Abusing drugs or alcohol does not necessarily cause domestic violence, but there is a strong…
Are You a Victim of Alcohol-Fueled Domestic Violence?
Sometimes domestic violence goes public. The dirty, ugly secrets of what goes on behind closed doors get splashed on the front page and on TV news and tabloid entertainment. Take the recent case of R & B performer Chris Brown and his ex-girlfriend, the singer Rihanna, where he pleaded guilty to one count of felony assault. Brown, a first-time offender, allegedly threatened, and beat, Rihanna, his girlfriend at the time, just before the 2008 Grammy Awards. He was accused of trying to push Rihanna out of a car, shoving her head against a window, and biting her. Extensive coverage of the alleged incident showed a bruised and scared-looking Rihanna. The media circus continued unabated for weeks.
If convicted, Brown could have served up to 5 years in prison. As it is, he received 6 months of community labor, 5 years of supervised probation and has to participate in domestic violence counseling. The judge also imposed a stay-away order, meaning Brown cannot come within 50 yards of Rihanna unless at industry events, where the restriction is 10 yards.
The good that comes out of this very public incident and legal proceedings is the attention it focused on the issue of domestic violence, whether fueled by alcohol and/or drugs. It shows that domestic violence can occur to anyone at any time, no matter how rich or famous you are. The reality is that it happens. Many of us have experienced alcohol-fueled domestic violence. But we don’t have to take it. And we shouldn’t.
Domestic Violence: What It Is Under the Law
The law is pretty clear about what constitutes domestic violence: a pattern of abusive behavior that occurs between individuals in intimate relationships. Usually the persons are married or dating, but domestic violence often involves family members living in the same household. No matter what your age, gender, race or socioeconomic status, anyone can be a victim of domestic violence.
Domestic violence includes three types of abuse:
Physical –The abuser engages in hitting, shoving, hair-pulling, forceful grabbing, biting, etc. Physical abuse also often involves sexual abuse such as rape, violent sexual acts and exploiting minors in sexual ways.
Emotional –This is intentional hurtful behavior on the part of the abuser toward the victim, including name-calling, personal insults, humiliation, etc. Emotional abuse also includes threats of violence against the victim, and victim’s family and/or friends, stalking, harassment, psychological manipulation, and isolation. Financial –Stealing, manipulating the victim’s finances or bank accounts, keeping money back so the victim can’t pay for necessities, and forcing the victim to be financially dependent on the abuser.
Recognize That Domestic Violence Is a Cycle
It is important to realize that domestic violence is a vicious cycle. It typically begins with mild emotional and/or physical violence. Studies have shown that alcohol-fueled domestic violence usually occurs during or right after drinking. It may start at a party or when you are out to drinks and dinner. Your partner gets intoxicated and something you say or even an innocent glance by another snaps something inside your partner. He becomes irate and starts acting crazy. Perhaps he throws something, threatens you or gets out of hand. You leave and the next day, things are forgotten. But it happens again, and again. You, as the victim, become used to the behavior and either block it out or rationalize it. ”He didn’t mean to do it, ” or ”It was my fault,”and so on.
But the abuse continues, eventually increasing in both how bad it gets and how often it occurs. There comes a time, maybe now, when you realize that the alcohol-fueled violence is extreme. It could be the result of one particularly violent episode, or a series of episodes. This is known as the crisis phase, and is often followed by a period of calm during which your abuser expresses remorse, shame, and promises to stop the abuse or to get help. ”I promise I’ll never hit you again. I love you. I would never do anything to hurt you. ”
As soon as he regains your trust, however, the cycle will start up again. Make no mistake about that. Without true professional help that the abuser genuinely seeks and participates in, the violence will only get worse. Violence of any kind is never justified. Don’t make excuses or shrug it off. You need to do something to stop it now.
What You Can Do
Steps to immediately take include the following:
- If you have been physically abused and there are injuries or property damage, call the police and get to a hospital for medical attention, if necessary. Your abuser may be arrested, sent to jail, and may be required to attend counseling, anger management classes, Alcoholics Anonymous or other groups.
- Call a local or national hotline. The U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE and is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The hotline can provide crisis intervention, safety planning, information and referrals to agencies in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Assistance is in Spanish and English, with more than 170 languages available through interpreter services.
- Have a plan for escape. While you need to take the children and get out of the house, time your exit appropriately. In some instances, if your abuser thinks you’re going to leave it will trigger more violence. When you can escape, stay with relatives or go to a shelter. Contact a domestic violence agency hotline for shelter locations. They can remove you from the violence, which is the primary goal. In the safety of the shelter for battered and abused women and children you be able to transition from your abusive relationship to a violence-free life.
- You should also get a temporary restraining order, also called a TRO, or a stay-away order (like the Brown-Rihanna case). A TRO is a court document prohibiting your abuser from coming into contact (physical, over the phone or Internet) with you and your family. TROs do not cost you anything and can be obtained the same day you seek one. If the judge is convinced that you require continued protection, the TRO can be extended or made permanent. If, in your particular situation, you believe a TRO would increase the domestic violence, talk with hotline counselors, an attorney or other professional for alternate protection available to you.
- Join a support group. These include Al-Anon for spouses/family/friends of alcoholics and other community-based groups. You need the support and encouragement from people in situations like yours.
Value Yourself And Your Family
Maybe you feel you deserved the violence or that you shouldn’t have expected any better. But that is just wrong. No one deserves physical or verbal abuse.
Living your life in constant fear is a total waste of your potential. The abuser is a bully that needs professional help. But you need help whether or not the bully is willing to get it.
Counseling is important for you to enable you to make better choices in your life. You need to build up your own self-esteem, which has been shattered and pulverized by your abuser. You also need to think of your children. Is this a life they deserve? They won’t be able to live up to their potential either if the violence continues. And how much respect do you think they’ll have for you for not stopping the cycle of violence?
Keep one goal in mind: a productive, normal and happy life free of violence for you and your children. You can do it. The important thing is that you seek help and take advantage of it. Your life, and the lives of your children, may depend on it.