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Updated on December 21, 2022
5 min read

Domestic Violence and Alcohol Abuse

Key Takeaways

  • If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic violence, reach out to The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for support.
  • Domestic violence includes physical, sexual, and emotional abuse by an intimate partner.
  • Domestic violence commonly co-occurs with alcoholism. However, there’s no link to prove that consuming alcohol directly causes domestic violence.
  • The link between domestic violence and alcohol is complex and needs to be studied and explored. In some cases, alcoholism may be just a way someone tries to justify domestic violence.
  • Other common alcohol-related crimes include drunk driving and robberies.
  • There are various ways for domestic violence survivors and people experiencing alcohol abuse problems to receive treatment for their problems.

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is otherwise known as intimate partner violence. It includes:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Sexual coercion
  • Stalking

An intimate partner is someone with whom you have or had a close personal or sexual relationship. Both genders experience domestic violence. However, it mainly affects millions of women annually in the United States.1

Does Alcohol Impact Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence commonly co-occurs with substance use disorders like alcoholism.

However, no real research suggests that alcoholism directly causes domestic violence. Research shows a higher number of assaults that result in injury are caused by men who drink heavily. However, most men classified as heavy drinkers don’t abuse their partners.

Also, many physically abusive incidents don’t involve alcohol. Alcohol isn’t the cause of violence but can impact crimes such as domestic violence.

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What is the Connection Between Alcohol Abuse and Domestic Violence?

The link between domestic violence and alcohol is complex. Men dependent on alcohol or drugs are 6 or 7 times more likely to be involved in domestic abuse against women than others.2

Alcohol Abuse and Justifying Behaviors

Some theories suggest that substance abuse may be a way for some people to try to justify their behaviors.3

For example, some abusers might say they can’t control their behavior because they were drunk. Many abusers don’t become aggressive or lose their temper because of alcohol. However, drinking can aggravate their actions.3

Likewise, the amount of alcohol a person has before committing abusive behaviors is usually one or more drinks. Therefore, alcohol may be linked to domestic violence through drinking alone rather than being intoxicated.3

Alcohol influences a person’s behavior because it shifts their perception of reality. But it doesn’t cause their behavior.3

In some cases, the desire to engage in sexual violence may cause alcohol consumption to justify behavior. 

How Alcohol Affects Us

Alcohol can impact people’s judgment, perception, and ability to process what’s happening. This can mean that drinking may increase the chances that someone will misinterpret another person's actions. As a result, they may overreact or act out.

An abuser may also experience a heightened sense of power or control over another person when they drink. This could increase the risk of violent behavior.

Couples may also have conflict over the abuser’s drinking problem, which could contribute to violence.

Other Alcohol-Related Crimes

Here are some other common alcohol-related crimes.

Drinking and Driving

Some of the most common alcohol-related crimes involve drinking and driving. 

In 2020, there were 11,654 deaths in motor vehicle traffic crashes in which at least one driver was under the influence of alcohol. This totaled 30 percent of all traffic deaths in the United States for the year.4

Any amount of alcohol in the bloodstream can affect driving ability. The effects of alcohol use vary greatly and can put people at risk of causing an accident or highway injury.

Safe driving requires proper concentration and the ability to make good judgments and react quickly. However, alcohol affects these skills, placing people in danger.

Robberies

Many cities in the United States have also seen a steady increase in property-related robberies and crimes linked to alcohol use.

Alcohol can enhance a robber’s desperation and motivate them to steal someone’s money or property. While some robbers want a better lifestyle or want to make some quick money, others can turn into repeat offenders.

The consequences of stealing from someone are harsh. They may lead to:

  • Jail time
  • Charges on your record
  • Fines
  • Other legal problems
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How to Get Help

There are various ways for domestic violence survivors and people experiencing an alcohol abuse problem to receive help.

Treatment for Domestic Violence Survivors

A domestic violence survivor can benefit from a therapist specializing in domestic abuse. Therapy can educate the person about the appropriate interactions in a relationship.

Talk therapy can also teach people how to communicate concerns if they feel:

  • Disrespected
  • Harmed
  • Frightened of their partner

If a domestic abuse survivor wants to return to their violent partner, they must seek advice on staying safe.

Courses are also available to domestic violence survivors to help them avoid repeating the cycle of abuse. Often, violent behavior is learned or modeled.

Women’s shelters are also available for survivors of domestic violence throughout the United States. There are also some men’s shelters.

Treatment for Alcohol Abuse

Seeking professional treatment is the best way to beat an alcohol use disorder (AUD)

There are various recovery programs available to help people quit drinking. Often, they provide different types of therapy for other underlying conditions that may trigger an alcohol problem.

For example, those that become violent or aggressive after drinking may benefit from professional help with their anger management skills. 

Treatment professionals may also recommend different activities to help people relax, including: 

  • Exercise
  • Music therapy
  • Meditation

Recovery doesn’t occur overnight. It takes commitment, even after you leave rehab. However, plenty of ongoing recovery programs can help you maintain sobriety and live a happy and healthy life.

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Updated on December 21, 2022
6 sources cited
Updated on December 21, 2022
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. Domestic or intimate partner violence, Office on Women’s Health (OASH), Women’s Health 
  2. Yu, Rongqin, et al. “Mental disorders and intimate partner violence perpetrated by men towards women: A Swedish population-based longitudinal study.” PLoS medicine, 2019.
  3. Alcohol and domestic violence, Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights
  4. Alcohol-Impaired Driving, Traffic Safety Facts, NHTSA’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis, 2022.
  5. Treating survivors of interpersonal violence, Mayo Clinic, 2020.
  6. Sontate, Kajol V, et al. “Alcohol, Aggression, and Violence: From Public Health to Neuroscience.” Frontiers in psychology, 2021.

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