How Domestic Violence and Substance Abuse are Linked: Breaking the Cycle | TapGenes
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by Michelle Peterson of

Substance abuse and domestic violence paired together are a dangerous mix that can create long-term issues passed down from parents to children in a dysfunctional household. Substance abuse does not directly cause domestic violence, but it has shown up as a common denominator in domestic violence abusers. Victims of domestic violence also show a higher tendency to turn to substance abuse, whether during the abusive relationship or afterward. Subsequently, children may end up abusing drugs or alcohol later after being exposed to trauma within the home.


The Toll of Domestic Violence

The toll domestic violence can take on its victims is huge. Psychological trauma may manifest immediately or take some time. The intentional use of physical, emotional, psychological, or sexual force by one family member or intimate partner to control another is the manner in which an abuser torments their victim.

Fear and dependency are the main reasons spouses or partners stay with their abusers.  They have been abused, intimidated, and possibly threatened. Sometimes the coping mechanism they choose may be drugs or alcohol to deal with or escape from the pain. This may make it even harder for the victim to leave the abusive relationship.

Domestic violence does not just go away. Instead, it usually increases in frequency and severity over time, in the same way substance abuse would. Children are the most innocent victims at risk in a domestic violence scenario. Growing up in an abusive household can put children at great risk of long-term psychological problems and substance abuse later in life. They then have an increased likelihood of getting involved in some type of abusive relationship as an adult.

What Can Be Done

The most effective option of support is going to have to come from family or friends outside of the domestic violence situation. The abuser and victims are in no position to come up with viable solutions for themselves, especially when substance abuse is involved.  The abused partner and children must be given help, support, and a safe place to stay away from the domestic violence abuser.  Treatment staff need to address any substance abuse issues that the victim may be suffering from along with domestic violence abuse.  Helping the victim feel believed and supported is important to empower them to take an active role in their safety and recovery.

Treatment for the domestic violence abuser may be a more complex endeavor.  Booking the batterer into a rehabilitation center for substance abuse will not end domestic violence tendencies. Abusers often use alcohol or drugs as an excuse or escape from guilt for violent behavior. They will blame the behavior on being inebriated to avoid taking responsibility. Being accountable for their own actions is very important if the domestic violence abuser truly seeks rehabilitation.

Unfortunately, there are more long-term support groups for maintaining sobriety than there are for extended domestic violence care.  And often there is no collaboration between the differing care groups for realistic treatment options that could rehabilitate substance abusing domestic violence batterers.

Specialist support should be sought out by substance abusing victims and batterers to address long-term problems and habits that need to be reversed. Violent behavior and past victimization need to be explored along with substance abuse issues during the recovery process simultaneously. If not, the cycle of domestic violence and substance abuse will not be broken.

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