The myth that 'alcohol makes man to be violent to women' has been debunked by a new documentary.
The film features compelling stories from four survivors, and additional insights from professionals in domestic violence, substance abuse and policing.
The survivors featured in "Alcohol and Men's Violence Against Women" hope that other women will not accept alcohol as an excuse for violence, or the suggestion that stopping drinking may render abuse history, from now on.
In reflecting on her three-year abusive marriage in the video, "Mary" concedes: "I always thought his drinking caused a lot of problems we had. I realize now alcohol was just a copout so he could do what he wanted and say things like, 'I'm sorry about last night; I was trashed.' I guess getting away from it and detaching completely from the situation was when I realized it wasn't just because he drank that he abused. There were periods in our marriage he didn't drink and I would still feel the same about how he treated me or the kids."
The documentary produced by Northern Michigan University is being distributed State-wide through a 78,000-dollar grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation.
Insights from front-line professionals representing law enforcement, a substance abuse unit, and a women's shelter reinforce the stories told by the survivors of domestic violence.
Even though all these factors reinforce the fact that alcohol may be a contributing factor, the root cause of abuse seems to be a man's need to control.
Nothing like this has been done before that we can find. Instead of addressing the broader issues of alcohol use or domestic violence, this project has a very specific purpose.
And we're making the point with women who've been directly impacted because victims of abuse will relate best to those who've had similar experiences," said Ira Hutchison, the head of NMU's sociology/social work department and the project director.
"You can sober up an intoxicated spouse abuser, but you're still left with a sober spouse abuser," he added.
Making a similar point in the documentary, Shawn Hatch, director of clinical services for Marquette General Hospital's Behavioral Health, said: "I ask women in these situations if they've been around a lot of men who drink. They say, 'Why, yes I have.' It might be fathers, brothers, uncles, friends at school or at work; lots of men.
When I ask how many of them were violent toward them, it's one or two. You see the wheels turning when they say, 'Oh my gosh, you're right. It wasn't the drinking that made him abuse me. I was involved with a man with a drinking problem who also happened to be a perpetrator of domestic violence.'"
Two prevalent themes emerge from the video: men often blame their abusive behavior on alcohol to avoid accepting personal responsibility for their actions; and many female victims turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism, despite the fact it makes them more prone to physical harm.
One of the survivors, "Sarah," endured two abusive relationships and slipped into alcoholism.
"The only way you can actually numb yourself is to drink or use some other substance. To me, drinking was the best. You're more flexible. If you're going to be thrown down the stairs or something, you're not tense so you don't tend to hurt as much.
That was just my way of self-medicating. The more I drank, the more he beat me up. It was just a vicious cycle. I couldn't imagine going through some of the things I went through sober. I probably wouldn't be sitting here right now," she said.
The DVD includes the 30-minute documentary and 30 minutes of special features offering advice and information on learned behavior, substance abuse therapy, success stories and responses from law enforcement and ER nurses. It has both English and Spanish-language options.