The Family Peace Foundation believes that there is strong evidence of an association between the consumption of alcohol and violence.
Not only is this wrong, it is also expensive. Conservative estimates suggest that in Australia, the total costs attributable to alcohol-related crime was $1.7b; the social cost relating to alcohol-related violence (which excludes costs to the criminal justice system) was $187m; and the costs associated with the loss of life due to alcohol-related violent crime amounted to $124m.
So what is the nature and extent of the impact of alcohol-related violence? According to the National Drug Strategy Household Survey approximately:
- 1 in 4 Australians were a victim of alcohol-related verbal abuse
- 13 % were made to feel fearful by someone under the influence of alcohol
- 4.5 % of Australians aged 14 years or older had been physically abused by someone under the influence of alcohol
While the contemporary media focus is often on drugs such as methamphetamines (Ice), the rates of physical and verbal abuse by a person affected by alcohol were actually more than twice the rate for other drug types. In addition, more than one-third of victims (38%) had consumed alcohol themselves at the time of the incident. This is consistent with evidence that shows that a significant proportion of violent offences are committed by and committed against people who have been drinking or are intoxicated.
Why do the figures regarding the extent of the involvement of alcohol in violent offences vary from study to study?
These differences are mainly the result of changes in the way in which the involvement of alcohol in crime is defined, whether the figure relates to incidents attended by police or total recorded crime, different data collection processes, problems relating to the accurate and reliable measurement of alcohol consumption and intoxication, and underreporting by victims.
When it comes to assaults involve alcohol, Australian research estimates that a significant proportion of assaults from 23% to as much as 73% of all assaults involve alcohol. Alcohol is also a significant contributor to serious injury from assault. In a landmark NSW study, two-thirds of people presenting at an emergency department with injuries from interpersonal violence reported having consumed alcohol prior to the incident and three-quarters of these patients stated that they had been drinking at license premises.
Self-reported alcohol use among offenders can help to provide more accurate and reliable evidence of the involvement of alcohol in violent offending. Findings from the Australian Institute of Criminology’s Drug Use Monitoring Australia program indicate that, half of all offenders detained by police across Australia for disorder and violent offences had consumed alcohol in the 48 hours prior to their arrest.
Other statistics from the DUMA study found:
- 52 % of offenders charged by police for an assault had consumed alcohol in the previous 24 hours
- 26 % reported that the consumption of alcohol had contributed to their offending.
- 4 % of offenders detained for an assault were too intoxicated to be interviewed, which means that in total, approximately one-third (30%) of assault charges are likely to be attributable to alcohol.
- 33% of offenders detained for breaching an Apprehended Violence Order also reported that consuming alcohol had contributed to their offending.
The Family Peace Foundation believes that in order to create peaceful upbringings for all Australian children, we need an understanding of the association between alcohol and violence and most importantly what to do about it.
Research has demonstrated that there are risks that predict alcohol-related violence:
- being young, single and male with men (6%) were twice as likely as women (3%) to report being physically abused by someone under the influence of alcohol
- 33% of people aged 14–19 years and 60% of those aged 20–24 living in rural areas having reported being victims of alcohol-related physical abuse
- men are more likely to be involved in incidents of physical abuse in pubs and clubs or in the street, whereas for women, these incidents are more likely to be in their own home
- alcohol consumption among young people is typified by frequent episodes of binge drinking and heavy drinking has been shown to be associated with aggression and violence 
- alcohol-related violence in which both the victim and offender have consumed alcohol are more likely to be spontaneous or opportunistic and more likely to involve strangers.
- alcohol-related assaults most commonly occur between 9 pm and 3 am on Friday and Saturday nights
- a significant proportion of offenders and victims of sexual assault have consumed alcohol and alcohol consumption increases the risk of sexual assault, as victims become less able to detect dangerous situations
- there is a relationship between seasonal changes, calendar events and major sporting events and the rate of reported incidents of violence, which can in part be explained by the increased level of alcohol consumed on these days.
So how can Australia reduce the harms associated with alcohol? It makes sense to target the key risk factors that have been found to contribute to alcohol-related violence.
The Australian Institute of Criminology make the following suggestions:
- identify and target those venues associated with the greatest number of problems
- create a positive physical and social drinking environment to attract patrons that are more likely to be well behaved by setting and maintaining high standards for both venue operators and clientele
- target multiple contributing factors rather than any single cause of alcohol-related violence
- encourage and facilitate the reporting of victimisation
- address alcohol-related violence in a range of settings, not just in entertainment precincts
- be developed at the community level, where practical and appropriate, and adapted to suit local circumstances
- be based on effective partnerships between all levels of government, non-government, private business, academia and the community
- be supported by effective enforcement of existing liquor licensing laws.
As is the case with any community, interventions aimed at reducing the negative effects of alcohol and alcohol-related violence in Indigenous communities must attempt to address the factors that contribute to alcohol abuse.
Is alcohol a problem in your family? If it’s harming you, or someone you know, it may be time to seek advice from a professional.
You can contact one of the many services available, speak to your GP, local health service or call a helpline. There are trained telephone counsellors available in every Australian state and territory.
Drug Info : 1300 858 584
Family Drug Helpline : 1300 660 068
Youth Substance Abuse Service : 1800 014 446
Counselling Online : 1800 888 236
Kids Helpline : 1800 551 800
Parent line : 1300 301 300
Lifeline : 131114
Alcohol Drug Information Service (ADIS)
The Alcohol and Drug Information Centres are state and territory-based services that offer information, advice, referral, intake, assessment and support 24 hours a day. ADIS offers services for individuals, their family and friends, general practitioners, other health professionals and business and community groups.
ADIS counsellors understand the difficulties of finding appropriate drug and alcohol treatment and use their knowledge and experience to assist callers.
Australian Capital Territory Alcohol & Drug Program: 02 6205 4545
New South Wales: 02 9361 8000 (Sydney) or 1800 422 599 (NSW regional and rural)
Northern Territory Alcohol & Other Drug Services: 1800 629 683 (NT general) or 08 8922 8399 (Darwin) or 08 8951 7580 (Alice Springs)
Queensland ADIS: 07 3837 5989 or 1800 177 833
South Australia ADIS: 08 8363 8618 or 1300 131 340
Tasmania ADIS: 03 6233 6722 or 1800 811 994
Victoria Direct line: 1800 888 236
Western Australia ADIS: 08 9442 5000 or 1800 198 024 or for parents: 08 9442 5050, 1800 653 203 (WA only)
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Is your family suffering because of excessive alcohol?
Is your family suffering because of excessive alcohol? For the sake of your children, pledge today to limit your drinking to between zero and two drinks per day – on average.