Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 93–106 | Cite as

Substance Use and Abused Women's Utilization of the Police



There is extensive research that addresses the role of police in responding to domestic violence calls. However, there has been relatively little attention to the factors that impel women to call the police during an incident of abuse. This paper investigates the role of alcohol and drugs in influencing women's utilization of the police for misdemeanor-level incidents of abuse, and is based on interview data from 419 abused women. Results indicate that women are significantly more likely to call the police when male partners use both alcohol and drugs, and when they are frequently drunk. Offender drunkenness, rather than the quantity or frequency of alcohol consumption, has a significant escalation effect on police utilization by victims of abuse.

alcohol spouse abuse police utilization 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Abel, E. M., and Suh, E. K. (1987). Use of police services by battered women. Soc. Work 32: 526-528.Google Scholar
  2. Bachman, R., and Coker, A. L. (1995). Police involvement in domestic violence: The interactive effects of victim injury, offender's history of violence, and race. Violence Vict. 10: 91-106.Google Scholar
  3. Barnett, O. W., and Fagan, R. W. (1993). Alcohol use in male spouse abusers and their female partners. J. Fam. Violence 8: 1-25.Google Scholar
  4. Bennett, L. W. (1995). Substance abuse and the domestic assault of women. Soc. Work 40: 760-771.Google Scholar
  5. Berk, R. A., Berk, S. F., Newton, P. J., and Loseke, D. R. (1984). Cops on call: Summoning the police to the scene of spousal violence. Law Soc. Rev. 18: 479-498.Google Scholar
  6. Bowker, L. H. (1982). Police services to battered women: Bad or not so bad? Crim. Justice Behav. 9: 476-494Google Scholar
  7. Bowker, L. H. (1984). Battered wives and the police: A national study of usage and effectiveness. Police Stud. 7: 84-93.Google Scholar
  8. Brookoff, D., O'Brien, K. K., Cook, C. S., Thompson, T. D., and Williams, C. (1997). Characteristics of participants in domestic violence. JAMA 277: 1369-1373.Google Scholar
  9. Bushman, B. J., and Cooper, H. M. (1990). Effects of alcohol on human aggression: An integrative research review. Psychol. Bull. 107: 341-354.Google Scholar
  10. Collins, J. J., and Schlenger, W. E. (1988). Acute and chronic effects of alcohol use on violence. J. Stud. Alcohol 49: 516-521.Google Scholar
  11. Conaway, M. R., and Lohr, S. L. (1994). A longitudinal analysis of factors associated with reporting violent crimes to the police. J. Quantit. Criminol. 10: 23-39Google Scholar
  12. Downs, W. R., Miller, B. A., and Gondoli, D. M. (1987). Childhood experiences of parental physical violence for alcoholic women as compared with a randomly selected household sample of women. Violence Vict. 2: 225-240.Google Scholar
  13. Downs, W. R., Miller, B. A., and Panek, D. D. (1993). Differential patterns of partner-to-woman violence: A comparison of samples of community, alcohol-abusing, and battered women. J. Fami. Violence 8: 113-135Google Scholar
  14. Downs, W. R., Miller, B. A., Testa, M., and Panek, D. (1992). Long-term effects of parent-to-child violence for women. J. Interpers. Violence 7: 365-382.Google Scholar
  15. Finn, P. R., Sharkansky, E. J., Viken, R., West, T. L., Sandy, J., and Bufferd, G. M. (1997). Heterogeneity in the families of sons of alcoholics: The impact of familial vulnerability type on offspring characteristics. J. Abnorm. Psychol. 106: 26-36.Google Scholar
  16. Flanzer, J. P. (1993). Alcohol and other drugs are key causal agents in violence. In Gelles, R. J., and Loseke, D. R. (Eds.), Current Controversies on Family Violence Sage, Newbury Park, CA, pp. 171-181.Google Scholar
  17. Gelles, R. J. (1972). The Violent Home, Sage, Beverly Hills, CAGoogle Scholar
  18. Gelles, R. J. (1993). Alcohol and other drugs are associated with violence—they are not its cause. In Gelles, R. J., and Loeseke, D. R. (Eds.), Current Controversies on Family Violence, Sage, Newbury Park, CA, pp. 182-196.Google Scholar
