What Are the Linkages between Domestic Violence & Substance Abuse?

Does alcohol or substance abuse cause domestic violence?

There are many people who use alcohol and drugs but do not abuse others. Domestic violence is caused by an abusive partner’s need to exert power and control, not by substance abuse. Abusive partners may use drugs or alcohol as an excuse for their behavior, but substance abuse does not cause domestic violence. 

Will treating the substance abuse stop the domestic violence?

No, treating substance abuse alone does not stop domestic violence. Abusive partners may blame alcohol or drugs for their behavior, but the absence of alcohol or drugs does not stop domestic violence.

Depending on the situation, it may change the intensity or frequency of the abuse, but it will not address the underlying issues of power and control that cause domestic violence.

Will treating the survivor’s substance abuse stop the domestic violence?

No one ever deserves to be abused, whether they are using substances or not. Substance abuse is no excuse for domestic violence.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and substance abuse, we encourage you to to reach out to WIT’s LifeLine (215.751.1111) for supportive telephone counseling or the 24/7 Philadelphia Domestic Violence Hotline (1.866.723.3014) for crisis counseling.

What causes someone to turn to substance abuse? 

Someone who has experienced trauma – including trauma from physical, sexual, or emotional abuse - may use substances to cope with their trauma.

If they are in an abusive relationship, they may use substances in order to please or appease their abusive partner, or they may be forced to use substances by their abusive partner.

Can substance abuse compromise safety?

Yes, if someone is experiencing domestic violence, substance abuse can compromise their safety.

  • It may prevent them from accurately assessing the level of danger posed by an abusive partner.
  • Under the influence, they may feel invulnerable and have a sense of increased power.
  • Substance abuse can impair their judgment and thought processes.
  • It may make it difficult for them to create and remember their safety plan.