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Domestic abuse, sexual assault, child abuse and violence

Domestic abuse and sexual assault

Research typically finds that between 25% and 50% of those who perpetrate domestic abuse have been drinking at the time of assault,[1] although in some studies the figure is as high as 73%.[2] However, cases involving severe violence are twice as likely as others to include alcohol,[3] and other research found that the risk of rape was twice as high for attacks involving drinking offenders.[4]

Alcohol misuse is consistently found in a high proportion of those who perpetrate domestic abuse and sexual assault, and it has been found that within intimate relationships where one partner has a problem with alcohol or other drugs, domestic abuse is more likely than not to occur.[5]

However, the impact of alcohol on domestic abuse and sexual assault is complicated. Where alcohol is involved in domestic abuse, much of the evidence suggests that it is not the root cause, but rather a compounding factor, sometimes to a significant extent.[6] Domestic abuse agencies agree that alcohol misuse should not been seen as taking responsibility away from those who commit domestic violence. In the past, domestic abuse organisations have not always focused on the role of alcohol because they primarily work with the victim, although some are now engaging on a policy and practical level with perpetrators and their use of alcohol.

While the majority of domestic abuse is attributable to men, and men are more likely to be recorded as using alcohol,[7] it can impact in a variety of other ways. At times it can fuel child-to-parent violence, and alcohol seems to be particularly significant where both partners use violence.[8]

Child abuse

While parental drinking does not automatically have a harmful impact on children, it can lead to significant emotional and physical abuse, violence and a general lack of care and support.[9] Indeed, alcohol misuse is estimated to be involved in between 25% and 33% of child abuse cases[10] and concern about parental drinking is the number one reason that children contact ChildLine, with over 5,300 children doing so per year – more than 100 per week.[11] The NSPCC view alcohol abuse as a high risk factor, which can increase the risk to children who live in families where domestic abuse is present.[12]

Violent crime

Alcohol is well documented as a risk factor for many aggressive and violent acts; indeed around 60% of murders are committed under the influence of alcohol.[13] This is supported by statistics from the National Probation Service, who advise offenders that ‘alcohol is a factor related to a lot of crimes including many assaults, murder and rape cases (between 50 and 80%)’.[14], [15]


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[1] Bennett L., and Bland P., ‘Substance Abuse and Intimate Partner Violence’, National online recourse centre on violence against women

[2] Gilchrist E., Johnson R., Talriti R., Weston S., Beech A, and Kebbell M (2003)., ‘Domestic Violence offenders: characteristics and offending related needs’, Findings, 217, London, Home Office

[3] McKinney C. et al (2008), ‘Alcohol Availability and Intimate Partner Violence Among US Couples’, Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, Volume 33: Issue 1, pp. 169–176

[4] Brecklin L., Ullman S (January 2002)., ‘The Roles of Victim and Offender Alcohol Use in Sexual Assaults: Results from the National Violence against Women Survey’, Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, Volume 63: Issue 1, pp. 57–63

[5] Galvani S. (May 2010), ‘Supporting families affected by substance use and domestic violence’, The Tilda Goldberg Centre for Social Work and Social Care, University of Bedfordshire, ADFAM, p. 5

[6] Abby A., Zawacki T., O Buck., Clinton M., McAuslan P (2001)., ‘Alcohol and Sexual Assault’, Alcohol Research and Health, Volume 25: Issue 1, pp. 43–51

[7] Hester M (2009)., ‘Who Does What to Whom? Gender and Domestic Violence Perpetrators’, Bristol: University of Bristol in association with the Northern Rock Foundation, p. 15

[8] Ibid

[9] Galvani S (June 2010)., ‘Grasping the Nettle: alcohol and domestic violence’, p. 3

[10] Strategy Unit (2004), ‘Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy for England’, London, Cabinet Office

[11] Belfast Telegraph (May 2014), ‘Jump in child calls over parents’

[12] NSPCC (November 2013), ‘Learning from case reviews where abuse was a key factor’, Briefing

[13] Foran H., and O’Leary K (2008)., ‘Alcohol and intimate partner violence: A meta-analytic review’, p. 1,223

[14] Interventions & Substance Misuse Group: National Offender Management Service, Alcohol Concern, and MP Consultancy (August 2008), 'Alcohol Information Pack for Offenders Under Probation Supervision', in Alcohol Information Pack Offenders' Guide, Alcohol Learning Centre, p. 41

[15] The Institute of Alcohol Studies (September 2015), ‘Alcohol, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault’ <>