Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Relationship between domestic violence and alcohol

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 perhaps that particular incident had a lot to do with speaking up last week that I wrote about in this post.  I have read that getting the police involved can also 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. They are filled with fear and seek to dominate someone else. 

There are many informational sites on the web about domestic violence. Here is a list of some of them:


  1. a harsh reality is that the abused needs to stand up and take responsibility for her own future, and that is incredibly hard, especially since there is that feeling of 'unworthiness' in the mix. but it definitely is NEVER deserved and my wishes and prayers are certainly for all and everyone is these situations to get to the place where they can and do get to a place of safety, of help, self-help.

  2. This post brings up a memory regarding a neighbor who would regularly get beaten up by her husband. She would scream for help, i would call the police. When the police arrived she would report all was fine. This occurring event went on till they moved our of the building.
    No one has the right to physically abuse anyone. I grew up with violent behavior and am still fearful when I witness abuse.

  3. ugh. yeah i see this all too often...and to see some trapped in that sad. it should never anyone...

  4. Abuse is a cycle, and a very tough one to get out of. Whether or not there is alcohol involved, the cycle is in its own way addictive. Also, it is a Catch-22, of blame, regret and powerlessness.

    When one uses violence in relationship, the only power at work is fear, chamoflauged (sp) by anger.

  5. To study it and its causes- is to stand on the rim of the wheel, tallying up all the factors one can find.
    Within that wheel are a vast range of experiences, similar and yet unique to
    each individual.
    I know my experiences with it as a child taught me different lessons from
    those experienced later, where drugs, alcohol were involved (on both sides).
    Physical and emotional responses
    came first, mental and spiritual
    came after. You have to survive in order to have a chance at understanding.
    Radar for such a situation(s) grows strong-but when you add chemicals, sometimes the emotional to mental get stuck and spin freely;(broken cog)
    which can hinder/block the response of physically removing the body. That for me was the insanity...Misused courage
    for sure ! Part of me wanted the 'answer' right then.
    If the initial cause of argument had
    been due to a misunderstanding of
    "What I had said"- I wanted it corrected. If " Buttons" were being pushed- the belligerent dictator/
    warrior, came out.
    Never were the police involved, or
    directly a hospital. I was fortunate.
    Eventually the cycle ended. "Sick and tired of being sick and tired"...
    I might have died, but died fighting;
    How crazy was that - yet because of MY
    History- it made sense.If the alcohol
    etc. had NOT been added, would the escalation have been as great?
    Possibly it would never have occurred at all.

  6. The only man who beat me (and broke bones) was stone cold sober - an "upstanding" member of AA. Oh, and when the police showed up if a neighbor called, he would curl up his nose and say "she's an alcoholic" and "I'm a member of Alanon." Even though I was sober too. Funny, huh?

  7. Good post, Syd. Alcoholism is the excuse that so many use when they misbehave. I wrote a blog about this very thing "Congressman Foley, another coward hides behind alcoholism". When high profle celebrities use alcoholism as their excuse it makes me sick.
    On a completely different note I will look up the blog that you wrote about Joshua Bell...I have seen that article about him in the Subway and it blew my mind.

  8. I wandered over from Doris's place. This is an informative and poignant post.

  9. Yes very interesting.
    I dont really know what the relationship between the two is..
    I dont think adding an addictive relationship to alcohol to a predisposition toward women ! helps, but I am sure abusers come in many shapes and sizes. alcoholic and non alcoholic.
    Although I have not read it I have heard good recommendations for this book on violence.

    When Men Batter Women [Paperback]
    Neil Jacobson (Author), John Gottman (Author)

  10. Domestic Violence is about control. Though alcohol and drugs may be a precursor,they are not a cause.

    DV is a learned behavior that the batterer utilizes to gain control. These batterers have usually grown in a home where violence and emotional abuse were modelled to them as children.

    A batterer getting sober will not stop the behavior. The only avenue of stopping DV is behavioral therapy.

    Statistics also show DV is one of the most chronically under reported crimes. It is not merely a matter of the victim standing up and taking responsibility for her future. It is much more complicated due to factors such as traumatic bonding, stockholm syndrome and other factors.

    National Domestic Violence hotline 1-800-799-7233 for anyone that is involved in the cycle of DV.

  11. As Shadow says, there is never ever a legitimate reason to abuse another human being. I have known many women who kept going back to their husbands/boyfriends and were beaten mercilessly. No one can make them take a stand to take care of themselves, just like no one can make someone get help or treatment for drugs or alcohol. This is a good subject to bring up and get us to discuss, Syd.

  12. I am so very grateful that I do not have any personal experience with this subject. SO very grateful.
    A man smacked me once. He was sober and had appeared to be such a very nice guy.

  13. Syd,
    I honestly must say that the only time I ever hit someone was when I was very drunk. I was heartily ashamed.

    Love you.

  14. You are so thoughtful, both here and in the comments you leave.

    I think it is true, the majority of the abuse I received was from someone who was not drunk. There was that one time, though....

    ...and when the cops came, he was passed out on the couch and I preferred to leave him that way, so the cops left. (I might add there was also an amnesia (real or feigned) of the events the next day when substances were involved).

    There was also the one time that I said something very derogatory and I was three sheets to the wind. It was something I would never say in my right mind, but I said it because I knew how much it would hurt and I didn't give a dang. Even still, the alcohol didn't MAKE me say lowered the gates for me to say something I felt I couldn't say.

  15. An eye opening book is "Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry & Controlling Men" by Lundy Bancroft. It is life changing for those of us that have suffered at the hands of an abuser. The upshot, abusers have all kinds of excuses for their behavior but in actuality it is something they can control. They want to abuse. And they sow the psychological seeds to get you to permit it. They groom you. Some people are more prone to accepting abuse than others but you would be surprised at who does. And unforunately most of them don't change. They don't want to.

  16. What BRBQueen says about the statistics and the psychological structure is true.

    I don't know that I buy that all abusers are psychopaths. I think many have deep problems caused by having been abused as kids and don't understand the damage they're doing.

    Abuse and addiction share some structures of codependency. For the abused partner, the abuser is like the drug without which they can't live. I worked in a DV shelter for several years, interviewing residents and staff, and wrote my master's thesis about the experience... This particular shelter worked hard to get the women to leave their partners, offering all kinds of incentives/disincentives; it's like getting an addict to give up a drug or an alcoholic to stop drinking. They can't do it until they're ready. Pressure can actually drive them to the abuser.

    Many women don't leave because they need someone to support the kids and make them feel good about themselves. Just like most addicts don't quit because they think they can't do life without the substance.

    Lenore Walker's groundbreaking book The Battered Woman, in print for 30 years, still a great resource.



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