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Monday, April 17, 2017

The Truth About Substance Abuse and Domestic Violence(Guest Post)

The Truth About Substance Abuse and Domestic Violence

By Michelle Peterson of Recovery Pride (

It’s no secret that substance abuse and domestic violence are correlated. Alcoholics and those who use drugs are more likely to commit spousal abuse than those who don’t. An alarming 61 percent of domestic violence offenders abuse substances and they often blame their explosive behavior on being under the influence. Substance abuse does not cause domestic violence, but because of the strong link between the two, they must be treated simultaneously. Here’s a deeper look on domestic violence, substance abuse, and how to combat both.

Domestic violence and power

As defined by the Department of Justice, domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. It is a common misconception that those who abuse their partners are always heavily intoxicated at the time of battery and they are totally out of control. However, intimate partner violence is a choice, and many times the batterer chooses to assault their partner in an environment that is safe for them, such as at home or out of the public’s eye. Because a batterer’s spurts of violence are so calculated, it is safe to say that those who abuse are very much in control at that moment.

The role of substance abuse

The common denominator among domestic violence cases is the use of drugs and alcohol by one or both participants. It is widely assumed that the one inflicting violence is the one battling substance addiction, however many victims are substance abusers themselves because they turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope. When this is the case, the abusive situation becomes even more dangerous. Female abuse victims are 15 times more likely to abuse alcohol and 9 times more likely to abuse drugs than women who have not been subjected to domestic violence. When under the influence, the victim may be unable to escape the attacker or accurately assess the amount of danger they are in. The use of substances may also thwart any attempts to leave the relationship and look for help because they fear they too may be arrested for criminal substance abuse.

Seeking treatment

The participation in substance abuse and domestic violence can be fatal, if not treated immediately. Unfortunately, many abusers do not seek help because they don’t believe they have a problem. Oftentimes after a rant, the abuser blames the substance for their erratic behavior, then promises their victim that they will never hurt them again. As long as drugs and alcohol are present, the abuse will never stop. Because of the disbelief of the abuser and the crippling fear of the victim, many times treatment isn't sought after unless it is brought on by a run-in with law enforcement officers. In those situations they are remanded to drug rehab and anger management classes.

It is important that the substance abusing batterer receives treatment for both forms of abuse, because once drug rehab is complete, they may still have the underlying psychological impulse to harm their partner. Treatment will help the abuser dig deep into their psyche to uncover where this behavior came from, why they thought it was acceptable and how to cope with the urges. Victims of abuse will find refuge in a treatment center because they will feel safe and heard. It is important for survivors of domestic violence to feel believed and validated in order to encourage participation in problem solving and long term planning.

Those battling with domestic violence and substance abuse are undoubtedly in a hard place. It is difficult for both parties to shine a light on their participation in such acts, but treatment is the only way to start making a change for the better.