Controlling and coercive behavior for the purpose of robbing victims of their sense of safety and independence are patterns of domestic violence. These behaviors take many forms and are used by the abuser to maintain control over their victims. Domestic violence is not limited to one race, social class, or region of the world; instead it is a global concern that affects millions of people each year. Its perpetrators are adept at hiding or explaining away their abusive behavior and appear to fit in with mainstream society. Likewise, women of all ages find themselves in abusive relationships. There are a multitude of reasons why these women stay with their abusers rather than leave them. While alcohol and substance abuse can be linked with domestic violence, it presents added challenges when coupled with patterns of abuse.
Perpetrators of domestic violence have a need to control their victims. However, once they are in a relationship with a partner, their need to control escalates and they become more abusive. While they may come across as charming to outsiders, abusers cover up their violent behavior by blaming the victim or denying any acts of violence. Some common traits of an abusive personality include: extreme jealousy, fear of abandonment, threats of violence, isolating the victim, a lack of respect for personal boundaries, recklessness, and exaggerated expectations of their partner (Risk Factors in Abusive Relationships, 2007) . If the abused partner attempts to leave, they may find themselves in a situation where the abuse escalates. They may also believe they are responsible for their own victimization or feel guilty about being in an abusive relationship.
It is often hard to identify domestic abusers. They may have many friends, be very well accepted by their peers, or even have specific talents (Characteristics of Abusers and Victims) . Oftentimes, they ridicule their victims in order to lower their self-esteem. Once the self-esteem is virtually gone, the victim is less likely to leave out of fear of not being able to make it on their own. Oftentimes, the victim loves her abusers and believes that someday he will change and the abuse will stop. Ironically, the relationship may the first one for the abused partner and they think the abusive behavior is normal.
Many victims find themselves isolated from family and friends. They are forced to sever ties with both friends and relatives. In some instances, the abusive partner will attempt to gain sympathy from their partner’s family and friends. Other times, he will make derogatory remarks about them. Without this support system, the abused partner is even more vulnerable and easily controlled by her abuser. As the abuser becomes more controlling, the victim becomes even more isolated. Abusers do not trust their partners and want to know where they are at all times. This may include following the victim or calling them while they are at work.
Those who abuse their partners may have been the victims of abuse during childhood or witnessed the abuse of a parent (Characteristics of Abusers and Victims) . Many abusers also have certain ideas of how men and women should behave in a relationship. For example, women should be weak and submissive while men should be strong and in control of the relationship. According to a 2005 study on domestic violence conducted by The World Health Organization, (Landmark Study on Domestic Violence, 2005) , the risk of a woman being abused at home is higher than that of her being abused in the street. The study which was the result of interviews with more than 24,000 women worldwide, found that “one quarter to one half of all women who had been physically assaulted by their partners said that they had suffered physical injuries as a direct result (Landmark Study on Domestic Violence, 2005) “. A large number of these injuries either go unreported or are simply explained away as acts of clumsiness.
Although the exact nature remains a mystery, there has been agreement among experts that substance abuse is related to domestic abuse (Effects of Domestic Violence on Substance Abuse Treatment) . While any number of substances may be involved, perhaps the most common is alcohol. Research on how substance abuse is related to domestic violence has revealed an increase in the instances of alcohol abuse among men who batter their partners (Alcohol Abuse and Domestic Violence) . Even with this determination, there is one question that remains unanswered. That question is whether the abuser hurts his victim because he is intoxicated or does he drink to lower his inclinations to hurt his victim. Regardless of the answer, the abuser may use this theory to his advantage and blame their violent behavior on substance abuse rather than take responsibility for their actions.
To say that all men who abuse their partners also abuse alcohol or other substances is not altogether accurate. There are men who abuse alcohol but do not abuse their partners. Likewise there are men who abuse their partners but do not abuse alcohol or any other substance (Alcohol Abuse and Domestic Violence) . Even though the abuser may drink in excess to reduce the possibility of abusing his partner, alcohol actually has the reverse effect causing the abuser to lose control and become more abusive. The more they drink, the higher the likelihood that they will abuse their partner. In a vast majority of cases of domestic violence, we look at the abuser being the only one with the substance abuse problem; we must, however, not overlook the possibility that the woman may also have a substance abuse problem and her abuser is her supplier. In this case, she knows that if she leaves, she will be cut off from her supply.
Domestic violence is an issue that has devastating effects not only on the victim but their families and communities as well. Most often, we as a society are shocked to find out that someone we like or respect is abusing their partner. Because there is no specific “look” for an abuser, they are virtually impossible to identify. Oftentimes, they are last person one would expect. While alcohol can play a role in domestic violence, it must be remembered that it not a cause.
Alcohol Abuse and Domestic Violence . (n.d.). Retrieved May 29, 2011, from About Alcohol Abuse: http://www.about-alcohol-abuse.com/Alcohol_Abuse_and_Domestic_Violence.html
Characteristics of Abusers and Victims . (n.d.). Retrieved May 28, 2011, from Safe Harbors of the Finger Lakes Inc.: http://safeharborsfl.org/domestic-violence/teen-dating-violence/characteristics-of-abusers-and-victims
Effects of Domestic Violence on Substance Abuse Treatment . (n.d.). Retrieved May 29, 2011, from NCBI: Effects of Domestic Violence on Substance Abuse Treatment
Landmark Study on Domestic Violence . (2005). Retrieved May 28, 2011, from World Health Organization: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2005/pr62/en/index.html
Risk Factors in Abusive Relationships . (2007, November 15). Retrieved May 28, 2011, from Personality Traits in Abusive Relationships: http://www.recovery-man.com/abusive/abuse_rel_types.htm