by Mary Fontanazza
Summer is here and in Wisconsin, this means outdoor festivals and concerts,beach parties, picnics, softball and baseball games, backyard bonfires and brat frys where alcohol is often available and consumed in massive quantities.
Sometimes incidents of domestic abuse, dating violence or sexual assault happen after a person has been drinking at one these events.
It is unlikely anyone would say these summer activities cause domestic abuse, dating violence and sexual assault. However, many people believe drinking, particularly excessive drinking, causes such violence.
Most who abuse alcohol do not batter or sexually assault others. While there is a connection between alcohol and such violence (the victim and/or perpetrator may have been drinking; one or both may have been intoxicated), there is no research to indicate alcohol use or abuse causes a person to batter or sexually assault another.
It is less painful for victims of these crimes and their families to believe drinking caused the violence and that alcohol treatment and sobriety will end the violence. This also holds true for families and friends of people who perpetrate acts of intimate partner violence and sexual assault.
Not believing these myths requires people to:
We must dispel these myths if we want perpetrators to accept responsibility for their violence.
Domestic abuse and sexual assault are not due to a loss of control brought on by excessive drinking. These crimes are about gaining and maintaining control by using any means, including violence.
Perpetrators often use alcohol to excuse their behavior and deny personal responsibility for their violence. Some may say they did not intend to hurt the other person but at the same time, claim no recollection of the assault. Memory loss and lack of intent are not the same.
Intoxicated individuals usually have difficulty performing tasks, yet battering and sexual assault occur despite a perpetrator's level of intoxication. This indicates they are even more determined, more focused and may have to use more force to assault the victim. Using more force often results in more severe injuries.
Battering is learned behavior, not the result of substance abuse. Studies indicate batterers who beat their partners while under the influence of alcohol also beat them when sober. Treatment for alcohol abuse does not "cure" domestic abuse; both problems must be treated independently.
Alcohol is a one of several risk factors related to sexual assault and dating/intimate partner violence. It is often the medium perpetrators use to slip date rape drugs to their victims. Alcohol can lower inhibitions, making it easier for a perpetrator to ignore boundaries. Intoxication makes it more difficult for a victim to guard against an attack.
To reduce that risk: