Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence & Substance Abuse

Domestic violence is the use of intentional emotional, psychological, sexual, or physical force by one family member or intimate partner to control another.

Violent acts include verbal, emotional, and physical intimidation; destruction of the victim’s possessions; maiming or killing pets; threats; forced sex; and slapping, punching, kicking, choking, burning, stabbing, shooting, and killing victims.

Spouses, parents, stepparents, children, siblings, elderly relatives, and intimate partners may all be targets of domestic violence.

Defining The Problem

In the United States, a woman is beaten every 15 seconds. 30 percent of female trauma patients(excluding traffic accident victims) have been victims of domestic violence.

Medical costs associated with injuries done to women by their partner’s total more than $44 million annually.

Much like patterns of substance abuse, violence between intimate partners tends to escalate in frequency and severity over time.

Severe physical assaults of women occur in 8 percent to 13 percent of all marriages; in two-thirds of these relationships, the assaults reoccur. These findings underscore the importance of identifying and intervening in domestic violence situations as early as possible.


An estimated three million children witness acts of violence against their mothers every year, and many come to believe that violent behavior is an acceptable way to express anger, frustration, or a will to control.

Some researchers believe, in fact, that violence in the family of origin is consistently linked with abuse or victimization as an adult.

The rate at which violence is carried across generations in the general population has been estimated to be 30 to 40 percent.

Although these figures represent probabilities, not absolutes, they suggest to some that 3 or 4 of every 10 children who observe or experience violence in their families are at increased risk for becoming involved in a violent relationship in adulthood.

Identifying The Connections

Researchers have found that one fourth to one half of men who commit acts of domestic violence also have substance abuse problems.

A recent survey of public child welfare agencies conducted by the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse found that as many as 80 percent of child abuse cases are associated with the use of alcohol and other drugs, and the link between child abuse and other forms of domestic violence is well established.

Research indicates that women who abuse alcohol and use illegal drugs are more likely to become victims of domestic violence. Research also shows that these women are more likely to abuse prescription drugs and become dependent on tranquilizers, sedatives, stimulants, and painkillers.

Evidence Of Connection Between Domestic Violence & Substance Abuse

  • About 40 percent of children from violent homes believe that their fathers had a drinking problem and that they were more abusive when drinking.
  • Childhood physical abuse is associated with later teen drug abuse.
  • Fifty percent of batterers are believed to have had “addiction” problems.
  • Substance abuse by one parent increases the likelihood that the substance-abusing parent will be unable to protect children if the other parent is violent.
  • A study conducted by the “Department of Justice” of Murder in Families found that more than half of defendants accused of murdering their spouses, as well as almost half of the victims, had been drinking alcohol at the time of the incident.
  • Teachers have reported a need for protective services three times more often for children who are being raised by someone with an addiction than for other children.
  • Alcoholic women are more likely to report a history of childhood physical and emotional abuse than are nonalcoholic women.
  • Women in recovery are likely to have a history of violent trauma and are at high risk of being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.


  • Self-Medication: Alcohol and drugs may be used to cope with the physical, emotional and/or psychological pain of family violence.
  • Reduced Inhibitions: Alcohol and drugs are seen as reducing behavioral inhibitions so that socially unacceptable behavior such as aggression is more likely to occur.
  • Learned Association: We learn in our families and social groups that certain events or behaviors are connected and expected.
  • Denial: Often abusive individuals excuse their violent behavior, and are even excused by their partners and other family members because they were drunk and “not in control.”

Research supports the connection between substance abuse and domestic violence. Members of families in which one or both parents abuse substances are considered to be at high risk for physically abusing and neglecting their children.

Persons who have experienced family violence are at greater risk for alcohol and other drug problems than those who do not.

Evidence suggests that children who run away from violent homes are at risk of further victimization and substance abuse as well as other problems.

Both Domestic Violence And Substance Abuse

  • Are persuasive social and health problems
  • Cut across all demographic categories
  • Are potentially life-threatening
  • Are often intergenerational
  • Tend to become progressively worse
  • Affect all family members
  • Typically involve denial by all parties
  • Result in social isolation for individuals and families
  • Often lead to other kinds of problems (legal, financial, health)


  • Family violence does not necessarily stop when the batterer stops abusing alcohol and/or other drugs.
  • Using alcohol or other drugs to cope with the effects of family violence can lead to further problems, including drug dependency and possibly increased vulnerability to violence.
  • Both family violence and substance abuse problems often require assistance beyond the family for protection, support, and treatment.
  • Attempting to deal with one problem without addressing the other can cause a false sense of security.

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