Practical Implications of Current Domestic Violence Research: For Law Enforcement, Prosecutors and Judges

Published June 2009

Chapter 8. Intervention Programs

Section 4 — Does alcohol and drug treatment prevent reabuse?

The correlation between alcohol and drug treatment has been confirmed in numerous studies cited previously (also see question referring to perpetrators, "Are they likely to be drug and/or alcohol abusers?"). These studies find substance abuse treatment can be effective in reducing domestic violence. [203] In one such study, for example, researchers found that among 301 alcoholic male partner abusers, of whom 56 percent had physically abused their partners the year before treatment, partner violence significantly decreased for half a year after alcohol treatments but still was not as low as the nonalcoholic control group. Among those patients who remained sober, reabuse dropped to 15 percent, the same as the nonalcoholic control group and half that of treated alcoholics who failed to maintain sobriety. [168] As this study suggests, however, alcohol and drug treatment, in and of itself, may not be sufficient for all abusers. Supporting this is a Massachusetts treatment study of 945 defendants convicted of violating protective orders and subsequently ordered into a program. The study found that those who completed a variety of alcohol and drug treatment programs had higher rates of rearraignment over six years, for any crime or for violations of protective orders, than those who completed batterer intervention programs (57.9 vs. 47.7 percent for any crime, and 21.1 vs. 17.4 percent for violation of protective orders). Furthermore, there was no significant difference in rearraignment rates between those who completed the substance abuse treatment and those who did not. [18]

On the other hand, studies suggest alcohol and drug treatment may be a necessary component of successful intervention to prevent reabuse. The multistate study of four batterer programs found that, among those who completed the program, those who became intoxicated within a three-month period were three times more likely to reassault their partners than those who did not. [84, 85, 88]

Implications for Prosecutors and Judges

Incorporating alcohol and/or drug treatment as a standard component of batterer intervention programs adds to the likelihood of reductions in reabuse among batterers, many of whom abuse alcohol and drugs. Effective treatment should include abstinence testing to assure sobriety and no drug use. (Research basis: Extensive research in both clinical and court settings confirms the correlation between substance abuse and the increased likelihood of reabuse as well as the reduction in reabuse among offenders successfully treated for drug abuse.)

Date Modified: January 19, 2010