Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Alcohol and domestic violence

I've always thought that there was a link between alcohol abuse and domestic violence. Statistics do indicate a connection between alcohol and drug abuse and domestic violence. In fact, 92 % of domestic abuse assailants reported use of alcohol or other drugs on the day of the assault, according to an article in JAMA.

But there are other studies that question whether there is a cause-and-effect relationship. Although research indicates that among men who drink heavily, there is a higher rate of assaults resulting in injury, the majority of men classified as high-level drinkers do not abuse their partners. Also, the majority (76 percent) of physically abusive incidents occur in the absence of alcohol use. In short, it appears that alcohol does not and cannot make a man abuse a woman, but it is frequently used as an excuse. Many men drink and do not abuse anyone as a result. On the other hand many men abuse women when they are sober.

One of the vivid incidents in my life that still comes back to haunt me happened when I was in graduate school. I was having dinner at my major advisor's house. It was a late dinner which always happened there because happy "hour" generally lasted about five hours resulting in dinner around 10 PM.

Anyway, there was a knock on the door. I was closest so I opened the door. There stood an older woman naked from the waist up, with dark bruises on her torso, her lip busted and bleeding, and her eye blackened. She was crying and begging to come in saying that her husband had beat her up.

I remember feeling shock, horror, fear and anger all rushing at me at once. I must have been in shock because I invited her in as if she were another guest coming to dinner. My date also looked horrified but had the presence of mind to grab an afghan off the back of a chair to cover the lady.

By this time, my major adviser and his wife came in and seemed to be nonplussed. The wife lived next door. Evidently, the husband was a drunk who on occasion would take his frustrations out on his wife and beat her up. I wanted to call the police but was told that it was best to stay out of it--The couple would handle it "their" way. So after getting a shirt for the lady to wear and making sure that she wasn't going to die right away, my major adviser escorted the beaten wife home, found the husband passed out, and left her to take care of herself.

I know that I didn't have a role in the abuse but have also had to face the regret that I have had about not doing more for the battered woman. I had never seen battery of another person. But I acquiesced to what my major adviser said. It's one of those things that I have inventoried. And I now know that calling the police isn't necessarily the best solution but can actually trigger more violence.

Whether or not domestic violence is "caused" by alcohol seems academic when faced with the real thing. Experts have reached a consensus on several common characteristics among batterers -- they are controlling, manipulative, often see themselves as victims, and have major league denial. Abusers suffer from low self-esteem and don't take responsibility for their actions.

There are many informational sites on the web about domestic violence. Here is a list of some of them: http://alcoholism.about.com/od/abuse/Domestic_Abuse_and_Violence.htm


  1. It is interesting that you are writing about this topic today when in fact it is a topic I am currently discussing in two different counseling classes I am taking, Group and Crisis Intervention. I too thought alcohol and abuse went hand in hand until I learned that most victims who are abused are done so without the presence of any substance. Like you read, it is generally used as an excuse. Keep sharing I find your topics especially interesting.

  2. gottmans written a very good book on violent men. seems they actualy RELAX while beating people up. weird huh? well some do. not all .
    yeah its fascinating. never seen a graphic case like you describe. I try to recommend and assist in seeking shelter when I meet a womwn who is being beaten. have a nice tuesday!

  3. Thank you for sharing this. It is interesting to have a male perspective of seeing a battered woman in that condition both then and from your hindsight view in recovery.

    I think domestic violence is another form of addictive behavior. The rush from it causes a brain chemical change that I think feeds the same spiritual deficiency that alcohol fills. Just my 2 cents, though.

  4. that's nasty. one of hubby's friends is an abuser. eventually got divorced because of it. it's scary to me, freightens me... and everytime he comes around with a new girlfriend, i find myself wondering whether i should warn the girl, what to do... i haven't done anything, still don't know how to handle it...

  5. Rage-o-holics, my father was one and it was a common event that he would beat upon my mom while my brother and I begged him to stop. It became normal, expecting that fear as a child. My dad was and still is an alcoholic, one that is hopeless, the kind that the BB talks about. You know what, I never could get upset with him for fear that my disapproval of his actions would make him go away. Of course it did not matter in the end, alcohol was his HP.

    I had the honor to learn about DV during my stay @ Casa. The cycle s vicious on both parties, the abuser and the abusee. I am sorry you had to experience this at one time and have some questioning about how you handled it. It seems like there was some true growth however done by you because of this impactual event. Thank you for sharing and putting it out there.

    Thanks too for stopping by and leaving your greetings and prayer. It means the World to my recovery. I am truly grateful.

  6. I used to be a legal advocate for women who were attempting to get restraining orders. I hung out in the Clerk's office and intercepted women as they came in and helped them with the forms and stood alongside them in Court for moral support. It was a tough job and yes alcohol was almost always involved. Including me because I was often hungover as I assisted these women.


Let me know what you think. I like reading what you have to say.