Alcohol Abuse and Domestic Violence
Current alcoholism research studies reveal a strong correlation between the abuse of alcohol and domestic
Research Studies on Alcohol Abuse and Domestic Violence
Many studies demonstrate a strong relationship between alcohol abuse and domestic violence.
More specifically, various research studies have found a high rate of alcohol abuse among men who batter their
Since, however, the evidence does not support a cause-and-effect relationship between the two problems, it is
unlikely that a causal link exists between alcohol abuse and domestic violence.
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.
Battering is a socially learned behavior that is not necessarily the result mental illness or substance
Men who batter women often use excessive drinking as an excuse for their violence.
That is, they attempt to shirk personal responsibility for the problem by blaming physical violence on the
effects of alcohol.
It is important to point out, however, that many male alcoholics do not batter their female partners and
numerous men who beat their female partners do not drink excessively.
Some men with alcohol problems batter their female partners when they are drunk, others beat their female
partners when they are sober, and some men with alcohol problems never batter their female partners.
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
It is important to note that the participants in this study were men who had exhibited domestic violence and who
had entered an outpatient treatment facility 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 violence.
Similarities Between Alcoholism and Wife 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 who are seen as weaker, more submissive, or
Not surprisingly, the target of abusive men frequently is their female partner or their children.
Men who experience relationship problems often engage in drinking excessive alcohol in an attempt to maintain
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, however, 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 refuse.
Apparently more than a few women do not understand that alcohol and drugs put them at risk for physical, sexual,
or psychological abuse.
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 disclosing their 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 her male partner may do to her, to their children, or to their animals if she
- 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 beliefs
- 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 her partner's 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
her male partner
- 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 her male partner
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 Abuse 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 who tend to 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: Alcohol Abuse and Domestic Violence
Numerous research studies demonstrate a relatively strong relationship between alcohol abuse and domestic
Since the evidence does not support a cause-and-effect relationship between the two problems, however, it is
unlikely whether a causal link between alcohol abuse and domestic violence exists.
Stated differently, 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.
In any event, men who are alcohol abusers need to keep the following in mind: The more that alcohol is consumed
in an abusive manner, the more likely it is that the drinker will become an alcoholic.
If this describes you, be honest with yourself and admit that you have a drinking problem.
Once you have taken this step, consider making it a priority to talk with an alcohol abuse and alcoholism
professional about getting alcohol treatment as soon as possible.