Recently I met a criminal lawyer at a sports club. During our conversation, we discovered we were both non-drinkers.
The lawyer went on to remark, “If it wasn't for alcohol I would be out of a job—90 per cent of my cases involve drinking.” It was a startling revelation—this lawyer was trying to do his best for people who had become stuck in a downward spiral in life, in society and in their families as a result of the effects of alcohol.
The next day I couldn't stop thinking about the lawyer's comment, so I decided to go onto the internet and see what statistics I could find. What I found shocked me. On the Australian Parliament's website I found data for violence against women. 1 The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that 1.2 million Australian women have experienced sexual violence and that 2.2 million have experienced physical violence since the age of 15.
These figures are huge—we have an enormous problem in our society involving millions of men and women who have become failures in their relationships— with alcohol a significant factor in about 50 per cent of cases.
Worse still is that statistics show the violence—particularly sexual violence against women—steadily increased between 1993 and 2003.
Another massive tragedy is when alcoholics abuse children. The same internet site reported the results of an Australian Institute of Criminology survey of women in 2004. Overall, 29 per cent of those surveyed reported they had experienced physical or sexual violence before the age of 16. Alcohol is involved in about 50 per cent of childviolence cases.
These statistics are a clear indictment of the massive harm associated with our community's tolerance of alcohol abuse.
They should send a clear message to our government to take urgent and decisive action to curb alcohol abuse in Australia.
When I was much younger, one could go into Kmart and buy a rifle and ammunition, provided you were over 18 years of age. Now we have very limited outlets for firearms and strict gun licensing. Meanwhile alcohol outlets have proliferated. I am not for the easy availability of firearms. But the harm caused by alcohol is enormously greater than that caused by firearms, yet our governments have failed to sufficiently restrict alcohol promotion and sales, license drinkers or introduce other adequate measures to limit abuse.
Alcohol abuse statistics for Australia are tragically alarming. Recent figures suggest 67 per cent of Australians drink alcohol at levels above those recommended by the National Health and Medical Research Council. 2 For young adults, 82 per cent of women aged 18 to 24 years and 93 per cent of men aged 18 to 24 years have drunk alcohol at dangerous levels. The sad reality is that it often only takes one occasion of binge drinking by young people to lead to a lifestyle of alcohol abuse.
A subtle alcohol finding associated with this group of women was revealed in a recent report to the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. 3 Researchers found that young women who consume alcohol at risky or high-risk levels are more likely than other women their age to have had more male sexual partners. This same age group had the largest increase in the incidence of chlamydia infection, which in Australia has more than doubled between 2000 and 2004, with more than 35,000 notifications. 4 For many of these women, the decision to have sex was made while under the influence of alcohol. Yet this large number of women in our community face results of their actions that change their lives forever. They face the possibility of pelvic inflammatory diseases and consequent infertility. They face the possible development of cervical and other genital-tract tumours and in addition sexually transmitted infections are often associated with the development of psychological illness.
Why are they doing this? Why are young people putting themselves at risk of so many hardships? Why is the measure of “a good time” to have almost no memory of it? Why do young people not value their bodies and their future and instead pursue drinking alcohol in excess to get “wasted”? I wonder if it is related to a misunderstanding of how very precious they actually are. Could a lack of knowledge of our Creator and His love for each of us be at the root of this epidemic of self-abuse? n In recent conversations with young adults, I have noticed that among those who have gone to public schools there is very little knowledge of Jesus and the Bible's message that we are each individually special to God.
The lack of public education about who Jesus was, what He did and the claims of the Bible is a sad reminder of the failings of our secular education system and its lack of acknowledgement of our Christian heritage manifest in the democratic freedom we enjoy in Australia. 5 Our identity as creations of God, dearly loved by our Creator, gives us reason to live and reason to treat carefully the minds, bodies and families God has given us.
You are more valuable than you can ever imagine. The Bible tells us that God takes a passionate interest in the creative process of making each of us.
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made... . Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:14, 16). God never loses interest in you.
If each precious person stuck in addiction could catch even a slight glimpse of our Creator's passion and purpose for them and desire for their wellbeing, they would be empowered to correct the damaging habits under their control and seek help to overcome the others.
1. http://www.aph.gov.au/library/intguide/SP/ViolenceAgainstWomen.htm accessed 22/02/2006.
2. T R Stockwell, P Heale, T N Chikritzhs, P Dietze and P Catalano, 2002, “How much alcohol is drunk in Australia in excess of the new Australian alcohol guidelines?”, Medical Journal of Australia , vol 176, no 2, pages 91-2.
3. A Young and J Powers, “Australian Women and Alcohol Consumption 1996-2003,” Report to the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing , Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2005, page v.
4. A Mindel and S Kippax, 2005, “A national sexually transmissible infections strategy: the need for an allembracing approach,” Medical Journal of Australia , vol 183, no 10, pages 502-3.
5. G Maddox, “Political Science,” in JAshton (ed), The God Factor , HarperCollins, Sydney, 2001, pages 62-6.