Alcohol Use And Crime Victimization

Alcohol use raises the likelihood that the drinker will be a victim of violent crime. Substantial percentages of homicide, assault, and robbery victims were drinking just before their victimization. Medical examiners have done a significant number of homicide studies by running toxicological tests of the body fluids of homicide victims. Separate reviews by Greenberg (1981) and by Murdoch, Pihl, and Ross (1990) found that the percentage of homicide victims who had been drinking ranges widely, but is usually about 50 percent. Goodman et al. (1986) tested the alcohol levels of several thousand homicide victims; they found that 46 percent of the victims had consumed alcohol in the period before being killed, and three of ten victims had alcohol levels beyond the legal intoxication level.

Roizen (1993) examined studies of alcohol use by robbery and rape victims. The percentage who had been drinking before their victimization ranged widely—from 12 to 16 percent for robbery victims and from 6 to 36 percent for rape victims. Abbey (1991) and Muehlenhard and Linton (1987) also found in their studies of date rape that both offenders and victims had commonly been drinking. Abbey suggested that drinking by the offender or by the victim contributes to rape by the impaired communication and misperception that results from alcohol's effects on cognitive ability (among other contributing factors). Males who have been drinking, for example, may mistakenly attribute sexual intent to their date.

Alcohol may increase the risk that the drinker will be a crime victim because of effects that alcohol has on judgment and demeanor. Someone who has been drinking may take risks that might not be taken when sober, such as walking in a dangerous area of a city at night. Alcohol also causes some individuals to be loud and verbally aggressive. Such demeanor can be offensive and might sometimes precipitate physical attack.

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