Alcoholism: the driving cause of domestic violence

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Studies across multiple countries show that the risk of violence is higher when the male partner drinks alcohol or when both partners drink. In 2010, alcohol was recorded as “present” in 41% of domestic assaults in New South Wales, Australia. This figure increased to over 60% in the remote far west of the state. One in three women (30%) globally experienced intimate partner violence.

According to a recent Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) report, 92% of the domestic abuse assailants reported use of alcohol or other drugs on the day of the assault. Another study shows that the percentage of batterers who are under the influence of alcohol when they assault their partners ranges from 48% to 87%, with most research indicating a 60 to 70 percent rate of alcohol abuse and a 13 to 20 % rate of drug abuse.

South Africa has one of the highest incidences of domestic violence in the world. And, sadly, domestic violence is the most common and widespread human rights abuse in South Africa. Every day, women are murdered, physically and sexually assaulted, threatened and humiliated by their partners, within their own homes. Organizations estimate that one out of every six women in South Africa is regularly assaulted by her partner. In at least 46% of cases, the men involved also abuse the children living with the woman.

For many women in Uganda, violence is not just an isolated and horrid act, but a fact of life. A large study conducted throughout the country in 2006 found that up to 70% of Ugandan women over 15 years of age had experienced physical or sexual violence. Half of these women experienced violence at the hands of their husbands or partners. These shocking statistics are well above the average in Africa and worldwide, making Uganda one of the most dangerous places to live in the world for women.

When we talk about domestic violence, we are talking about a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Domestic violence takes different forms like physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone. it manifests in a number of forms such as battering, intimate partner violence (physical, sexual, economic and psychological violence), bride price related violence (cruelty, abetment to suicide and dowry death) and many more.

Domestic violence not only affects those who are abused, but also has a substantial effect on family members, friends, co-workers, other witnesses, and the community at large. Children, who grow up witnessing domestic violence, are among those seriously affected by this crime. Frequent exposure to violence in the home not only predisposes children to numerous social and physical problems, but also teaches them that violence is a normal way of life – therefore, increasing their risk of becoming society’s next generation of victims and abusers. Tina Musuya, the executive director, of Centre for Domestic Violence Prevention notes that alcohol and other chemical substances may contribute to violent behavior. She reports that in a study carried out in September 2014, 42% of the respondents said alcoholism was the leading cause of domestic violence.

According to Rita Aciro, the Executive Director of UWONET, at least 50% of women in Uganda experience abuse. Women are four times more likely to become survivors of domestic violence than men. The 2011 Uganda Demographic Health Survey indicates that 56% of women aged between 15 and 49% have suffered physical violence, while 28% of women have suffered sexual violence. Overall, 6 in 10 women who have ever been married and are between the age of 15-49 years report having experienced any kind of violence while 16% have experienced violence during pregnancy. The 2013 Uganda Bureau of Statistics, reported that close to 70% of these women had experienced some form of violence at the hands of their partner. It gets worse, the world Health Organization (WHO) states that globally about 38% of women murders are committed by an intimate partner, who may sometimes be drunk.

According to 2016 survey findings in Busoga region, by Uganda Women’s Network, 77 % males and 75% females believe that a woman should tolerate violence of any form in order to keep her family and this is a general belief in many communities. Globally, between 25 and 50% of all domestic violence incidents begin with drinking (Tennessee Association of Alcohol, Drug and other Addiction). According the Women’s Rural Advocacy Program, alcohol abuse combined with domestic violence oftentimes results in increased injury to the battered spouse. In fact, the Connecticut Clearinghouse has indicated that among the risk factors for domestic abuse, frequent drinking is a leading one.

Other causes of domestic violence include; Disagreement with their intimate partner, Protracted periods of unemployment, Financial issues, Desperation when partner threatens to leave, Anger escalation, Humiliation stemming from problems at work or other perceived failures, Jealousy and envy, psychopathology developed by growing up in a violent and abusive household causes domestic violence to continue as a generational legacy, Witnessing abuse as the norm, or being abused, destroys the child’s ability to trust others and undermines his or her ability to control emotions. This produces hostile, defendant, and emotionally insecure people with a deeply impaired ability to develop and maintain healthy relationships which affects mainly women and children therefore resulting into ; An array of psychosomatic illnesses, eating disorders, insomnia, gastrointestinal disturbances, generalized chronic pain, and devastating mental health problems like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Many abused women find it difficult to function in their daily lives because of the effects of domestic violence. Absences from work, due to injuries or visits to the doctor, often cause them to lose their jobs, making them less able to leave their abusive situations. They may feel ashamed that their partners abuse them, see themselves as unworthy of love, and suffer from a significantly diminished self-perception. Because of their feelings of low self-worth, these women become isolated from friends and family and do not participate in social activities common to others in their demographic.

Domestic violence has terrible effects on children which include; Bruised, beaten, burned children but children who only witness domestic violence suffer consequences just as far reaching and devastating as those seen in physically battered children for instance; Children become violent themselves in response to threats (in school or at home), attempt suicide, use drugs and abuse alcohol, develop eating disorders, abuse themselves (i.e. cutting), suffer from anxiety and depression, poor social skills and enter into an abusive relationship later on which affects women mostly as compared to men . Studies indicate that children from violent homes, who witness the abuse of their mothers at the hands of their fathers, experience mental health issues similar in intensity and magnitude to those experienced by physically battered children. Similar research shows children, who both witness their fathers abusing their mothers and are themselves battered, suffer the most profound behavioral and emotional distress.

Uganda has domesticated the rights enshrined in international and Regional Human Rights Instruments to promote the rights of both men and women and has come up with Domestic Legal and Policy frameworks that redress Gender Based Violence. Some of these included; The constitution of the Republic of Uganda 1995(Article 24); Legislation on Specific acts of GBV Including the Domestic Violence Act 2010; Legal Aid Services including legal counseling and representation in the courts of law; and Judicial Activism and Policy Frameworks including National Policy on Gender based violence in Uganda (2012)

In a nutshell, there are communities that still condone violence and view it as acceptable. We have to stop protecting the perpetuators. women should stand as one and the government should put more resources into implementation of laws that protect victims of gender based violence.

Compiled by
Aceng Sandra
Program Assistant Gender and ICT Policy Advocacy