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Is alcohol an excuse for bad behavior or does it show one's true colors

answered 11:02 PM EST, Fri September 26, 2014
anonymous anonymous
This a question about an incident of sexual aggression and about how much the things a person does while really drunk really speaks about that persons true character. Here is the situation: this person got very drunk and then forced himself on another person. It was not rape but it was close and she was frightened and did not know what he was going to do. This did not happen to me…it was my sister. The issue is this seemed very out of character for this person to do this. In my opinion, a person does the things while drunk that they want to do when normal and if he will do this while uninhibited it is because there is a part of him that is like that. They had been planning on moving in together and she is still thinking about going through with it because he has promised he will not ever drink again. Is he a rapist or is this something that any guy could do? He can’t explain his actions because he says he does not remember (I do not believe him).

E W Says...

It is nice that your sister has someone who cares about her, and that you are willing to ask questions and look to the future.  However, the situation you describe is not uncomplicated and there is not one single, quick answer.  

First, it seems it does not matter whether this is "part of his true character" - the fact remains that it was done (issue number one).  Second, when a person drinks to the point that he or she cannot remember their actions, this is also a problem (issue number two).  What's done is done and before moving forward in any type of relationship, ideally these issues and perhaps more should be completely understood, addressed, and future implications clarified.    

Second, It is important to remember that thinking, feelings and behaviors can all be greatly influenced by situations, medical conditions, and substances - medicinal, legal or illegal - often more than we think.  And it is very likely that there are many behaviors that can occur in those circumstances that would not otherwise - when we are drunk, we may fall down a lot, even though we don't fall a lot while sober; a person with a very severe diabetic condition may yell, scream, become violent and incoherent when blood sugar is uncontrolled, but under normal, well-controlled care are peaceful, sane, loving persons.  Does that mean our true nature is that of falling down?  or that of incoherent, babbling and violence?    

The problem at hand however, is not that there is never any excuse for inappropriate, harmful or violent behavior, but that there are so many potential complications in this instance, it would be impossible to address them all here. There could be power issues, co-dependence issues, there could be issues of abuse, or it could simply be an instance of immature misjudgment.  Prior to moving forward as a couple, or as individuals, it would be prudent to understand more of what went on and what it might mean.  

So how would a person or couple go about understanding if this is a large problem or an isolated incident?  Only time and actions speaking louder than words may provide the proof. The work on these issues and more could be accomplished through individual or couples counseling, consulting a trusted professional such as clergy, or some other resources for understanding substance abuse and violence, healthy and unhealthy relationships.  One or both parties could contact their local crisis hotline for resources if needed.    

All in all, there is no one answer, but clearly there are issues to be addressed.  There may be a pattern of abusive behavior evident in his past, or there may not.  There may be a history of substance abuse, co-dependent relationships or not.  It seems wisely cautious however, to think that this issue should be thoroughly considered and resolved prior to any steps further in a relationship, and that clear and healthy boundaries should be established.  Life is short, and no one should have to live in fear of their partner's behaviors. Ultimately it is up to the parties involved to decide how to move forward, although caring sisters can always be on hand to provide education and support.  

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Page last updated Sep 26, 2014

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