  19. Gondolf, E. W. (1988). Who are those guys? Toward a behavioral typology of batterers. Violence Vic. 3: 187-203Google Scholar
  20. Gondolf, E. W. (1995). Alcohol abuse, wife assault, and power needs. Soc. Serv. Rev. 69: 274-284Google Scholar
  21. Gondolf, E., Fisher, E., and McFerron, J. (1990). The helpseeking behavior of battered women: An analysis of 6000 shelter interviews. In Viano, E. C. (ed.), The Victimology Handbook, Garland Press, New York, pp. 113-127.Google Scholar
  22. Gordon, L. (1988). Heroes of Their Own Lives, Penguin Press, New York.Google Scholar
  23. Hayashino, D. S., Wurtele, S. K., and Klebe, K. J. (1995). Child molesters: An examination of cognitive factors. J. Interpersonal Viol. 10: 106-116Google Scholar
  24. Hayes, H. R., and Emshoff, J. G. (1993). Substance abuse and family violence. In Hampton, R. L., Gullotta, T. P., Adams, G. R., Potter, E. H., and Weissberg, R. P. (Eds.), Family Violence: Prevention and Treatment, Sage, Newbury Park, CA, pp. 281-309.Google Scholar
  25. Hirschel, J. D., Hutchison, I. W., Dean, C.W., Kelley, J. K., and Pesackis, C. E. (1991). Charlotte Spouse Assault Replication Project: Final Report, National Institute of Justice, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  26. Hotaling, G. T., and Sugarman, D. B. (1990). A risk marker analysis of assaulted wives. J. Fam. Violence 5: 1-13.Google Scholar
  27. Hutchison, I. W. (1999). The effect of children's presence on alcohol use by spouse abusers and their victims. Fam. Relat. 48: 57-65.Google Scholar
  28. Hutchison, I. W., and Hirschel, J. D. (1994). Family violence and police utilization. Violence Vict. 9: 299-313.Google Scholar
  29. Hutchison, I. W., and Hirschel, J. D. (1996). Spouse abuse: Do children make a difference? Paper presented at the American Society of Criminology, Chicago, ILGoogle Scholar
  30. Hutchison, I. W., and Hirschel, J. D. (1998). Abused women: Help-seeking strategies and police utilization. Violence Against Women 4: 436-456.Google Scholar
  31. Hutchison, I. W., and Hirschel, J. D. (2001). The effects of children's presence on woman abuse. Violence Vict. 16: 3-17.Google Scholar
  32. Ireland, T., and Widom, C. S. (1994). Childhood victimization and risk for alcohol and drug arrests. Int. J. Addict. 29: 235-274.Google Scholar
  33. Johnson, I. M. (1990). A loglinear analysis of wives' decisions to call the police in domestic-violence disputes. J. Crim. Justice 18: 147-159Google Scholar
  34. Jones, D. A., and Belknap, J. (1996). Police responses to battering in a pro-arrest jurisdiction. Paper presented at the annual meetings of the American Society of Criminology, Chicago, ILGoogle Scholar
  35. Kantor, G. K., and Asdigian, N. (1997). When women are under the influence: Does drinking or drug use by women provoke beatings by men? In Galanter, M. (ed.), Recent Developments in Alcoholism, Vol. 13: Alcohol and Violence, Plenum, New York, pp. 315-336.Google Scholar
  36. Kantor, G. K., and Straus, M. A. (1989). Substance abuse as a precipitant of wife abuse victimizations. Am. J. Drug Alcohol Abuse 15: 173-189Google Scholar
  37. Kantor, G. K., and Straus, M. A. (1990a). Response of victims and the police to assaults on wives. In Straus, M. A., and Gelles, R. A. (Eds.), Physical Violence in American Families, Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, pp. 473-487.Google Scholar
  38. Kantor, G., and Straus, M. (1990b). The “Drunken Bum” theory of wife beating. In Straus, M. A., and Gelles, R. J. (Eds.), Physical Violence in American Families, Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, pp. 203-234.Google Scholar
  39. Kerig, P. K. (1998). Gender and appraisals as mediators of adjustment in children exposed to interparental violence. J. Fam. Violence 13: 345-363.Google Scholar
  40. Labell, L. S. (1979). Wife abuse: A sociological study of battered women and their mates. Victimol. Int. J. 4: 258-267.Google Scholar
  41. Langan, P., and Innes, C. (1986). U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report: Preventing Domestic Violence Against Women, U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  42. Leonard, K. E., Bromet, E. J., Parkinson, D. K., Day, N. L., and Ryan, C. M. (1985). Patterns of alcohol use and physically aggressive behavior in men. J. Stud. Alcohol 46: 279-282Google Scholar
