What Is the Link Between Substance Use and Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence, also called Intimate Partner Violence, is closely linked to substance use. Where substance use disorders thrive, so does domestic violence.
Domestic violence includes any behavior or action that takes place in the context of an intimate relationship, which creates harm. This can mean physical harm and sexual violence, as well as emotional harm.
Forms of bodily assault like hitting, slapping, and throwing objects are obvious examples of domestic violence. Forced sexual intercourse, as well as emotionally violent behaviors like controlling another person through monitoring or isolating them from friends, family, and help also counts as partner abuse.
Studies on the topic are difficult to conduct due to the known underreporting of domestic abuse. Domestic violence is estimated to affect 1 in 10 women in America.
If you are experiencing domestic violence it’s important to understand that help is available and that it is possible to find support to remove yourself from that situation. If you’re reading this article for yourself, please consider consulting the domestic violence hotline for direct help with your situation.
Understanding Alcohol Addiction and Misuse
Not everyone who uses substances is also violent. Abusers sometimes explain away their behavior as owing to alcohol or substances but that is not a complete understanding of the nature of the problem. It is true, however, that tendencies towards violent expressions of anger are made worse by substances.
Drugs and alcohol distort people’s thinking and bring out tendencies in behavior that are already in place before substances make these tendencies more dangerous and out of control. Alcohol and drugs are disinhibiting, removing the ability to refrain from impulses that we normally wouldn’t yield to. Where there is a pre-existing pattern of violent tendencies and/or a history of having been abused, these patterns are severely aggravated by substance use.
Alcohol Use Disorder is a clinical umbrella term that covers a spectrum of alcohol-related problems. The range is from those who misuse alcohol (drink to excess, to the point of creating health or social consequences) periodically, to those who are chemically dependent on alcohol, to those who have the full disease of alcoholism, which includes serious degradation and damage to the body, mind, and life of the individual.
Generally, alcohol abuse leads towards dependence, and any alcohol use at all tends, in the main, to lead more quickly or more slowly toward the eventual condition of addiction.
Signs that you have an alcohol use disorder or may have one soon are:
- you drink despite negative consequences to your life
- you have cravings and strong urges to drink
- you have withdrawal symptoms such as trembling hands after stopping drinking
- you are losing control over your use, such that you drink more in amount or frequency than you mean to, can’t stop, or can’t stay stopped
- you are “restless, irritable, and discontent” when not drinking, and need to drink to feel normal
What Is the Prevalence of Domestic Violence and Alcohol Addiction?
According to existing studies on the subject, substance abuse is correlated with bringing out dangerous traits, including incidents of intimate partner violence.
A large percentage of those who are violent to their partners also use substances, but not everyone who has a substance use disorder is violent to their partner. Women in the victim role are often also substance users, and women who are abused are more likely to have a substance use disorder than women who are not in an abusive partner relationship.
Men who are violent to their partners are more likely to cause the death of their partner when substance use is also a factor.
What Are the Risk Factors of Alcohol-Related Domestic Violence?
Some factors found to be correlated with alcohol-related domestic violence include:
- Growing up in a violent household
- Poverty, unemployment, financial stress
- Regular use of alcohol to cope with life problems
- Unplanned pregnancy and family problems
- Depression and suicidal ideation
- Anger and hostility
- A previous history of having been physically abused and/or abusing another person
- Lacking empathy, antisocial personality traits, aggression
- Social isolation, disconnection from friends and family
- Frequent conflict in the relationship
- A need for excessive control, jealousy, and possessiveness
What Are the Effects of Domestic Violence on Women?
Domestic violence has immediate and long-term effects on women.
In the immediate term, domestic violence impacts women’s health and well-being. The following are the effects of domestic violence on women:
- Injuries, cuts and bruises
- Broken bones, damaged organs, and other body parts
- Sexual trauma and damage to sexual organs
- Psychological trauma
In the longer term, domestic violence has lasting physical and psychological effects, including:
- Chronic pain
- Sleep disorders
- Immune system problems
- Traumatic brain injury
- Memory problems, problems thinking clearly
- Depression, anxiety, and PTSD
What Are the Signs of Domestic Violence?
Part of the problem with domestic violence is that women fear the repercussions of speaking up to authorities or even friends or family. Abused women have been taught to expect violence from their partners if they do not keep their secrets and have become used to complying to stay safe.
Women also frequently doubt their own experiences, gaslighting and blaming themselves rather than seeing abuse for what it is. This is what it is, and it’s important not to blame the victim, as becoming excessively insecure, dependent, and frightened is part of the pattern rather than something the woman is doing wrong.
Some signs of being in an abusive relationship include:
- You feel controlled by your partner
- Your partner demands that you are always available to them, requiring that you respond immediately to emails, calls, and texts
- Your partner demands sex or pressures you to have sex, or insists that you get pregnant when you don’t want to
- Your partner is physically violent with you, and/or uses threats of physical violence to get their way
- Your partner interferes with, controls, or makes your decisions for you, things like where you spend your money, what you wear, who you see or talk to
- Your partner is jealous even in innocent situations. Your partner frequently accuses you of cheating or flirting
- Your partner has frequent and/or sudden outbursts of anger
- Your partner blames you and makes you responsible for how they feel, especially if they feel jealous or threatened by your independence
- Your partner threatens, intimidates, and blocks you from making a move to free yourself
Villa Kali Ma Can Assist Women With Alcoholism
If you use alcohol regularly and/or in excess, and you are in a situation where domestic violence is at play, your alcohol use is likely playing a role in keeping you trapped in the situation that is causing you harm.
It is important to know that you are not alone with these troubles and that help exists for you.
Many women who come through our doors needing help for their alcoholism or other substance problems are also fleeing unsafe situations and relationships that have been causing them deep harm at many levels of their being.
Villa Kali Ma is a safe place for women needing refuge and help recovering from destructive tendencies and struggles that are hurting them. We offer mental health, trauma healing, and addiction treatment programs that will help you find the strength to rescue yourself from danger.