistics derived from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  1. Domestic violence is due to anger management or impulse control problems.

While anger management and impulse control problems can play a role, this is not always the case. Domestic violence is intentional abuse against specific victims, often perpetrated so as not to be discovered. Often abusers control their anger and wait until there are no witnesses. In some cases, abusers strategically plan their abuse or subject their victims to a repeated pattern of abuse.

  1. Domestic Violence only happens in low-income families.

As the saying goes, we never truly know what goes on behind closed doors. What we do know is that domestic violence occurs in all socioeconomic levels, regardless of wealth, race, religion, or sex. Sometimes abusers and their victims are those you would least expect.

  1. Domestic violence is a private family matter.

Sometimes an element of the abuse itself is the abuser causing the victim to feel ashamed, embarrassed and at fault. As a result, they are made to feel like it is a private family matter and they are too ashamed to seek help. This could not be further from the truth. Domestic violence can be a crime. If you suspect you are a victim of domestic violence or are concerned that someone you love is a victim, there are a plethora of resources and organizations that you can turn to for help. In a previous blog we shared numerous organizations who can be of assistance.

  1. Victims can easily leave an abusive relationship.

Leaving an abusive relationship is never easy. There are many factors at play which can make it feel impossible. Often abusers create a situation where the victim is left feeling like they have no viable option but to stay. Abusers often control the victim’s finances and isolate victims from family and friends. In some instances, abusers may threaten to kill or hurt the family pet if they leave or threaten the victim that they will never see their children again. Many victims have also been made to feel like they do not deserve better, or they still love their abuser and recognize that they made marriage vows “for better or for worse.”

  1. Domestic violence plays no role in divorce/Family Court matters.

Domestic violence against either parent or a child is considered in deciding custody and visitation matters. As addressed above, domestic violence is also a predicator of child abuse and can be central to any custody dispute.

On April 3, 2020, the New York State Legislature amended the Domestic Relations Law (“DRL”) by adding domestic violence as a factor to be considered in making a distributive award. We previously blogged about this new addition to the DRL and how domestic violence can also impact maintenance awards.

Domestic violence can also play a role in which court your case is heard in. Some counties within New York have specialized courts that focus on domestic violence cases and have a multitude of resources available for victims. The Judge and staff that work there are specially trained on domestic violence issues, and they often have domestic violence community partners at the courthouse.

You can also obtain an Order of Protection in Family Court, requesting that your abuser “refrain from” engaging in certain behaviors. In some cases, you can even obtain a complete “stay-away” order of protection. We previously published an Article setting forth tips to obtaining a Family Court order of protection.

  1. If I leave and file for divorce/custody of my children, then he/she will know where to find me.

There are safeguards in place within the court system to help you keep your address confidential. This means that your address will not appear on any court documents, but rather will remain “confidential” throughout. There are two ways in which you can do this: (1) you can either request from the clerk of the Family Court an “Address Confidentiality Affidavit”; or (2) you can apply to the New York State Address Confidentiality Program. Further details are available on the official New York Court Website.

  1. All couples argue, it does not mean that I am the victim of domestic violence.

There is a clear distinction between abuse and a “normal” argument between a couple. Abuse is not a simple disagreement but is about coercive control over another person’s thinking, opinions, emotions, behavior, relationships, and/or finances. While it is not always easy to recognize signs, there are resources available to help you identify if you are in fact suffering at the hands of an abuser.