  43. Leonard, K., Dunn, N. J., and Jacob, T. (1983). Drinking problems of alcoholics: Correspondence between self and spouse reports. Addict. Behav. 8: 369-373.Google Scholar
  44. Leonard, K. E., and Jacob, T. (1988). Alcohol, alcoholism, and family violence. In Van Hasselt, V. B., Morrison, R. L., Bellack, A. S., and Hersen, M. (Eds.), Handbook of Family Violence, Plenum, New York, pp. 383-406.Google Scholar
  45. Maisto, S. A., and O'Farrell, T. J. (1985). Comment on the validity of Watson et al.'s ‘Do alcoholics give valid self-reports?’ J. Stud. Alcohol 46: 447-450Google Scholar
  46. Martin, S. E. (ed.).(1993). Alcohol and Interpersonal Violence: Fostering Multidisciplinary Perspectives, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Rockville, MDGoogle Scholar
  47. Midanik, L. T. (1988). Validity of self-reported alcohol use: A literature review and assessment. Br. J. Addict. 83: 1019-1029.Google Scholar
  48. Miller, B. A., Downs, W. R., and Gondoli, D. M. (1989). Spousal violence among alcoholic women as compared to a random household sample of women. J. Stud. Alcohol 50: 533-540.Google Scholar
  49. Miller, B. A., Downs, W. R., and Testa, M. (1993). Interrelationships between victimization experiences and women's alcohol use. J. Stud. Alcohol 11: 109-117.Google Scholar
  50. Miller, B. A., Nochajski, T. H., Leonard, K. E., Blane, H. T., Gondoli, D. M., and Bowers, P. M. (1990). Spousal violence and alcohol/drug problems among parolees and their spouses. Women Crim. Justice 1: 55-71.Google Scholar
  51. Morgenstern, J., Langenbucher, J., Labouvie, E., and Miller, K. J. (1997). The comorbidity of alcoholism and personality disorders in a clinical population: Prevalence rates and relation to alcohol typology variables. J. Abnorm. Psychol. 106: 74-84.Google Scholar
  52. Pernanen, K. (1991). Alcohol in Human Violence, Guilford Press, New York.Google Scholar
  53. Reiss, A. J., and Roth, J. A. (Eds.).(1993). Understanding and Preventing Violence, National Academy Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  54. Russell, D. (1984). Sexual Exploitation, Sage, Beverly Hills, CAGoogle Scholar
  55. Saunders, D. G. (1992). A typology of men who batter: Three types derived from cluster analysis. Am. J. Orthopsychiatry 62: 264-275.Google Scholar
  56. Schulman, M. (1979). A Survey of Spousal Violence Against Women in Kentucky, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  57. Selzer, M. (1971). The Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test: The quest for a new diagnostic instrument. Am. J. Psychiatry 127: 1653-1658.Google Scholar
  58. Shields, N. M., McCall, G. J., and Hanneke, C. R. (1988). Patterns of family and non-family violence: Violent husbands and violent men. Violence Vict. 3: 83-98.Google Scholar
  59. Stith, S. M., and Farley, S. C. (1993). A predictive model of male spousal violence. J. Fam. Violence 8: 183-201.Google Scholar
  60. Straus, M. A., and Gelles, R. J. (1990). Physical Violence in American Families, Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick.Google Scholar
  61. Telch, C. F., and Lindquist, C. U. (1984). Violent versus non-violent couples: A comparison of patterns. Psychotherapy 2: 242-248.Google Scholar
  62. Van Hasselt, V. B., Morrison, R. L., and Bellack, A. S. (1985). Alcohol use in wife abusers and their spouses. Addict. Behav. 10: 127-135.Google Scholar
  63. Watson, C. G. (1985). More reasons for a moratorium: A reply to Maisto and O'Farrell. J. Stud. Alcohol 46: 450-453.Google Scholar
  64. Watson, C. G., Tilleskjor, C., Hoodecheck-Schow, E., Pucel, J., and Jacobs, L. (1984). Do alcoholics give valid self-reports? J. Stud. Alcohol 45: 344-348Google Scholar
  65. Widom, C. S. (1989). The cycle of violence. Science 244: 160-166.Google Scholar
  66. Widom, C. S., Ireland, T., and Glynn, P. J. (1995). Alcohol abuse in abused and neglected children followed-up: Are they at increased risk? J. Stud. Alcohol 13: 207-217.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and Social WorkNorthern Michigan UniversityUSA

Personalised recommendations