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Drinking Ups Women’s Risks for Domestic Abuse

Posted in Alcoholism

Drinking Ups Women’s Risks for Domestic AbuseIntimate partner violence (also known as domestic violence) is the accepted public health term for various forms of violent behavior that occur between teenagers or adults involved in sexual relationships. Typically, teenage girls and women have much higher risks for exposure to this form of violence than their male counterparts. In a study published in June 2014 in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, researchers from several U.S. universities examined the connection between women’s involvement in acts of intimate partner violence and women’s involvement in heavy drinking and other alcohol-related practices.

Women and Drinking

The term heavy drinking refers to the practice of consuming alcohol above the daily or weekly, gender-specific guidelines established by U.S. public health officials. Since women process alcohol more slowly than men, they can consume less alcohol than men before qualifying as heavy drinkers (four or more drinks in a single day or eight or more drinks in a single week). The number of times a person drinks heavily in a given month is directly related to his or her odds of developing alcohol use disorder (the combined term for alcohol abuse and alcoholism). A specific form of heavy drinking, called binge drinking, is also linked to a range of serious problems such as accidents, sexual assaults, physical assaults and unsafe sexual practices.

Teenage girls drink alcohol slightly more often than teenage boys, according to recent figures compiled by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Women drink somewhat less often than men; still, almost half of all women identify themselves as alcohol consumers. Roughly one-third of all young women drinkers between the ages of 18 and 25 participate in binge drinking at least once a month. A fairly small number of women (8.5 percent) drink while pregnant; smaller percentages of pregnant women binge drink or otherwise drink heavily.

Intimate Partner Violence

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a blanket term that refers to four types of acts: violence of a physical nature, violence of a sexual nature, the use of physical or sexual threats and the use of emotional or psychological violence. Specific physical acts that qualify as violence among intimate partners include punching, kicking, burning, choking and the restraining of another person. Specific sexual acts that qualify as IPV include physically forcing a person to engage in sex, otherwise having sex with someone in the absence of consent and focusing physical abuse on a person’s genitalia. Specific emotional or psychological acts that qualify as IPV include controlling another person’s day-to-day freedom of movement, controlling another person’s access to contact with others and using words to humiliate, debase, coerce or threaten.

Link to Alcohol Intake

In the study published in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder, Harvard Medical School and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, used an examination of 145 women involved in live-in relationships to explore the link between women’s alcohol consumption and risks for intimate partner violence. All of the participants were recent enrollees in some sort of program for substance abuse/addiction. Each woman was asked to detail her involvement in partner-related conflicts in the half-year period prior to the study. Forms of conflict under consideration included situations involving physical violence and situations that included emotional/psychological violence but did not escalate to physical violence. Each woman also detailed her involvement in alcohol consumption and other forms of substance use in the buildup to intimate partner conflicts. In addition, each woman was asked to estimate her partner’s involvement in alcohol/substance use.

The researchers looked at four alcohol-related indicators for each study participant: the consumption of any amount of alcohol prior to an IPV event, involvement in heavy drinking prior to an IPV event, the actual amount of alcohol consumed in the half day before an IPV event and the approximate blood-alcohol level when an act of intimate partner violence occurred. They concluded that women have a consistently higher level of exposure to each of these indicators before involvement in physically violent conflicts than before involvement in psychological, non-physical conflicts. The same trend was recorded for male partners of the study participants. The women also had an increased tendency toward physically violent conflict with a partner after using other types of substances. However, this trend did not carry over to the reported substance use of the women’s male partners. Overall, the study’s authors concluded that drinking in general and heavy drinking in particular play an important role in increasing the likelihood of physically violent intimate partner conflicts.