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Violence Against Women and Substance Abuse

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Are you a victim of domestic violence? Did you know violence against women and men has a strong link to substance abuse?

Substance abuse is involved in 40 to 60 percent of intimate partner violence. In addition, 20 percent of batterers report having engaged in substance use prior to the most severe and recent violence.

In instances of intimate partner violence, abuse is 11 times more likely to occur on days when the abuser has engaged in heavy alcohol or drug use.

These numbers are sobering. However, they point to the fact that while domestic violence is not exclusive to individuals who engage in substance use, there is a strong link.

But, the link goes beyond that. The link also extends to victims of domestic violence. This October, in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, join us as we explore the link between domestic violence and substance abuse.

What Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence goes beyond what gets portrayed in the media. For many people, when they picture domestic violence, this is what they see:

“Johnny arrives home after a long day at work and going to the bar with friends. He has had a bad day.
Johnny is drunk, and he gets mad at Suzy. This leads to Johnny and Suzy arguing, and Johnny hits Suzy.”

This is what the media portrays domestic violence as. Yes, this is domestic violence. However, there are many types of domestic violence, and it does not always involve hitting.

Domestic violence is about power and control. It is a pattern of behavior used to gain the desired power and control.

Domestic violence can be physical, emotional, economic, psychological, and sexual. In addition, to be a victim of domestic violence, you do not need to live with your partner.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is the easiest type of domestic violence to recognize. All of the following actions can get labeled as domestic violence in a physical form:

That last one may shock you a bit; however, just in the United States, domestic violence is responsible for over 1500 deaths a year.

Emotional and Psychological Abuse

Emotional abuse can be more challenging to recognize. With emotional abuse, the signs of abuse are not as obvious. There are no bruises left; however, this type of abuse can have a significant impact on your self-esteem and more.

Emotional and psychological abuse can often look very similar. Both are methods an abuser uses to demean their partner or isolate their partner to gain power and control.

Some of the actions that can constitute psychological and emotional abuse include:

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is also a form of domestic violence. Being in a relationship or married does not take away your right to give consent.

Some of the forms sexual abuse can take include:

Essentially, any sexual activity that is not consensual falls under the category of sexual abuse.

Economic Abuse

This type of abuse is also referred to as financial abuse. This type of abuse is not as well known; however, it is a very effective way for abusers to gain the power and control they desire.

Some actions that can constitute economic abuse include:

Individuals who find themselves in this situation can often struggle to leave because they have no control over finances or money. They get forced to rely on their partner to meet all of their economic needs.

How Often Does Domestic Violence Occur?

Domestic violence occurs more often than you think. Around one in three women and one in ten men are victims of domestic violence.

However, those numbers only account for adults over the age of 18. Teens can also experience domestic violence within their dating relationships.

For many years, domestic violence has been a taboo subject. These were things that people did not talk about.

However, that trend is changing, and there are many ways to seek help now. So why do women or men stay in abusive relationships?

Why Do Victims Stay?

There are many reasons victims of domestic abuse stay in the relationship. From the outside, it can be challenging to understand.

If you are a friend or family member of a victim of domestic violence, it can be tough to watch and know what’s happening but feel you are unable to do anything.

It can also be easy to get angry at your loved one for not leaving. Understanding the reasons people stay can help give you some insight into what is happening.

Fear

It is likely the individual experiencing domestic violence is afraid of the consequences of staying. Has their abuser threatened to take the children?

This is a form of controlling their victim. They live with the fear that if they leave, they will never see their children again.

Has their abuser threatened their life or the life of family members? Victims may feel that if they leave, they will be killed or fear for the lives of family members.

Normalized Abuse

Unfortunately, abuse often becomes a pattern in families. Many victims of domestic violence have grown up in abusive situations or seen a parent be a victim of domestic violence.

For these individuals, it can be challenging to know what a healthy relationship looks like. To them, the abuse is normal.

Shame

There are a couple of reasons that shame can come into play. The first is that an abused individual may struggle to talk about the abuse they are experiencing or have experienced.

They may feel that the problem is them. This leads to the second component of shame. Many abusers will shift blame to their victims.

They will effectively make their victim feel like the abuse is their fault. When a victim of domestic violence feels that way, it can elicit deep feelings of shame.

Intimidation

Victims of domestic violence may not leave because of intimidation. This can include threats of bodily harm.

However, it can also include threats of secrets getting revealed. For example, in LGBTQ relationships, the other partner may threaten to "out" a partner who is not yet out.

Low Self-Esteem

When you get abused for an extended period of time, you start to believe the things your abuser wants you to believe. If your abuser tells you that you're worthless, you believe you're worthless.

If your abuser tells you it's your fault, you believe it's your fault. This low self-esteem can cause victims to believe they deserve this type of treatment.

Lack of Resources

If a victim of domestic violence is financially dependent on their abuser, it can be difficult to leave. If you add in social isolation, it becomes even more difficult.

These individuals may feel they have nowhere to go and no one to turn to. They stay with their abuser because they do not believe they have any other option.

Disability

For victims of domestic violence with disabilities, they may feel they have no options. If they depend on their partner for support to be able to complete activities of daily living, they may not know where to turn.

Like individuals who do not leave because of a lack of resources, individuals with disabilities may stay because they feel they have no options.

Immigration Status

If a victim of domestic violence is undocumented or struggles to speak English, they may stay. For these individuals, the thought of reporting abuse is scary.

They may believe that in reporting the abuse, they are experiencing, they will suffer consequences such as deportation.

Children

Not wanting children to experience a disrupted family is another reason victims of domestic violence may stay. Many parents want their children to grow up with both parents.

They may believe since their partner is not directly harming the children, it's okay. Not recognizing the impact any violence the children are witnessing will have.

