Stopping the Abuse

One of the first goals of the Lake Region Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence is to increase awareness and education in the community.

With the generous support of The Bridgton News, the Coalition will be submitting monthly articles related to these important issues in order to improve the community’s understanding.

With that said, it is important to know that there are often preconceived notions about domestic and sexual violence, which can result in obstacles for victims as they seek out support from others.

Often, it is not until the victim is surrounded by positive supports from professionals that they begin to see that such violence was not their fault. Therefore, it is important for a community to be aware of the truths and to put the myths to rest.

MYTH: Domestic and sexual violence won’t happen to me because it is not in my community.

FACT: Anyone can be a victim of domestic or sexual violence. These crimes have no boundaries and can happen to anyone, regardless of race, age, gender, educational background, religion, sexual orientation, income or marital status.

MYTH: Individuals who abuse are out of control and need to learn anger management.

FACT: Domestic violence is about one person using power and control over another person through fear and intimidation. This is not about someone who can’t control their temper during an argument. This person goes off to work or out with friends all the while in control of their behavior. These individual’s are not out of control; they just want to control their partner.

MYTH: Only women are raped in dark alleys by a stranger jumping out of the bushes.

FACT: Men can also be a victim of sexual assault. Nationally, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will be sexually assaulted. Although some sexual assaults occur in secluded areas, the high majority of assaults happen in a victim’s home by someone that they know.

MYTH: Domestic violence only occurs when one person is physically assaulted by their partner.

FACT: Physical abuse is just one type of domestic violence. It can take many forms, including the use of emotional/verbal abuse, financial control, isolation and sexual assault.

MYTH: Child sexual abuse is rare and children may lie about being abused.

FACT: Child sexual abuse is, unfortunately not a rare occurrence. Persons under 18 years of age account for 67% of all sexual assaults reported to law enforcement agencies; children under 12 years of age account for 34% of these cases. In most situations, children do not have the cognitive skills to make up stories about sexual abuse.

MYTH: Individuals abuse because they are stressed out.

FACT: Everyone has stress in their lives, but not everyone abuses their partner. Again, this comes back to an individual believing they are entitled to control their partner.  

MYTH: Parents are aware of sexual abuse that occurs in a teen dating relationship.

FACT: 90% of teens who report sexual abuse in their dating relationship say that their parents are unaware of the abuse occurring in their relationship.

Domestic and sexual violence not only affects those being abused, but can have a profound effect on other family members, friends, co-workers and the community at large. Having an accurate understanding of domestic and sexual violence is essential to a community’s ability to intervene in a way that puts an end to the violence.

Where we begin is by believing these truths and keeping our eyes open to the realities.

If you have any questions about today’s column or the Coalition, please feel free to contact Stephanie (Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Services) at 743-9777 or Renee (Family Crisis Services) at 647-8501.

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