The Domestic Violence and Substance Abuse Link
The Domestic Violence and Substance Abuse Link How Do We Fix It?
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The Futures Without Violence Association defines intimate partner violence, or domestic violence, as “a pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors that may include inflicted physical injury, psychological abuse, sexual assault, progressive social isolation, stalking, deprivation, intimidation, and threats. These behaviors are perpetrated by someone who is, was, or wishes to be involved in an intimate or dating relationship with an adult or adolescent, and one aimed at establishing control by one partner over the other.”
The link between domestic violence and substance abuse has been well documented through health care facilities. Not all substance abusers are perpetrators of domestic violence, but a larger percentage of domestic violence batterers are alcoholics or drug users. Substance abuse is not just a problem for the batterer. Many victims are found to also abuse drugs or alcohol, whether from coercion from their abuser or as an outlet to cope with trauma or pain.
Perpetrators of domestic violence who also use drugs or alcohol are more likely to inflict more damage on those they abuse. The drugs and alcohol play a facilitation role in the abuse and are often used as an excuse by the abuser for what they have done. According to a Department of Justice study on inmates incarcerated for domestic violence, more than half of them were abusing drugs, alcohol, or both at the time of the incident.
The victims of domestic violence who are also substance abusers usually abuse drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism. This can prolong their abuse in a domestic violence situation because it may make it physically or mentally harder for them to leave their abuser. They may not have the physical strength to leave, or the mental fortitude for fear of getting arrested for substance abuse.
To make matters worse, children in these families are often witness to or victims of the domestic violence happening in their homes. The trauma that this situation causes can stay with children through adulthood, often causing them to become involved in unhealthy and abusive relationships of their own or facilitating substance abuse problems down the road. The children in domestic violence families have a potential to become the abuser or the abused as an adult, and the vicious circle continues.
Treatment for victims of who are also substance abusers needs to be multi-faceted. They need to be involved in a program where they are secure and safe from their abuser first. They will need individualized therapy for addiction which addresses the root of their substance abuse, without punishment or judgment. Therapy for the emotional and physical trauma that they suffered is another key component. Life skills should also be addressed in order to offer proper guidance for life after rehab. They will need to know how to take care of and nurture any children they have or offer them counseling, and be able to form healthy relationships with others to stay on the road to recovery.
Domestic violence batterers who are substance abusers are more difficult to rehabilitate. The substance addictions need to be addressed first, then anger management therapy will be important. Both aspects need to be applied, along with counseling on relationship behaviors and self esteem issues. Many perpetrators blame the victim, the victim’s behavior or addictions, or their own addictions for the reason that they are violent. Full personal responsibility for their own actions must be gained in order to change behaviors for good.
The majority of the time close family or friends have to force help on individuals involved in domestic violence, since it tends to be a private crime. It can be done, but needs a lot of follow through on the part of victim and the abuser. The trauma of domestic abuse has to be addressed at the same time as the substance abuse. You can’t just try to fix one without addressing the other. All parties in the household will need help and counseling. It will be a long process but well worth the journey.