The Relationship Between Alcoholism and Dating Abuse

“That wasn’t me. I was drunk. That’s not who I am.”

Researchers at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and Florida State University found recently that men and women who have been drinking alcohol are at a greater risk of becoming physically and sexually aggressive with their partners. And while alcohol itself does not cause dating violence, it can aggravate it.

The abuse of alcohol is accompanied by a craving to drink, a loss of control, physical dependence and high tolerance. Alcoholism has little to do with willpower and a lot to do with an uncontrollable need to drink. While genetics play a major role in alcoholism, a person’s environment also affects it.

So why is this disease so easily linked to dating abuse? Why is alcohol use such a significant risk factor?

Given that 18-to-34-year-olds binge drink the most and that two-thirds of high school-age students who drink do so to the point of intoxication, it’s no surprise that teens suffering in an abusive relationship often also see alcohol abuse involved. Over 60 percent of sexual assaults involve alcohol.

For victims, the combination of alcohol abuse and dating violence can lead to addiction as well as other issues like eating disorders, depression and suicidal thoughts. For abusive partners, using alcohol may lead them to become physically violent more quickly, scream, yell or escalate a normal conversation into a violent one. Regardless, alcohol impairs judgment and behavior and  can make an abusive relationship even worse.

By blaming alcohol for their behavior, abusive partners can refute responsibility for their actions or shy away from addressing their addiction. However, intoxication does not alter personality. How a person behaves when they are drunk is a reflection of themselves. If someone is abusive when drunk, it is only a matter of time before they become verbally, emotionally, physically or sexually abusive when they are sober. If you know someone suffering from alcohol addiction, there are plenty of ways to help. Have them call or chat with a peer advocate and learn what you can do to help.