Nearly 90 percent of alcoholic women were physically or sexually abused as children, according to research just released by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS). The findings were published in a special supplement to the Journal of Studies on Alcohol.
Researchers looked at 472 women between the ages of 18 and 45. They found significantly higher rates of childhood victimization among female alcoholics than among women in the general population, suggesting that childhood victimization may play a significant role in the development of alcohol problems among women.
Brenda A. Miller, Ph.D., of the Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) in Buffalo, NY, and William R. Down, Ph.D. of the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, IA conducted the research study. They found that 87 percent of the alcoholic women reported being sexually abused as a child or suffering severe violence at the hand of a parent, compared to 59 percent of women in the general population. The alcoholic women in the study were receiving treatment at alcoholism clinics.
Sexual abuse includes any unwanted and forced sexual experiences before the age of 18, whether with a relative or a person who was not related. Severe parental violence incudes choking, kicking, biting, hitting with a heavy object, badly beating a child, threatening or attacking with a knife or gun, or making a serious threat to kill.
"Our research uncovered disturbingly high rates of physical and sexual abuse in each of the groups we studied," said Dr. Miller. "Yet, if anything, childhood victimization is probably underreported, especially childhood sexual abuse. Women may have repressed their bad memories, or may be unwilling or unable to talk about them. …