Abusers think ‘Everyone is Doing It’

Sarah pointed me to a disturbing article titled ‘Men who Batter think other guys do it, too,’ which highlights a study done at the University of Washington. The study resulted in men who abused their partners tended to overestimate how many other men do it, too. The more physically severe their abuse is, the MORE they overestimate how prevalent abuse is.

This is groundbreaking because this is the first study that shows that intimate partner violence overestimation is relevent to other behaviors such as drug abuse and gambling. In short, why does this mean?

“Social norms theory suggests that people act in a way that they believe is consistent with what the average person does,” adds Denise Walker, research professor of social work and co-director of the Innovative Programs Research Group.

So how is this relevant to SAFER’s beliefs about Better Sexual Assault Policies on campuses? Well it is all about prevention, prevention, prevention. Schools need to go above and beyond an optional skit for freshman the second day of orientation. If we educate students not only about what abuse is, but also that it is not the norm, then we can fight the notion that many abusers have that everyone is doing it. A professor at UWash agrees,

“With sexual assault the more a man thought it was prevalent the more likely he was to engage in such behavior. If we can correct misperceptions about the prevalence of intimate partner violence, we have a chance to change men’s behavior. If you give them factual information it is harder for them to justify their behavior,” Neighbors says.

So this means that not only schools (society as a whole) need to bring more attention to educating everyone about domestic and sexual violence. That education then turns into prevention and creating a better, safer community for everyone.

For more info on the study, check out some info here and here. The full study will be released in the Violence Against Women journal.

    One thought on “Abusers think ‘Everyone is Doing It’

    1. This perception is another reason why prevention efforts needs to have non-violent men who can present a different norm for how men treat women.