The Myth of Mutual Abuse and How It Hurts Victims of Domestic Violence


The myth of "mutual abuse" refers to a misconception that both parties involved in an abusive relationship contribute equally to t...

The myth of "mutual abuse" refers to a misconception that both parties involved in an abusive relationship contribute equally to the violence.  This concept works against victims by minimizing or denying their experiences, perpetuating victim-blaming, and absolving the primary aggressor of accountability. 

Advocating for independent, strong, resilient, women is a challenge.  People want and expect "meekness". Even in Western countries, it is often thought more honorable for a woman to take abuse with her head down and mouth closed than it is for her to fight back. 

Which is strange when you think about it.  People call Survivors "weak" but this hasn't always been my experience and it just isn't the truth. But anyway...

People are tempted to put domestic violence victims into nice little neat boxes so that they can understand complex dynamics. But, domestic violence victims are everyday people. There are as many different personalities as there are people on the planet. 

Among the many I've personally worked with business owners, politicians, police officers, construction tradeswomen, housewives, ministers, teachers, school principals, nurses, and counselors. 

All women. All victims of domestic violence. 

Victims Attempt to Fight Back

In abusive relationships, there is usually an imbalance of power, with one person exerting control over the other. The myth of mutual abuse ignores this power dynamic and fails to acknowledge the role of coercive control, manipulation, and intimidation used by the primary aggressor. 

Recognizing the power dynamics is crucial to understanding the true nature of the abuse.

It can be hard for males and females who are more male-influenced and male-informed about violence against women to view domestic violence from a perspective that includes women and children:  

  • Attempt to defend themselves physically: scratching, hitting, slapping, pushing.
  • Attempt to express how furious she is at being mistreated, controlled, and assaulted. Existing within an abusive relationship is terrifying, frustrating, and angering. 
  • Attempt to verbally express their frustration. Sometimes that comes out as yelling, screaming, and cursing out of anger and frustration.
  • Attempt to assert their independence at times when they feel controlled.  A controlling relationship can have a vice-like grip on a victim.  As time goes on, abusive partners often progressively increase their controlling behaviors. Meanwhile, victims often make attempts to resist ever-increasing smothering and control. 

The notion that victims of domestic violence are always timid, shy, quiet, and rarely seek help is simply a myth.  

And this myth does nothing to resolve domestic violence in a manner that is safe for all parties.  

This myopic view serves the abusive partner and fuels danger. In fact, the myth of mutual abuse may lead to diminished support for victims. Friends, family members, or even professionals may hesitate to help or intervene because they mistakenly believe that both parties are equally responsible. 

This can further isolate and disempower victims, making it more difficult for them to escape the abusive situation.

  • Friends, family, and outsiders throw their hands up and label the relationship "toxic" or "mutually abusive".  This leaves the victim without support and allows the abusive partner to continue having his violent way with her. This time out of view of the watchful eyes of others.  He/she can now continue to abuse for longer periods of time. 
  • Friends, family, and other outsiders assume that the victim is more than capable of handling the situation on her own. They minimize the very real threat of violence, danger, and death. 
  • Law enforcement, judges, and service providers have no idea that "fighting back" is self-defense. They understand fighting back when it is them. They understand fighting back when countries are at war with one another. But, in a domestic violence relationship, if one partner defends themselves against a campaign of violence-often in their own home-they stop understanding things. 
  • In many legal systems, the assumption of mutual abuse can undermine the victim's credibility when seeking protection or legal recourse. If both parties are seen as equally abusive, it may result in reduced consequences for the primary aggressor or even mutual restraining orders that can hinder the victim's ability to escape the abuse.
  • Victims of abuse require specific interventions and support tailored to their experiences. Treating the abuse as mutual can prevent victims from accessing specialized services, such as counseling, shelters, or support groups, designed to help them heal and rebuild their lives.
It is important to challenge the myth of mutual abuse and educate society about the dynamics of abusive relationships. By doing so, we can better support and empower victims and hold primary aggressors accountable for their actions.

*If you haven't already, read up on Joan Little. Read for yourself how society has always decided who gets to defend themselves and how not until the Joan Little case of 1975 was an American woman acquitted of murder for defense against sexual assault. 

All those generations of women raped and attacked.......and not until 1975.


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WE Survive Abuse : The Myth of Mutual Abuse and How It Hurts Victims of Domestic Violence
The Myth of Mutual Abuse and How It Hurts Victims of Domestic Violence
WE Survive Abuse
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