Substance Abuse and Domestic Violence: Linking the Two

Substance abuse and domestic violence connect in a number of ways. The two can affect the abuser, the victim, and anyone else within the home. It is important to know the risks that come with being an abuser or victim of domestic violence so that treatment can be provided, limiting their detrimental effects. If you or someone you know has been a victim of domestic violence or struggles with anger management, here are a few things you should know about the link between domestic violence and substance abuse.

Substance Abuse and Partner Abuse

If you were to look at a substance abuse intervention program, you’ll find that about half of the men have been abusive toward a partner. If you look at a batterer intervention program, you would find that about half the men abuse substances. When domestic violence is fueled by alcohol or other substances, the victims are much more likely to be injured more frequently and more severely.

Of course, this connection is not as simple as one causing the other. Many different factors contribute to the number of men who abuse their partners including personal history, economic status, personality issues, and mental health. Substance abuse in a batterer is often more of a symptom than a cause. Therapy and specialized programs for batterers are great ways to help manage these behaviors.

Victims of Domestic Violence and Substance Abuse

Women who have suffered abuse at the hands of a partner are 15 times more likely to start abusing alcohol than someone who has never been a victim of domestic violence. They are also nine times more likely to use drugs. When looking at statistics of female alcoholics, many will report some form of abuse including childhood and domestic trauma.

As with many people in negative circumstances, substance abuse becomes a form of escapism, allowing the victim to temporarily forget or dull the memory of their abuse. The best way to counteract this risk is to seek treatment from a professional. Proper treatment will teach a victim of domestic violence to cope with their trauma without the aid of substances.

Children of Domestically Violent Partners and Substance Abuse

Even if a child is not abused, witnessing the violence in their home has a number of mental and emotional effects. When a child watches their mother being abused, they become very stressed, anxious, and fearful. They live in constant fear of another attack and can develop a number of mental health disorders as a result.

They will also experience a lack of nurturing, leaving them starved for love and attention. A mother that is busy trying to stay unbroken and alive does not have the energy to tend to her child’s emotional needs. As these children age, they experience problems in school and may begin exhibiting harmful behaviors as a result of internalized emotions and an inability to cope with them. As teens and adults, these harmful behaviors can all too easily become substance abuse.

Trauma of any kind often results in substance abuse. Domestic violence is no different. If you or someone you know is in a harmful living situation, it is important that they get out as soon as possible, receive proper treatment, and get back on their feet. With the help of loved ones as well as trained professionals, victims of domestic violence can recover without succumbing to substance abuse.

Need Help?

If you or someone you love is in immediate danger, please call 911.

For crisis and counseling services, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

For more resources on domestic violence, visit our Resources Page.


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