Relationships Violence and Abuse Common Triggers of Domestic Violence Attacks By Buddy T Buddy T Facebook Twitter Buddy T is an anonymous writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism. Learn about our editorial process Updated on January 13, 2021 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Carly Snyder, MD Medically reviewed by Carly Snyder, MD Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Carly Snyder, MD is a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist who combines traditional psychiatry with integrative medicine-based treatments. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Drug and alcohol use has long been linked to domestic violence, but the exact role of substance abuse plays in triggering violent events is not clear. The general consensus seems to be that alcohol and drug use may act as a catalyst in escalating conflicts into a violent outburst but isn't the actual cause of the behavior. Alcohol can play a part in domestic violence because it can impair the abuser's judgment, reduce inhibition and increase aggression. There have been many studies done on the relationship between alcohol abuse and domestic violence and the prevalence of alcohol abuse during a violent episode has been reported from 25 percent to 80 percent. If you or a loved one are a victim of domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for confidential assistance from trained advocates. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. But there is no scientific evidence indicating a cause-and-effect relationship between substance abuse and intimate partner violence. What Can Trigger Domestic Abuse? What then does trigger violent episodes among intimate partners? What does cause a perpetrator to launch a violent attack? A new approach to researching domestic abusers and their victims may be the key to finding the most common trigger for a violent episode. By listening to actual telephone conversations between perpetrators who have been incarcerated for felony domestic violence (violence that resulted in serious injury) and their victims, researchers have been able to determine exactly what triggered the violent episodes. Julianna Nemeth and other researchers at Ohio State University listened to hours of audio recordings of telephone conversations between male abusers who were in jail and their female victims. The researchers were trying to determine the immediate precursor of the violent episode -- "the one thing that happened right before the violence," she wrote. Accusations of Sexual Infidelity What the researchers found was that violence most often followed an accusation of sexual infidelity made by one or both of the intimate partners. Drug and alcohol use was often involved in these incidents, but not always. Previous research has shown that sexual jealousy played a role in domestic abuse, but the Ohio State scientists were surprised to find that this particular type of jealousy—infidelity accusations—was the trigger that most often initiated the violence. Other studies have found that even when subjects are intoxicated, some still do not become violent or aggressive unless they feel threatened or provoked. Suspicion of infidelity could certainly provoke feelings of being threatened. Other Relationship Stressors "I have worked in domestic violence intervention for many years, but still the findings shocked me," lead author Nemeth wrote. "We never knew that it was the accusation of infidelity that tended to trigger the violence." Along with the accusation of infidelity as the main trigger for a violent outburst, the telephone conversations reveal a variety of other relationship stressors that also contributed to the intimate partner abuse. They include: A long-running dispute about infidelity in nearly every relationship.Chronic drug and alcohol abuse, which escalated arguments into violence.Untreated mental health issues—depression, preoccupation with suicide. If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911. A Red Flag for Violence The Ohio State researchers concluded that counselors and advocates working with domestic abuse victims who are trying to assess how much danger the victim may be in should ask specifically if accusations of sexual infidelity have been discussed by the couple. "It is a red flag that the relationship may be volatile," they wrote. They also suggested that healthcare providers working with abuse victims should also screen for drug and alcohol abuse as well as mental health issues. Get the Help You Need Previous studies have also recommended linking substance abuse and domestic violence services. Although there are different opinions about what role drug and alcohol abuse plays in intimate partner violence, research has shown that providing substance abuse and domestic abuse services together can have a positive impact on ending the abuse. If you or someone you know is it a relationship in which there have been accusations of sexual infidelity and in which there is some form of drug or alcohol abuse, please seek help. There is assistance available in your area. Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Collins, JJ, et al. Issues in the Linkage of Alcohol and Domestic Violence Services. Recent Developments in Alcoholism, Volume 13: Alcoholism and Violence. Accessed 2012. Nemeth, JM, et al. Sexual Infidelity as Trigger: An Events Analysis of Intimate Partner Violence. Journal of Women's Health 29 June 2012. By Buddy T Buddy T is an anonymous writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism. 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