Episode 78: "Does alcohol cause abuse?"Support the show
On today’s episode, we’re answering a question from local teens about when people use alcohol or drugs as excuses for abusive behavior.
This is Jessica Skultety, Community Outreach Associate at Safe+Sound Somerset. We are Somerset County, New Jersey's lead domestic violence response organization, providing services at no charge for survivors of dating and domestic abuse for over 40 years.
Today's question from local teens is: “Dear Ava, does alcohol cause abuse?”
We get a lot of questions from teens in middle and high schools about dating partners using drinking as an excuse for abuse. For example: "I was just drunk, I'm sorry, I'll never do that again.” Or, you might hear your friend making excuses for their partner: "It only happens when they’re drunk. I can handle it.” A teen in a presentation once asked, “Isn’t it okay to act differently when you’re under the influence, because drinking changes your state of mind?”
Well, abuse is never okay, and it’s not okay when someone is under the influence, either. When we’re talking about abuse, this could be physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual when someone is under the influence.
To answer today’s question, “does alcohol cause abuse?” - the answer is no. People choose to use abusive behaviors against their partners. Alcohol or drugs can make things worse, because someone’s judgements might be harmed or they might become more aggressive under the influence. Even though abuse may be worse at this time, it is not the cause of abuse.
Also, most people who abuse their partners do not ONLY abuse under the influence. Abuse is a pattern of behaviors used to gain power and control over another partner.
If your partner is blaming alcohol or drugs for their choices of behavior, here are a few points to keep in mind. Abusive behavior is a choice that someone makes, even if they are under the influence of a substance. Yes, your state of mind might change, like that teen asked, but that doesn’t make abusive behavior okay just because you’re drinking.
Drinking or using drugs is also a choice. If someone knows that their behavior changes for the worse when they are under the influence, they can decide not to drink. There are many people in the world who can use substances and not hurt someone physically, emotionally, sexually, verbally, etc.
So, if someone says, "I was just drunk, it won't happen again," they still made a choice during that time to treat you a certain way. It’s also a warning sign that this behavior WILL probably happen again and/or be worse next time. Research shows that abuse usually gets worse. Also, the IMPACT of someone’s actions is the same, whether or not that person is drunk or sober. A target can have the same kind of pain and short and long term negative impacts from abuse.
Never let someone use substance use as an excuse for their behavior. If you feel safe to do so, call it out. If you are uncomfortable or feeling unsafe, reach out to Safe+Sound Somerset or a trusted adult.
To speak with an expert about dating violence, call or text the Safe+Sound Somerset 24/7 confidential hotline at 866-685-1122 for supportive listening, information, and safety planning.
Want to “Ask Ava” a question? Visit our website at www.safe-sound.org/ask-ava. Thank you for listening today. Join us next time here on Ask Ava.