Just recently, we learned Maine is ranked ninth in the country for the rate of women killed by men.

Although Maine-based groups such as Family Crisis Services, Maine Boys to Men and Sexual Assault Response Services focus on addressing gender violence in a number of ways, we all encounter recurring myths about domestic violence and dating abuse.

Myth: Men are violent by nature.

This belief excuses violent behavior and is not supported by research.

Boys face many social pressures to be aggressive, and while most do not go on to become abusers, these cultural forces contribute to a society in which men are expected to be dominant.

For men who are abusive, many factors play a role, such as early exposure to violence and rigid notions of gender and power.

Myth: If women stopped choosing violent men, the cycle of violence would end.

People who enter into a relationship are attracted to positive qualities in a partner. Abusers are not one-dimensional but rather complex individuals with both negative and positive characteristics.

Further, abusers often instill fear and use violence to control their partners, making it dangerous to leave abusive relationships.

Myth: Bad men abuse and good men don’t.

Viewing the existence of domestic violence as a dichotomy is too simplistic. This myth is based on a stereotype that the typical offender is a certain “type.”

The truth is that abuse happens in all communities, even middle-class ones where there is a strong pretense that violence doesn’t happen.

We need to address cultural assumptions and change the conversation. It’s time the public joined in efforts to prevent domestic violence.

Katrina Hoop

sociologist; board member, Maine Boys to Men

Portland