Aims. The aim of this paper was to examine the association between reporting childhood sexual abuse (CSA) and alcohol abuse in a community sample of women using multivariate analysis which took into account a range of potential confounding variables (such as a family history of alcoholism) and effect modifiers (such as having an alcoholic partner). Design. A two-stage retrospective case-control study was used to investigate the relationship between reporting CSA and alcohol abuse in women. Participants. Seven hundred and ten women randomly selected from the Australian federal electoral rolls. Measurements. The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) was used to measure alcohol abuse. A series of questions based on those developed by Wyatt (1985) were used to ascertain the prevalence of CSA. Findings. The final model showed that the relationship between a history of CSA and alcohol abuse reflected a complex interaction between CSA and a range of other factors in a woman's background. CSA was not by itself a significant predictor of alcohol abuse (OR = 0.61; 95% CI = 0.31-1.20). However, a history of CSA became significant in combination with co-factors which included: having a mother who was perceived as cold and uncaring; having an alcoholic partner; and believing that alcohol is a sexual disinhibitor. Conclusion. This study indicates that CSA alone is not a causative factor in the development of alcohol abuse among women and highlights the importance of examining the family background of women with alcohol problems.