Millions of Americans are Victims of Domestic Violence at the Hands of a Partner.
Domestic violence and substance abuse share similar characteristics, according to a 2005 psychiatry journal article. Both forms of abuse involve loss of control, ongoing negative behaviors despite awareness of the consequences, excessive waste of time, blame shifting, denial, intensification of problem and promise of behavioral changes.
Women make up 85 percent of domestic abuse victims, and three out of four batterers are male, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine.
Because of cultural norms, society holds intoxicated women accountable for being victims of domestic abuse, according to studies. The stigma surrounding women who use substances also desensitizes the gravity of sexual abuse against them.
The Cycle of Abuse
Drug and alcohol abuse may act as a catalyst for domestic violence.
According to ASAM, 40 to 60 percent of domestic abuse cases involve substance abuse. More than 20 percent of male abusers admit to engaging in substance use before their involvement in domestic violence. Physical abuse is 11 times more likely to occur on days when the perpetrator engaged in alcohol or drug abuse.
According to the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence of New York, 92 percent of male batterers use substances the day they assault their female partners, and 30 to 40 percent of male batterers consume alcohol while assaulting their partners.
Alcohol is associated with domestic violence in men, but there isn’t enough evidence to prove that alcohol causes the violence. Researchers have argued that heavy drinking might be an excuse for violent behaviors. A majority of people who use substances do not engage in domestic violence; however, a large number of batterers abuse substances.
Domestic abuse among spouses may result in the development of substance use disorders, per ASAM. Abusive men tend to pressure their female partners to use drugs and alcohol. In fact, women in abusive relationships have more incidences of substance abuse than women in non-abusive relationships. Similarly, expectant mothers in abusive relationships are more likely to use substances of abuse before and during pregnancy than pregnant women who aren’t exposed to violence.
Women who are in abusive relationships are also less likely to seek help for substance use disorders. In some cases, the batterers may threaten to hurt or kill their partners if they seek medical help.
Treatment for Domestic Abuse Cases
Domestic violence should be treated as a co-occurring disorder during substance abuse treatment. To provide effective treatment, health providers should understand the root of the violence and deliver sufficient therapy for the victim.
First aid providers need to ensure that victims are safe and that they have access to authorities and shelters in their community. The victims can then receive co-occurring treatment for substance abuse and domestic violence. Treatment may include detoxing from a substance, counseling sessions and support groups.
Batterers require a specific approach to avoid fueling their anger toward their victim. An effective way to deal with a violent abuser includes providing help immediately after the attack. The batterer typically associates the period after an episode of domestic abuse with guilt and promises of change — a prime time for them to be receptive to treatment.
Treating substance abuse and domestic violence simultaneously typically produces the best results. One study revealed that treating a person’s alcohol disorder decreased their violent tendencies. Before alcohol abuse treatment, 56 percent of male study participants admitted to being violent. Only 25 percent were violent a year after they started treatment.
Health care professionals should understand the implications of substance abuse and domestic violence on the couple’s children and family. The goal of treatment is to provide batterers and victims with the care that they need to resume a healthy and substance-free life.
Zilberman, M.L. & Blume, S.B. (2005, October). Domestic violence, alcohol and substance abuse. Retrieved from http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1516-44462005000600004
Soper, R. G. (2014, October 6). Intimate Partner Violence and Co-Occurring Substance Abuse/Addiction. Retrieved from http://www.asam.org/magazine/read/article/2014/10/06/intimate-partner-violence-and-co-occurring-substance-abuse-addiction
Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence. (n.d.). Understanding Domestic Abusers. Retrieved from http://www.opdv.ny.gov/professionals/abusers/excuse2.html
Dawgert, S. (2009). Substance Use and Sexual Violence. Retrieved from http://www.ncdsv.org/images/PCAR_SubUseAndSVBldgPrevAndIntervenResp_2009.pdf