The Link Between Substance Abuse and Domestic Violence

Safe Harbor Voice  |  September 1, 2021
The Link Between Substance Abuse and Domestic Violence

Lea en español aquí.

The link between domestic violence and substance abuse

Although the two co-exist, one does not cause the other. According to research, most abusers do not have substance use problems, nor are persons who abuse substances violent.

The volatile combination between domestic abuse and substance abuse is that one deals with the loss of control, while the other deals with demanding and maintaining control.

  • Substance abuse is the loss of control. The person no longer has control over her, or his life. She, or he are controlled by the alcohol, or the chemical(s) in the drug(s).
  • Domestic Violence is a behavior that demands control, or power over a person.

Domestic Violence and Substance Abuse are two separate co-occurring conditions that require treatment, counseling, and therapy. However, in order to seek and receive help, one has to acknowledge that there is a problem. Women are five to eight times more likely than men to be victimized by an intimate partner.

When I was dealing with my own situation of domestic and substance abuse, I realized that my abuser did not acknowledge his drug use as a problem, nor the domestic abuse because he felt that his drug use was limited to social gatherings and because he wasn’t physically hitting me, it didn’t constitute as domestic abuse. Abuse by any other name is still abuse. Someone once told me that you cannot expect change from a machine that is out of order. The keyword is CHANGE. Change requires acknowledgment that something isn’t working properly.

I couldn’t change my situation until I realized that something wasn’t working. I had to take back my power that I was fearfully giving away to my abuser by walking away; choosing me over the abuse. My healing began the day I realized I am worth more than what I’m tolerating.

Intimate partner violence remains a public health concern. When substance use and intimate partner violence co-occur, research suggests that substance use plays a facilitative role by precipitating or exacerbating the violence. I have a relative who abused alcohol, as a result of the drinking, the intimate partner was physically abused. Once the relative obtained treatment to address the alcohol addiction, the intimate partner violence was addressed. Therefore, it is imperative to treat the substance abuse to identify intimate partner violence.

According to research, women who have been abused by an intimate partner are more likely to use or become dependent on substances, as compared to women who have not experienced intimate partner violence.


Tracy Sobers

I am a survivor of domestic abuse.

“I didn’t know that I was being abused because...

I am a survivor of domestic abuse.

“I didn’t know that I was being abused because my definition of abuse looked different. My husband pushed me, but most of my suffering was verbal and psychological. I left my husband to protect our young daughter. Almost immediately I felt the weight of his oppression begin to lift. I could see a difference in my daughter as well. Then he broke into my home and assaulted me in-front of her.

I sought help and was led to Safe Harbor. My daughter and I are in counseling now. I am sorting out the mess that abuse has caused. I am finding my voice and seeking opportunities to grow and better my life as well as my daughter's. She will gauge her self-worth from my own self-worth. I must show her that she deserves the best, by expecting the best for myself.

Many years I suffered in silence. By telling my story and being honest with friends and family, I am taking control of my life again.”

- Beth



When you give to Safe Harbor, 82 cents of every dollar goes directly to our intervention services and prevention initiatives to break the cycle of domestic abuse in the Upstate of South Carolina. 

Donate Now


We are available to provide domestic abuse education and information about Safe Harbor’s services through speaking engagements, trainings, workshops and awareness campaigns.





Safe Harbor Resale Shop operates solely on donations from our generous community. Donations are tax deductible and make a difference in the lives of our clients.  



Your donated furniture can support our clients as they transition out of our programs and start a new life, and can also raise money for Safe Harbor by going to our Resale Shop to be re-sold.



Give us your email address and we will keep you up to date on the latest happenings at Safe Harbor.

Error Message