Alcohol Abuse and Domestic Violence
According to numerous alcoholism research studies, there is a correlation between alcohol abuse and domestic
Many studies show a strong relationship between alcohol abuse and domestic violence. That is, research has
demonstrated a high rate of alcohol abuse among men who batter their female partners.
Due to the fact, however, that this correlation evidence does not support a cause-and-effect relationship
between the two problems, it is questionable whether a causal link between alcohol abuse and domestic violence
In short, the relatively high occurrence of alcohol abuse by men who batter women, though correlated, must
be seen as the overlap of two separate but frequently occurring social problems.
Battering is a socially learned behavior that is not necessarily the result of mental illness or substance
Men who batter women often use excessive drinking as an excuse for their violence. That is, they try to
shirk personal responsibility for the problem by blaming physical violence on the effects of alcohol.
Male Alcoholics and the Predisposition For Physical Violence
It is important to note that many male alcoholics do not batter their female partners and many men who beat
their female partners do not drink excessively.
Some men with alcohol problems batter their female partners when they are drunk while others beat their female
partners when they are sober.
Men who have a predisposition for physical violence toward their female partners and who drink alcohol are more
likely to be violent on the days they drink alcohol.
This study was undertaken by the University of Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) and reported in
the February 2003 issue of the American Psychological Association's Journal of Consulting and Clinical
It is important to note that the participants in this study were men who had exhibited domestic violence and who
had entered outpatient treatment for alcoholism or for battering their partner.
It is not clear, however, how these results would generalize to the general population. In fact, according to
research, heavy alcoholic drinking by men in the general population does not necessarily lead to domestic
Similarities Between Alcoholism and Battering
Alcoholism and battering, however, do share some similarities, including the following:
- Both may be centered around control and power.
- Both can be transmitted from generation to generation.
- Both involve denial or the attempt to down play the problem.
- Both can involve the isolation of the family, the perpetrator, or the victim.
- A battering incident that is coupled with alcohol abuse may be more severe and result in greater
- Alcoholism treatment does not "cure" battering behavior; both problems must be addressed separately.
Alcohol abuse and violence in a relationship can exist before a couple gets married. Indeed, alcohol abuse and
physical or verbal abuse often develop before a relationship begins.
In abusive relationships where alcohol abuse also exists, the key issue frequently is the need of one partner to
exercise power and control over the other.
This need to control the partner, however, is also found in abusive relationships in which there is no alcohol
A woman's substance abuse problems do not necessarily relate to the cause of her physical abuse, although some
women may resort to alcohol and other drugs in response to the physical abuse.
Interestingly, men who abuse their partners at home do not typically get into fights outside the home. Abusive
men who need power and control usually abuse individuals that are seen as weaker, more submissive, or more
Not surprisingly, the target of abusive men frequently is their female partner or their child. Men who
experience relationship problems often engage in drinking excessive alcohol in an attempt to maintain control.
Ironically, alcohol abuse has the reverse effect: The more the man drinks, the more he loses control.
It appears that many if not most people see women on the receiving end of physical abuse due to the alcohol
abuse of their husbands.
There is another viewpoint: that women who are battered resort to alcohol and eventually abuse alcohol as a
response to the physical battering. That is, women who become a victim of battering are at risk of abusing alcohol
and other drugs as an attempt to cope with their pain and shame.
Women of all ages can become victims of sexual, economic, physical, and emotional abuse. Some abusive male
partners force women to take drugs or to drink alcohol under the threat of further physical violence if the women
Some women do not understand that alcohol and drugs put them at risk for physical, sexual, or psychological
Domestic Violence and Alcohol Abuse in Women
Women who have experienced domestic violence and alcohol abuse have reported the following:
- Repeated episodes of substance abuse or returning to a relationship involving battering before making
- Isolation, guilt, and shame.
- Behaviors and actions that others describe as dysfunctional or weird.
- Experiences of trauma.
- Initial denial or rejection of the problem.
- Loss of personal support systems.
- Fear of losing their children as a consequence of her problem.
- Low self esteem.
- A belief or conviction that the problem will simply disappear or go away.
- Diminished logical decision-making capabilities.
- Involvement in the criminal justice system, either as an offender or as a victim.
- A propensity to seek professional help only when facing a crisis.
Why Women Stay in Abusive Relationships
Women stay in abusive relationships for numerous reasons, including the following:
- She might be fearful of what he may do to her, to their children, or to their animals if she leaves.
- She might be pregnant.
- She may not have experienced another relationship, so she might think abuse is normal for all
- She might feel pressured to stay in the marital relationship because of her family or religious
- She believes that she is at fault for the abuse.
- She loves the abuser and believes that he will change.
- She might have a substance abuse problem and ironically, her partner may be her drug supplier.
- She might believe that his jealousy and abuse are indications of his love for her.
- She might not have a place to stay if she leaves.
- She might be afraid to tell her family, especially her parents, because they might make her break up with
- She feels guilt, shame, or embarrassment about the abuse.
- She is unaware of the community resources that are available for getting help.
- She might not have the financial resources to support herself or her children without him.
Alcohol-Related Violence Statistics
The following represents some the statistical findings of alcohol-related violence:
- A national survey of female college students found that 15 percent of them had been raped at some time
since the age of 14. In 53% of these cases, the victim was drinking and in 64% of these cases, the offender was
- A woman involved in alcohol abuse is at risk for becoming the victim of sexual assault due to the fact that
many perpetrators see a woman's drinking as sexual consent.
- Drinking by both victims and offenders has been correlated with assaults taking place in unplanned social
situations such as at wedding receptions or bars in which the victim did not know the offender before the
- Abused women of all races report less support from their partners, more substance abuse, higher levels of
stress, lower self-esteem, and less support from others than women who are not abused.
- Men who abuse alcohol and who commit sexual assault frequently commit more severe sexual assaults than men
who do not drink excessively but who commit sexual assault.
- Continued alcohol abuse is one of the major risk factors for violence in intimate relationships.
- The correlation between the battering of women and alcohol abuse is the highest for men who believe that
male control and power over women are acceptable in certain situations.
Alcohol and Abusive Men
The following represents the relationship between abusive men and alcohol abuse.
- Alcohol abuse in men increases the chance of partner abuse eightfold. It also doubles the risk that they
will kill or attempt to kill their female partners.
- Among men who batter their partners and who abuse drugs, a third of the violence happens when the men are
- Being physically abused as a child is a risk factor for substance abuse as an adult.
- Alcohol or drug abuse remains a major risk factor for men who become violent.
- Men who have been a victim of violence or who have seen violence in the home may imitate the violence they
have seen or experienced.
- Men tend who resort to violence when they are frustrated or angry may not have learned the nonviolent ways
of expressing these emotions.
- Approximately 46% of men who commit acts of violence with their partners also have substance abuse
- Not all men who are dependent on drugs or alcohol resort to violence. In a similar manner, not all violent
men abuse drugs or alcohol.
- Men living with women who have alcohol abuse problems often try to justify their violence as a way to
control their female partners when they are drunk.
Conclusion: Abuse of Alcohol and Domestic Violence
Numerous research studies show a strong relationship between the abuse of alcohol and domestic violence. Since
this correlation evidence does not support a cause-and-effect relationship between the two problems, however, it is
questionable whether a causal link between alcohol abuse and domestic violence exists.
In a word, the relatively high occurrence of alcohol abuse by men who batter women, though correlated, must be
seen as the overlap of two separate but frequently occurring social problems.