Medically Reviewed By: Benjamin Caleb Williams RN, BA, CEN
Written By: Gary Bowers
Article Updated: 01/22/2021
Number of References: 5 Sources
Domestic violence affects millions of Americans each year. While either sex can be the victim of domestic violence, women suffer at extraordinarily disparate rates when you factor in sexual trauma including rape, injuries from domestic violence, and the overall systemic and cultural oppression of women. Men experience domestic violence as well, although the cultural attitude towards men may lead to underreporting of the abuses suffered by men. In this guide, we will be discussing the connection between intimate partner violence and substance abuse, and some ways this cycle may be broken for the wellbeing of all parties.
In This Article:
There’s actually a major lack of understanding as to what actually constitutes domestic violence. Many people assume that only physical harm can be considered domestic violence, but that’s not the case. By definition, domestic violence refers to physical or, the oftentimes overlooked, psychological abuse perpetrated by one person in a relationship or family unit to control the other(s). Specifically, there and many different acts that qualify as domestic violence, including name-calling, actual or threatened physical harm, stalking, intimidation, sexual assault, keeping someone isolated, either physically or emotionally, from their extra-familial relations, preventing someone from leaving the home, and withholding money.
There is a heavy correlation between domestic violence and addiction. Both perpetrators and victims have high rates of substance use disorder or admit to abusing substances in the past year. It can also be very difficult for victims of domestic violence to seek help for their addiction. According to SAMHSA, more than 60% of women seeking drug or alcohol treatment claim their abuser tried to prevent them from going to treatment. Domestic violence and addiction are two complicated issues that often overlap.
Some statistics to help illustrate this fact include:
There are also many misconceptions about addiction which leads to stigmatization – creating hurdles to treatment. A common assumption is that those who are addicted are bad people. These stigmas not only make it difficult to fight the disease of addiction but also difficult to treat victims of domestic violence. With the current medical definition of addiction as a mental illness, it seems more helpful and productive to recognize that a person struggling with substance abuse as someone who is unwell.
This is this can be the case for both the victims and the perpetrators of domestic violence and abuse. Victims often turn to drugs or alcohol to “numb” their pain as a coping mechanism, so the stigma of addiction can sometimes minimize their status as a victim. This should, by no means, excuse the aggressor in cases of domestic violence, but paint a more nuanced picture and identify the areas where change can occur.
The horrors of domestic violence extend to all members of a family unit, including the children. Children who witness domestic violence are at a heightened risk of future substance abuse. We often think of substance abuse in the home as consisting of one or both parents having an alcohol or drug problem, which directly and adversely affects their children. In fact, studies have shown there are profound effects of parental substance abuse on children, often causing severe emotional problems and intimacy issues that persist into adulthood while also making the children more likely to develop alcoholism or drug addictions themselves.
That being said, children can sometimes be the ones who are developing substance abuse problems independently of their parents. This can lead, subsequently, to the children being the perpetrators and instigators in domestic abuse scenarios. Adolescents and teens can develop substance abuse problems for many reasons. Perhaps there are problems in the household that lead them to use recreational substance abuse as a means of escaping these domestic problems. Additionally, many adolescents abuse alcohol or drugs so that they’ll fit in with their peers. And then there are many cases where substance abuse is merely a product of their curiosities.
There’s extensive literature that explores the link between mental health, substance abuse, and violence. There’s also substantial evidence to suggest that people who become violent when under the influence have an elevated risk of suicide, which is the eleventh-leading cause of death in the United States. Moreover, violence and substance abuse must be more common than one would think.
Surveys have found that up to 75% of all people who receive treatment for substance abuse have had experiences involving violent behaviors while they were under the influence. There’s also a relationship with the level of violence displayed in behavior and the frequency of thoughts of suicide; individuals seeking substance abuse treatment who had committed prior offenses of rape and other severe, violent crimes reported experiencing far more frequent thoughts of suicide than individuals who committed less violent offenses.
Drug detox centers that specialize in areas that affect victims of domestic violence are ready to help. If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, there are several points to consider when choosing a detox center. For the purpose of this article, we will focus on women’s needs in detox centers. However, many of the programs we’ll cover would apply to men who are victims of domestic violence and are also seeing recovery.
Detox can be so much more than just the act of removing drugs from the body. Detox facilities will offer a wide range of therapy options. There is no single way to treat substance use, and domestic violence can complicate treatment. Recovery can begin by approaching the underlying causes of addiction and the associated thoughts, patterns, and beliefs associated with addiction and domestic violence.
Some of the types of therapy you can expect in detox treatment facilities would include:
It’s important to remember that you are not alone! Substance use disorder and domestic violence can make us feel alone, isolated, and helpless but there are people in this world who are ready and willing to help. Many advocates are themselves survivors and people in recovery. Here are some resources that may help you on your journey to recovery:
It’s never too late to get help, and detox centers can be the beginning of a new future for victims of domestic violence and substance abuse. When substance use disorder coincides with domestic violence, it has the devastating power to negatively impact families and the community for generations. There are detox centers that can help break this cycle. Safely and effectively removing drugs from the body is the first step towards recovery, and remember; recovery is ALWAYS possible!
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