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  • Writer's pictureMike Cotayo

Exploring the Intersectionality of Substance Use and Domestic Violence: A Complex Nexus

Substance use and domestic violence are two interconnected issues that society faces today. To effectively address the problem, it is essential to understand the intersectionality of these factors. In this article, we explore the complex relationship between substance use and domestic violence, shedding light on the diverse experiences and risk factors that contribute to this co-occurring phenomenon.

Substance Use and Domestic Violence: A Cyclical Relationship

The link between substance use and domestic violence has been widely recognized in the literature (Cafferky et al., 2018; Klostermann & Fals-Stewart, 2006). Substance use, including alcohol and drug abuse, has been found to exacerbate the occurrence and severity of domestic violence, while domestic violence can also lead to increased substance use as a coping mechanism (Cafferky et al., 2018; Devries et al., 2014).

According to a study by Cunradi et al. (2012), alcohol and drug abuse increases the risk of intimate partner violence perpetration by lowering inhibitions, impairing judgment, and exacerbating feelings of anger and aggression. Conversely, victims of domestic violence often turn to substances to self-medicate and alleviate emotional pain, resulting in a vicious cycle (Devries et al., 2014).

Intersectionality and Vulnerable Populations

Intersectionality, a concept introduced by Kimberlé Crenshaw (1989), emphasizes the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, and their impact on individuals' experiences. In the context of substance use and domestic violence, intersectionality helps to identify and understand how different social factors can compound the risk of experiencing both issues simultaneously.

Women, in particular, are at a heightened risk for experiencing the intersection of substance use and domestic violence (Gilbert et al., 2015). A study by Testa et al. (2003) found that women with a history of childhood abuse were more likely to use substances and experience intimate partner violence in adulthood. Furthermore, women who use substances are often subjected to greater stigma and discrimination, which may contribute to their vulnerability to domestic violence (Gilbert et al., 2015).

Ethnic and racial minorities may also face an increased risk due to the interplay of cultural, social, and economic factors. For example, a study by Caetano et al. (2008) found that African American and Hispanic couples reported higher rates of both substance use and domestic violence compared to non-Hispanic white couples. Socioeconomic factors such as poverty, housing instability, and limited access to resources may also compound the risk for these populations (Stockman et al., 2015).

LGBTQ+ individuals represent another vulnerable group, with research indicating that they may experience higher rates of both substance use and domestic violence compared to their heterosexual counterparts (Rothman et al., 2012). Discrimination, social isolation, and lack of support may contribute to these increased risks (Blosnich et al., 2014).


The intersectionality of substance use and domestic violence demands a comprehensive and inclusive approach to intervention and prevention efforts. Policies and programs should be tailored to address the unique needs of various populations, taking into account the intersections of gender, race, sexual orientation, and other social factors that contribute to the heightened risk of co-occurring substance use and domestic violence. It is crucial to raise awareness of the complex relationship between these issues and to promote a multidimensional understanding of the factors that influence their intersectionality.

Furthermore, community-based interventions that address the underlying causes of both substance use and domestic violence, such as poverty, housing instability, and social isolation, are essential to breaking the cycle of violence and addiction. By fostering a more inclusive, empathetic, and holistic approach to addressing these interconnected issues, we can pave the way for a safer and healthier society.


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Klostermann, K., & Fals-Stewart, W. (2006). Intimate partner violence and alcohol use: Exploring the role of drinking in partner violence and its implications for intervention. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 11(6), 587-597.

Rothman, E. F., Exner, D., & Baughman, A. L. (2012). The prevalence of sexual assault against people who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual in the United States: A systematic review. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 12(2), 55–66.

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Testa, M., Livingston, J. A., & Leonard, K. E. (2003). Women's substance use and experiences of intimate partner violence: A longitudinal investigation among a community sample. Addictive Behaviors, 28(9), 1649-1664.

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