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DRINK AND DOMESTIC ABUSE

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We’ve all witnessed it: a couple arguing after one too many drinks.

For some people it’s a common theme in their relationship. You may even be guilty of it, that insignificant niggle, a past argument. Shouting, pushing, maybe even hitting. But when does this drunken fight become more than just something to regret in the morning? Domestic violence is much more than just a one off, and whilst it is true that being under the influence of alcohol can make people behave differently and irrationally, this does not make it an excuse.
As Botswana prepares for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence, we thought we’d look at some common myths and misconceptions about domestic violence and alcohol.
Myth 1: Alcohol abuse can cause domestic violence

Fact: The only link between domestic violence and alcohol is that when under the influence of alcohol attacks are likely to be more violent and the risk of death or severe injury is greater. Alcohol misuse doesn’t cause or excuse domestic violence, perpetrators will be violent and controlling with or without alcohol. It is also important to mention that not all problem drinkers are abusive towards their partners.

Myth 2: Women who drink alcohol provoke violence from their partners

Fact: Domestic violence is a pattern of controlling behaviours; the perpetrator seeks power and control over his/her victim and is not provoked.

Even when drunk often the perpetrator carefully select areas of the body (to keep the abuse hidden) and when the abuse happens (when there are less people around to avoid witness). This indicates they have control over their actions.
A recent UK study showed that 97% of domestic abuse survivors said they used alcohol to numb the physical and psychological pain of the abuse. The stigma, shame, and secrecy associated with domestic abuse increases the likelihood that a woman will turn substance misuse as an escape.

Myth 3: If the perpetrator stops drinking, the abuse will stop
Fact: Alcohol abuse does not cause abuse and violence but is often used as an excuse. Not all alcoholics are violent and not all abusers have a drink problem.

Many women and their children (who witness the domestic violence or the aftermath) may use alcohol as a way to cope. They say it helps them to block out the physical and emotional pain that they are experiencing. However, abusers sometimes use their alcohol abuse as a way to make their partner feel sorry for them. “I just had too much to drink”, “I would never hit you when I’m sober”, and “I just lost control” are all excuses used and part of the controlling aspect of domestic violence. A person is less likely to leave their partner if they believe that the problem is alcohol and not domestic violence.

Alcohol directly affects cognitive and physical function. It reduces our self control and this leaves people less capable of negotiating a non-violent resolution to conflict. There is no research that suggests alcohol abuse causes domestic violence, but research does say that whilst alcohol is more likely to result in a higher risk of injury most men considered high level drinkers are not abusive towards their partners.

If you want further information about substance use or want to seek help for yourself, friend, or family member, contact BOSASNet on 395 9119, 72659891 or check out our Facebook page.