Intoxication Isn’t an Excuse for Domestic Abuse, Violence

This article is by Mary Fontanazza, an expert on abuse. She explains why intoxication isn’t an excuse for any bad behavior. Of course, this includes domestic abuse and sexual assault.

But people usually try to excuse their bad behavior on their intoxication. Doing so is comforting to perpetrators, victims, and who love them. Yet it’s counter productive. So in the long run, the excuse is very damaging.

Here’s her article.


Summer is here and this means outdoor festivals and concerts, beach parties, picnics, softball, and baseball games. Also backyard bonfires and brat frys where alcohol is often available. And consumed in massive quantities.

Sometimes incidents of domestic abuse, dating violence or sexual assault happen. Especially after a person has been drinking too much.


intoxication isn't an excuseIt is unlikely anyone would say these summer activities cause these problems. But many people believe drinking, particularly excessive drinking, causes such violence.

Most who abuse alcohol do not batter or sexually assault others. There is a link between alcohol and such violence. For example, the victim and/or perpetrator may have been drinking. And one or both may have been drunk. But there is no research to suggest alcohol abuse causes a person to do these things.

It is less painful for victims and their families to think drinking caused the violence. And also that alcohol treatment and sobriety will end it. This also holds true for families and friends of people who perpetrate these acts.

Not believing these myths requires people to do this.

    • intoxication isn't an excuseAcknowledge the perpetrator intentionally did the violence.
    • Acknowledge a family member, intimate partner or friend is a rapist, batterer or pedophile.
    • Abandon their hopes of a future with someone they chose as a partner.
    • Admit their love has not changed the perpetrator’s behavior.
    • Not protect the perpetrator from being held accountable.

Must Dispell Myths

These problems are not due to a loss of control brought on by excessive drinking. These crimes are about gaining and maintaining control. And by using any means, including violence.

Perpetrators often use alcohol to excuse their behavior. They deny personal responsibility. Some may say they did not intend to hurt the other person. Yet at the same time, they claim no memory of the assault. Memory loss and lack of intent are not the same.

Drunk people usually have difficulty performing tasks. Yet battering and sexual assault occur despite a perpetrator’s level of intoxication. This shows they are even more determined and focused.

Learned Behavior

Battering is learned behavior. It’s not the result of substance abuse. Studies show this clearly. People who beat their partners while under the influence of alcohol also beat them when sober. Treatment for alcohol abuse does not “cure” domestic abuse. So both problems must be treated independently.

Alcohol is a one of several risk factors of partner battering or sexual assault. It is often the medium perpetrators use to slip date rape drugs to their victims. Alcohol can lower inhibitions. This makes it easier for a perpetrator to ignore boundaries. Intoxication makes it more difficult for a victim to guard against an attack.

To reduce that risk:

    • Don’t accept drinks from someone you don’t know.intoxication isn't an excuse
    • Never accept a drink in an open container. Nor leave your drink unattended.
    • Try to avoid conflicts or arguments if you or your partner were drinking.
    • Don’t mix sexual decisions with alcohol.
    • When you feel uncomfortable with someone’s drinking, try to leave safely.
    • Don’t go off with people you don’t know.

Intoxication Isn’t an Excuse

    • Posted from, by permission of the author. Slightly edited. Mary Fontanazza is director of advocacy for Safe Harbor of Sheboygan County in Wisconsin.