They may feel guilty about breaking up the family. In addition, victims of domestic violence may believe they do not have the capability to raise their children.

Love

Abusers can be very charming. If the abuse occurred on a first date or early in a relationship, you would walk away. While there are some warning signs of abuse, they can at times be difficult to recognize.

By the time many victims recognize abuse, they are in love with their abuser. It can become easy to believe promises of change.

"He's getting help; he'll change. We love each other."

It can be challenging to walk away from someone you truly and deeply love. Even if you somewhere deep down, you know that they are not good for you.

Cultural Content

In many cultures, once you get married, you stay married until death. For those who grew up in cultures that frown upon divorce, it can be difficult to leave.

Individuals who are highly religious may feel that it is against their beliefs to leave. Some may believe their partner's control is okay because of their religious beliefs.

Individuals from the Philippines come from a country where there is no divorce.

What Is Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse is defined as the harmful use of any substance for mood-altering purposes. Substances do not need to be illegal to get abused.

Prescriptions and legal substances can get abused. Long-term uses of substances can cause physical and mental disorders.

For those with substance abuse disorders, it is necessary to undergo the appropriate treatment to kick the addiction.

What Is the Link?

There are a few links between domestic violence and substance abuse. Not only are abusers more likely to perpetrate abuse after substance use, but victims of domestic violence are more likely to use substances.

While many studies have been done, the whole reason behind the link between substance abuse and domestic violence is unknown.

Perpetrators of Domestic Violence

Perpetrators of domestic violence will abuse their partner when under the influence of substances and when they are not. However, the use of substances can increase these incidents and make them more violent.

There are many reasons for this. However, at least one of the side effects of substances can contribute towards instances of domestic violence after substance use.

Both drugs and alcohol can cause disinhibition in the user. This causes any suppressed feelings of anger to surface. It also reduces the ability to make judgments and impacts decision-making abilities.

Abusers who are violent when using substances will often blame their violence on the substance.

Teens and Domestic Violence

Did you know that 1 in 11 females and around 1 in 14 males in high school have reported physical violence in dating relationships? On top of that, 1 in 8 females and 1 in 26 male students in high school have reported sexual dating violence.

For individuals who experience domestic violence, it often starts before the age of 18. For women, 26 percent experience some form of violence from a partner before the age of 18. For men, that number is 15 percent.

So what’s the link to substance abuse?

Teens who experience dating violence are more likely than their peers who are not abused to engage in the following behaviors:

For young adults who have experienced dating violence, mental health, and substance use disorders are more likely within six months of the abuse.

Victims of Domestic Violence

Individuals who are abused by their partners are more likely to develop a substance abuse problem or addiction. In addition, in some circumstances, individuals have been coerced into using drugs or alcohol by their partner.

When you look at women who experience domestic violence, substance abuse, and high-risk alcohol use is more common in women that have been victims of domestic violence than those who have not.

Women who are in violent relationships are more likely to use multiple substances prior to pregnancy and during pregnancy as well.

Children Who Witness Domestic Violence

Unfortunately, the link between domestic violence and substance abuse does not stop with the victims. Children exposed to substance abuse experience effects. In addition, children who witness domestic violence also experience effects.

Even if you do not believe your children see what is happening, they often do. Around ten percent of children are exposed to domestic violence annually.

However, 25 percent of children will be exposed to at least one event of domestic violence during their childhood. Children who witness domestic violence are more likely to experience dating violence as teens.

Men who are abuse their partners are also 30 to 60 percent more likely to abuse their children.

Children who experience domestic violence are put at risk even if they are not being physically or mentally abused themselves.

From Victim to Survivor

How do you help yourself or a friend or family member who is a victim of domestic violence? For individuals in abusive relationships, it can be difficult to leave.

However, there is help out there. Here are some steps that can be taken to start shifting from a domestic violence victim to a domestic violence survivor.

Create a Saftey Plan

If you are in a situation where your partner is abusive, you need a safety plan. If you are the friend or family member of someone being abused, you can help them create their safety plan.

A safety plan will help the domestic violence victim have a plan for leaving or a plan for what to do when violence occurs.

You should ensure that a few things are put into the plan. However, be sure that the abuser is not alerted to plans to leave. This can trigger an incident.

Place

If a victim of domestic violence needs to leave home because of an emergency, they need a place to go. In addition, if they are ready to leave, they need a place to go.

Sometimes knowing where to go is the first step in helping victims be able to leave their abuser. Ensure that this is included in any safety plan.

Excuse

What happens if the individual feels threatened? They know they need to leave, but they do not know how to get out.

They need an excuse to leave. Preparing an excuse to leave can help in the heat of the moment.

Code Word

In situations where the victim needs help, they should have a code word. When this word is used with family or friends, it will mobilize them to get help for their loved ones.

Escape Bag

This bag is going to include everything they need when leaving. It will have cash, important documents, keys, toiletries, and clothes.

The bag should be easy to access but stored somewhere that their abuser will not find it. 

Emergency Contacts

Knowing who to contact and when is essential.

These are people that can get called when help is needed.

Join a Support Group

If you are a victim of domestic violence you are not alone. There are support groups available for domestic violence victims. Your local domestic violence resources can point you in the right direction.

Know When to Call 911

As a friend or family member, it can be difficult to not step in when someone you love is getting abused. However, doing so can cause not only worse abuse for the victim, but you could get hurt as well.

Anytime you know abuse is actively occurring, call 911.

End Domestic Violence Against Women and Men

Domestic violence against women and men is significantly linked to substance abuse. If you are a victim of domestic violence you are not alone.

Are you struggling with substance abuse? Restore Detox Center is committed to your unique needs. Contact us today for more information on how we can help.

Sources

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