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Domestic Violence and Alcohol

The Effects of Domestic Violence and Alcohol

Table of Contents


Abuse, domestic violence and alcohol have been closely linked for quite some time.  Unfortunately, more than 20 men and women are physically abused every minute in the United States. That’s more than 10 million people each year.
Not only does alcohol increase the odds of domestic abuse in a relationship, but domestic abuse also increases the odds of alcohol consumption in both victims and abusers. There are a variety of factors at play here, and this topic is both complicated and sensitive. So let’s explore the effects of both domestic violence and alcohol in detail.

What is Domestic Abuse?

Domestic violence is abusive behavior towards a spouse or intimate partner often used to gain power or control of the other partner. Combined with alcohol or drug use, domestic violence can get dangerous, very fast.
It is important to note, though, that domestic violence and domestic abuse don’t have to be physical. There are many varieties. Domestic violence can include:

  • Verbal abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Psychological abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Financial abuse
  • Social abuse
  • Elderly abuse
  • Image-based abuse
  • Spiritual abuse
  • Other forms of abuse

Here are some examples of domestic abuse according to the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual & Domestic Violence:

  • Telling the victim that they’re always wrong.
  • Telling the victim that they can’t do anything correctly.
  • Shaming the victim.
  • Limiting freedom of clothing choices
  • Constantly invading privacy
  • Hitting, kicking, slapping
  • Insulting or criticizing the victim for undermining self-confidence
  • Disregarding or ignoring the victim’s wishes constantly
  • Spending money dedicated for food or shelter on drugs and alcohol
  • Isolating the victim from their friends or family
  • Yelling, screaming, or refusing to talk to the victim
  • Threatening to hurt or kill the victim, their family, children, or pets
  • Name-calling
  • Withholding money, support, care, or compassion for long periods of time

Though these are examples, domestic abuse is not limited to these examples. Not all abusive relationships look the same. Furthermore, not all toxic or addiction-related relationships can appear how they really are from the outside looking in. 

Gender Biases

Many people assume that domestic abuse is from a man towards a woman. Though that is true in many cases, domestic violence can also come from women and happen in partnerships of the same sex as well.
Remember: addiction, as well as domestic abuse, has no particular “face”. 

Alcohol’s Effect on Intimate Partner Violence

According to the World Health Organization (WHO):

“Alcohol consumption, especially at harmful and hazardous levels is a major contributor to the occurrence of intimate partner violence and links between the two are manifold.”

That means that alcohol increases the risk and severity of domestic violence. Although not all domestic abusers are alcoholics, and not all alcoholics are domestic abusers, there is a strong two-way correlation between the two. However, there is no substantial causation found between alcohol and domestic abuse, as there are numerous other factors at play.
With that said, there is a lot of evidence to demonstrate a clear relationship between the two. This is a summary of the WHO’s findings.
Alcohol affects cognitive function, which makes it harder to exhibit self-control. It also makes it harder to negotiate and prevent physical violence with the drinker.

Excessive drinking can cause marital troubles. That includes the financial burden of purchasing alcohol, childcare issues, and potentially infidelity. This increase in conflict and tension increases the likelihood of violence.
There are both societal and individual believes that alcohol causes aggression. Therefore, if a person is drinking, this can encourage violent behavior as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Furthermore, many alcoholics will use alcohol as an excuse for violence.
Violence in a relationship can lead to alcohol abuse as a means of self-medication and coping with stress.
Children with family issues, especially experiencing violence between their parents, are likely to develop poor drinking habits as they grow older.
And, depending on the country, alcohol is consumed before 10-65% of domestic abuse incidents. That’s quite a lot!

Preventing Alcohol-Related Intimate Partner Violence

Though there is not much research on how to prevent alcohol-related domestic abuse, there are have been some efforts, according to the Canadian Government.
Increasing the price of alcohol, in general, helps reduce violence and alcoholism in the United States. There hasn’t been much evidence on how this affects domestic abuse. Still, experts estimate that just a 1% increase in the price of alcohol reduces the risk of domestic violence towards women by 5%.
In Greenland, rationing alcohol instead of having it freely available for purchase reduced police reports of domestic quarrels by 58%.
And in the US, treating alcohol use disorders in men have shown significant decreases in intimate partner violence for up to a year later. This includes both physical and emotional violence to or from either partner, regardless of gender.
Though these are societal prevention methods, it is recommended that couples address several social beliefs, such as allowing excessive drinking and tolerance towards intimate partner violence.
older couple portrait

Getting Help for Alcohol-Related Intimate Partner Violence

It can often be tough to get help for domestic abuse. Especially if the abuser has exhibited controlling behavior, they might not allow the victim to get help. And the victim may not have the financial control or capacity to reach out for help.
However, there are several resources for help. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline. They provide 24/7 confidential assistance to anyone who suffers from domestic abuse. Also, many addiction treatment facilities offer support for domestic abuse.
Furthermore, therapy is a good option for helping cope with the traumas of domestic abuse. And if you have also become addicted to alcohol as a means to cope with the stressors of abuse, there are many addiction treatment programs designed to help you. Additionally, there are also gender-specific treatment programs to help make you feel safe if that’s what you need. Programs like CoDA (Codependents’ Anonymous) are also great resources for partners of alcoholics. Codependency was actually a term that was made for spouses or loved ones of alcoholics! These programs continue to help people find healthy self-relationship and heal from abuse.
The important part is that if you or anyone you know is the victim of domestic abuse, you reach out for help. Remember you’re not alone. Recovery is possible, even if you’re not the person addicted to alcohol. 


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