Addiction affects millions of lives each year; not only does the individual who is battling the addiction suffer, but their families often do, as well. In some cases, alcohol and drug addiction can be linked to domestic violence, which can be physical, mental, emotional, or sexual in nature. According to the American Society for Addiction Medicine, substance abuse is present in up to 60% of all intimate partner violence cases in the U.S. Not only that, but the domestic violence itself often facilitates substance abuse in the victim.
It’s a difficult topic to discuss, in part because many victims are in fear for their lives and believe that talking about the abuse they’ve suffered will only garner more violence. However, it’s important to understand the links between domestic abuse and addiction, not just for the victims, but for the abuser as well.
The numbers are staggering: women make up 85% of all intimate abuse victims, and in some cases, they will stay with their abuser because they feel they have nowhere else to go, because they have children with their partner, or because they are in genuine fear for their lives. According to Futures Without Violence, it’s not just about assault.
“On average, more than three women a day are murdered by their intimate partner in the United States. Nearly one in four women in the United States report experiencing violence by a current or from a former spouse or boyfriend at some point in their life.”
Addiction plays a large role in these numbers, as not only do some abusers use drugs and alcohol to excess, the victim is much more likely to abuse a substance as well, in some cases to ease the physical and emotional pain inflicted upon them. It’s important, then, to treat the substance abuse as well as the intimate partner violence. Raising awareness of what constitutes abuse can help thousands of families get the assistance they need.
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What if I’m an abuser?
Some individuals who are abusive to a partner don’t realize it, or they believe that things said and done while under the influence are okay as long as there is an apology afterward. According to the CDC, intimate partner violence is described as “physical, sexual, or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse. This type of violence can occur among heterosexual or same-sex couples and does not require sexual intimacy.”
Abuse does not have to be physical; verbal threats, keeping a partner from leaving the home, and stalking are all considered forms of abuse. If you believe you have been displaying abusive behavior toward a loved one, the first step is admitting that you need help. Put some space between you and your partner and seek assistance from a trained substance abuse counselor, and set up an appointment to meet with a therapist who can help you suss out the reasons behind your behavior. In some cases, it may be helpful to have your partner with you in the session. Real change must start with you.
How do I ask for help if I’m a victim?
Asking for help is never an easy task for a victim of intimate partner violence. There is always an element of fear involved, and sometimes shame, as well. Remember that you do not deserve the abuse, no matter what form it takes, and that it is not your fault. If you feel your life is in immediate danger, get to a safe place as soon as possible or call 911. If you need to talk about the abuse, or if you feel that you’re not sure it is abuse, call the national hotline for intimate partner violence at 1−800−799−7233.
Abuse of any kind can lead to serious psychiatric issues in the victim, including–but not limited to–PTSD. It’s a good idea to seek the services of a therapist who can help you with these issues, which will in turn bring you some peace of mind.
Intimate partner violence can happen to anyone, in any age group, no matter their age or sexual preference. If you believe someone you care about is involved in an abusive relationship, speak up. Let them know they are not alone, and that there is no reason to feel ashamed. Your support will mean more than you know.
- American Society of Addiction Medicine – Intimate Partner Violence and Co-Occurring Substance Abuse/Addiction
- Futures Without Violence – Key Statistics On Domestic Violence
- CDC – Intimate Partner Violence
- Feminist.org – Domestic Violence