A prevailing myth surrounding the issue of domestic violence is the apparent role in which drugs and alcohol fuel abusive actions. On the surface, this seems hard to ignore with alcohol estimating to be involved in up to half of partner violence in Australia and 73% of partner physical assaults. In 2010, alcohol was reported as present in 41% of domestic assaults in New South Wales whilst in Victoria, data showcased a steady rise in the rate of alcohol related family violence incidents from about 15 to 23 incidents per 10,000 people over a ten year period.
However in reality, whilst drugs and alcohol undoubtedly escalates or intensifies the violence, they are not the sole causes of violent actions. The perpetrator’s intake of alcohol may affect how the abuser can justify their actions however the violence does not occur simply because drinking has caused them to lose control of their temper. In many instances, the presence of alcohol or drugs serves as a reassuring excuse for the violence and leads to the victims denial of the situation that derives from, “If they didn’t have that last drink, they wouldn’t have hit me”.
The role of drugs and alcohol within domestic violence cases therefore is questionable. Despite statistics showing a relatively strong correlation between alcohol presence and subsequent incidences, we cannot conclude these statistics are definitive. It is also worth noting the high percentage of individuals who drink and are not violent. It may be therefore that the relationship between drugs, alcohol and domestic violence relates heavily on the amount of alcohol being consumed which essentially touches on another social issue of our prevalent drinking culture.
Ultimately, domestic violence and abuse is a mechanism used to exert power and control over another individual; as opposed to being the repercussions of a loss of control.
As such, we should acknowledge how drugs and alcohol do affect domestic violence cases and direct greater attention to sourcing efforts for preventing alcohol related intimate partner violence by reducing harmful drinking.