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Alcohol, Fear, and Woman Abuse

NCJ Number
Sex Roles Volume: 40 Issue: 11/12 Dated: 1999 Pages: 893-920
Date Published
28 pages

As part of a larger study of the police response to domestic physical abuse, 419 female victims of male offenders participated in interviews for the purpose of determining the role of substance use in inducing fear in victims.


The study found that the male partners of the women in this sample were heavy drinkers compared to a national sample; however, the quantity and frequency of alcohol use was less predictive of threatening or physical assault on female partners than was male drunkenness. Frequent drunkenness correlated significantly with both threats and physical assaults. The victims' fear of their partners was more strongly associated with the frequency of the partners' drunkenness than with the consumption of alcohol itself. Considering the high rates of drinking among men in this sample, it could be argued that the probability of physical abuse in a given drinking episode is relatively low; daily drinking does not predict daily assaults on the partner. Drunken behavior, on the other hand, leads to unpredictable behavior, which is a major contributor to fear. The author advises that although women are powerless over their partner's drinking to the level of intoxication, they need not live in fear if sufficient support is available. The data were collected as part of a spouse assault study in Charlotte, NC. A total of 646 eligible cases entered the study during the data collection phase. All of these were initiated by a call to the police for help due to an abusive incident. Interviews were obtained in 419 of the 646 cases assigned for interview. Various instruments were used to assess drinking of both perpetrators and victims of abuse as well as abuse history. Questions were posed to determine victim's fear in various circumstances. 7 tables, 1 figure, and 85 references

Date Published: January 1, 1999