Publications & Reports

Experiences of trauma and alcohol and other drug use by domestic, family, and sexual violence offenders: A review of 6 months of sentencing remarks from the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory, Australia

Clifford S, Wright CJC, Livingston M, Smith JA, Griffiths KE, Miller PG


Background: The Northern Territory (NT) has the highest rates of domestic, family and sexual violence (DFSV) in Australia. Although we know that alcohol and other drug (AOD) use and trauma both contribute to DFSV in the NT, some specifics remain unknown. This paper aims to (a) describe the extent of AOD involvement in criminally serious DFSV, (b) describe the volume of trauma experienced by convicted criminally serious DFSV offenders, and © qualitatively explore the judicial recognition of the intersections between alcohol and trauma. To do this we reviewed Judicial Sentencing Remarks (JSRs) from the Supreme Court of the NT. Methods: A content analysis of all DFSV JSRs from July to Dec 2020 was undertaken (n = 64). A structured coding instrument was developed to extract quantitative and qualitative variables through repeated reviews by multiple authors. Descriptive statistics regarding demographics, number of significant traumatic events experienced, and AOD involvement were generated. The qualitative data from which these statistics were generated was used to explore the interplay between trauma and AOD involvement. Results: The majority of offenders had experienced at least one form of trauma. The social determinants of health underpinned a significant amount of this trauma, with housing, poverty, and unemployment frequently described. The use of alcohol as a maladaptive coping mechanism was explicitly recognised. There was frequent judicial recognition of the intersections between trauma, alcohol, and violence, however addressing trauma as an essential part of rehabilitation processes was rare. Conclusion: Trauma and AOD use were widespread among convicted DFSV offenders, with alcohol involved in the majority of incidents. Further research is required to understand the bio-psycho-social factors involved in the relationship between trauma, alcohol, and DFSV. Systematic piloting and trialling of interventions is necessary to determine what approaches are effective for preventing DFSV and reducing recidivism for people with intersecting experiences of trauma and AOD concerns.

Link to publisher’s web site


  • Journal: Journal of Criminology
  • Published: 01/01/2023
  • Volume: Epub ahead of print