Alcoholism and domestic violence are two serious issues that plague people throughout the entire world. Even though the two often coincide, one does not “cause” the other. Many people who are addicted to alcohol do not engage in domestic violence, and many of those who are abusers are not alcoholics. However, ignoring the fact that the two issues often co-occur can be dangerous.
Does Alcohol Cause Violence?
Alcohol is a mind-altering substance, meaning that when it is consumed it can cause people to do or say things that they maybe would never do or say or amplify negative behaviors that already exist in a person. In relation to domestic violence, alcohol is considered an agitator rather than an exact cause. It is commonly misunderstood that someone who acts aggressively, angrily, and/or violently when under the influence of alcohol doesn’t act that way when he or she is sober. Many people who struggle with the disease of alcoholism continue abusive behavior even when they are not drinking, and many people who are abusers drink alcohol. These behaviors are not a product of alcohol and the consumption of it, rather part of a different problem.
Unlike alcoholism, which is a clinical disease, abuse is a learned behavior. Abuse is not something that occurs because the abuser has a disease that is stopping them from gaining control over their behaviors. All abuse, including domestic violence, is a choice. For many, they choose to continue on with violent behavior because it is what they have learned along the way. Most commonly, domestic violence offenders either grew up with violence in their homes or communities and end up mimicking that same behavior when they enter into a relationship with another person as an adult.
The inclusion of alcohol into someone’s life can increase the potential for violent behaviors, however, alcohol itself does not directly cause domestic violence or other forms of abuse. Someone who is an abuser typically has a past history of personally experiencing physical violence and/or psychological or emotional abuse. And while approximately 55% of domestic violence occurrences involve an abuser under the influence of alcohol, that number is not indicative of the behaviors of alcoholics or those who are abusers that are not alcoholics.
Domestic violence can be triggered by many things, however, alcohol is not one of them, as domestic violence is a learned, patterned behavior. Instead, the following are often viewed as being some of the root contributors behind domestic violence:
- Being neglected or abandoned as a child
- Being physically abused as a child
- Being sexually assaulted/abused/raped
- Desire to have full control over everything
- Acting upon one’s critical inner voice (a series of negative thoughts about oneself)
These are just some of the common causes of why a person becomes an abuser, however domestic violence or abuse of any kind is not okay or acceptable.
How Does Alcohol Affect Domestic Violence?
People of all ages, races, sexual orientation and gender identifications drink alcohol. In the United States alone, roughly 15 million citizens struggle with the disease of alcoholism. Vast amounts of evidence show that instances of domestic violence are higher in those who are drinking alcohol. And while alcohol is not considered an actual “cause” of domestic violence, it certainly can play a role in it.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports several factors regarding alcohol and domestic violence, some of which include the following:
Cognitive and physical function
Alcohol is a mind-altering substance. When consumed, alcohol impacts a person’s physical coordination, their rationality, and their ability to exercise proper self-control. These impacts can increase a person’s likelihood of becoming abusive.
From external stressors like in-laws and careers to internal stressors like feelings and parenting, married couples can easily struggle with stressors that influence their relationship. Some couples struggle to work their way through those stressors and instead become enveloped by them, increasing feelings of anger and frustration. When alcohol is involved, these everyday problems become magnified and harder to work through. Plus, the issue of alcoholism itself stresses the marriage. Someone who is predisposed to violent behavior and who is drinking is more likely to become violent as a result of unmanaged marital stressors.
Societal beliefs can play a major role in domestic violence as abusers may perpetuate negative societal beliefs within their homes. For example, while the idea of the man being the head of the household is mostly rejected today, millions of people in the country still believe in this. Men who hold this societal belief are more likely to engage in domestic violence as a way to maintain their role in their family. When alcohol is included, men can become more aggressive and determined in upholding this role.
It is no secret that those who have been abused are more likely to abuse others in the future. That does not mean that all victims of abuse go on to abuse others. However, the risk of doing so is increased. Therefore, when someone who has been abused in the past is also struggling with alcoholism, domestic violence becomes a strong possibility. This is not only because of the idea that “hurt people hurt people” but also because the continuation of drinking alcohol lowers inhibitions, increases anger, resentment, and frustration, and makes it easier to act out on feelings without thinking them through.
Distinguishing Alcoholism from Domestic Abuse
If alcohol is being consumed and abuse is occurring within your home, you may not know what to make of it all. When the impacts of alcohol abuse and domestic abuse are affecting you, it can be easy to feel like everyday is one big blur. You may even become accustomed to the ongoings in your home to a point where you might not think anything is wrong. And while this is normal, it is imperative to know what a healthy living situation looks like and if what you are seeing at home is the combination of alcoholism and domestic violence.
Some of the most common, tell-tale signs of alcoholism include the following:
- Making attempts to cut back or quit but being unable to stop
- Drinking more than initially planned or for longer than intended
- Continuing to drink despite suffering consequences related to drinking
- Withdrawing from others in an effort to continue to drink
- Being deceptive about how much one is drinking and when
- Lying about finances (e.g. saying that $20 went towards gas but the tank is empty)
- Drinking at odds hours of the day/night
- Being unable to have a modest amount of alcohol, but instead drinking in excess
- Experiencing problems at home, work, and/or school due to effects of drinking (e.g. falling behind on assignments, frequently arguing with others, showing up late or not at all, neglecting responsibilities)
Like alcoholism, there are several signs of domestic violence. Someone who is committing domestic violence may:
- Humiliate or embarrass you intentionally
- Place blame on your for their own mistakes
- Ignore or diminish your opinions or successes
- Treat you like a servant
- Criticize you
- Have a bad, unpredictable temper
- Make threats to hurt/kill you or your family
- Force you to engage in sexual intercourse with them
- Break your things
- Use your children as pawns to upset you (e.g. threatening to take them from you)
- Say that they will commit suicide or severely harm themselves if you leave them
- Consistently ask what you are doing, where you are, and what is going on
- Isolate you from friends, family, and loved ones
- Determine where you go and when
- Display excessive amounts of jealousy
- Control how much money you are allowed to have
- Prevent you from working or doing things you enjoy
- Withhold basic needs like food, water, and clothing
- Call you names and shame you
When a partner is struggling with alcoholism and is engaging in domestic violence at the same time, their behaviors will likely worsen with the more alcohol that is consumed. They may not recall harming you and be extremely apologetic the next day, shocked that they behaved in that manner. When it comes to domestic violence, though, these behaviors are cyclical. This means that your partner may harm you, then apologize, and then things go back to “normal” for a while. Shortly after that, your partner may harm you again and kick start that same cycle of behavior. The longer that domestic violence and alcoholism last, the worse both problems become and the more danger you may face.
Thankfully, there are options. Alcoholism is a highly treatable disease and those who want to stop drinking can do so with the help of a professional program. Within many addiction treatment programs are anger management classes, as well as behavioral therapies that can help address the reasons why the person is behaving in this manner.
Going from heavily drinking and abusing others to sobriety and controlling anger is not easy. It often takes time, dedication, and perseverance for a person to reach a level of recovery that frees them from the confines of their active addiction and violent ways. However, it is entirely possible.
Do You or Someone You Love Need Help? Call JourneyPure Today.
We understand how difficult it is to struggle with alcoholism and how upsetting it is to live with someone who has it. We also understand the severity of domestic violence and take it very seriously. If you or someone you love needs help, call us right now. We can help get you or your loved one on the path towards recovery.
Do not wait. Do not be ashamed to speak up and ask for help. Call us today to learn more about our alcohol rehab center.