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Alcohol abuse linked to domestic violence

Problematic alcohol consumption aggravates domestic violence Keystone

Alcohol plays a role in many cases of domestic violence in Switzerland. Almost every second woman who is subject to abuse says that alcohol consumption is a problem in her relationship, according to a study.

The research project assessed for the first time how many victims of actual or threatened physical, psychological or sexual violence in Switzerland are directly or indirectly also affected by alcohol problems. The authors conclude that more weight should be attributed to the duality of the set of problems.

“Many women who get victim consultation or call a women’s refuge have a partner who is violent and at the same time has an alcohol problem,” the authors wrote. “And many men who visit an abuse counselling centre or participate in a programme against domestic violence also have a problem with alcohol and violence.”

A number of studies conducted outside Switzerland have pointed out that there is a general correlation between alcohol consumption and violence towards a partner. Not all alcoholics are violent, and not all abusers have a drink problem, but it is a fact that alcohol abuse and violence sometimes occur together.

The study authors, sociologists Daniela Gloor und Hanna Meier from research institute Social Insights, assessed the link between violence and alcohol abuse based on questionnaires, discussions and workshops. Their goal was to outline the main problems arising during counselling in order to support abuse victims more effectively.

Violence and alcohol abuse affect people at every age and in all walks of life, according to the research commissioned by the Federal Office of Public Health. Still, about a quarter of the people who get counselling also have other troubles; they are jobless or receive social benefits, a disability annuity or an old-age pension, the study showed.

Consumption a problem

The World Health Organization reported in 2002 that domestic violence seriously harms physical and mental health and the way the people affected by abuse cope with everyday life.

In particular, a problematic alcohol consumption accentuates domestic violence, the authors said. In a quarter of abuse cases, one of the partners had been drinking before violence was exercised. If the consumption is a problem, the share of abuse cases increases to a half, the study showed.

The Swiss survey entitled Violence in the Partnership and Alcohol showed that in nine of out ten abuse cases it is the men who are drinking, and two out of three victims were women. The authors only assessed cases where the men were the perpetrators, because this is the case four times out of five.

Children live in two out of three households affected by domestic violence. Half of them are below the age of ten.

Both problems – alcohol consumption and violence – are very gender-specific, meaning that the behaviours and views of men and women may differ a lot, the authors said.

Almost half of female abuse victims have a violent partner who also has alcohol problems. But only in 4.3 per cent of cases it is both partners who have an alcohol problem and in 0.6 per cent it is the women only.

Lack of support

The researchers found that there is still a considerable lack of support that combines advice for both problems.

Many counselling centres specialise in just one field, and the counsellors often also lack guidelines on how to tackle dual problems. And there is only a limited offer for men who have used violence against their partners.

The government has said that until now not counselling in Switzerland has not taken into account enough the existence of a correlation. The first projects, which better coordinate support efforts for people affected by both issues, are taking place in cantons St Gallen and Basel Country. They illustrate the way to go forward, the health office said.

The researchers studied 1,500 cases from counselling centres. The findings were published as part of a campaign by the National Alcohol Programme, which aims to reduce the negative effects of alcohol consumption.

Every fifth person in Switzerland drinks too much, too often or at the wrong time, the government has said.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR