Domestic violence often goes hand in hand with substance use disorder, but you seldom hear anyone talking about it. Couples who find themselves in this situation tend to keep quiet for many different reasons. They can feel guilt over it or even embarrassment.
Just because they aren’t talking about it doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, 40-60% of the time, domestic violence is linked with substance use, and it isn’t just the abuser who can be struggling with a substance use disorder. Victims often turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to deal with the abuse they are facing.
Looking at the Facts
The 2020 statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence include many eye-opening facts on the subject.
- In the United States, 20 people each minute are physically abused by their partner. That equals over 10 million men and women each year who are dealing with domestic violence in one form or another.
- One in nine men and one in four women experience physical violence, intimate sexual violence, stalking that results in injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, fear, a sexually transmitted disease, or are forced to seek help from victim services.
- Medical care is only given to 34% of those injured by their intimate partner.
- Victims of domestic violence are at a higher risk for developing an addiction to drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.
These statistics are not hidden from the public or kept a secret. It is all public knowledge. Movements like #MeToo and others are encouraging victims to come forward, but domestic violence remains highly stigmatized.
Abuse and Addiction
Domestic violence is bad enough all on its own, but this can escalate quickly when it is combined with a substance use disorder. It is a two-way street. Alcohol and drugs can increase domestic violence just as domestic violence can lead to a substance use disorder. As we gather knowledge on both subjects, we learn that turbulent environments can have concerning psychological effects.
Consider how drugs and alcohol are capable of increasing the user’s irritability. For example, alcohol increases violence and aggression while lowering inhibitions. While a sober person wouldn’t dream of hurting those they love, alcohol can bring out the violent tendencies in that same person. As the alcohol increases the user’s confidence, they can react with physical aggression when they find themselves confronted, angered, threatened, or confused. While different substances can have different effects on people, alcohol and cocaine cause similar responses.
Forms of Domestic Violence
Domestic abuse comes in a variety of forms. This includes physical violence, psychological violence, and emotional abuse. Unfortunately, many people don’t recognize violence unless it leaves behind physical proof. In reality, the hidden damage that results from domestic violence can be just as harmful.
Physical violence includes punching, beating, and kicking. It also encompasses sexual abuse and rape as well as physically restraining a person. While these forms are obvious, there are ones that you can’t see. A person may be denied medical care by their abuser, or they could be stopped from going out in public.
Psychological abuse includes manipulation and verbal abuse. The abuser may instill fear in their victim by using intimidation. They will play games with their partner and even go as far as to degrade them.
Gaslighting is a serious problem where the abusive person can make the victim feel like they are the disloyal partner in the relationship. They make them question why they are afraid. The victim may begin to believe they are the one with the problem. The abuser can also minimize the violence that is occurring to make the victim wonder if they are overreacting. They may even try accusing the victim of controlling them and causing stress with the way they keep asking questions and trying to talk about the violence.
A substance use disorder already makes people possessive and controlling. When feelings of distrust are added in, it can quickly escalate to anger and violence. The result is a volatile situation.
Emotional abuse is a series of constant criticism and threats to the victim, but it can also include stalking, jealousy, and possessiveness. The victim can be isolated from family and friends, and the abuser will dictate what they can do or wear. The abuser often controls the finances in order to leave the victim feeling trapped and helpless. If the victim tries to stand up to their partner, the abuser will use embarrassment, name-calling, and humiliation to stay in control.
Why People Keep Quiet
After reading all of this, you might wonder why anyone would stay silent. Intimate partner violence (IPV) that is combined with substance use disorder can be very hard to get away from. It is even less likely that either partner will escape if both people have a substance use issue. This is due to the codependency that develops. One, or both, will feel that they need their partner, regardless of the abuse. This addiction to another person creates a false sense of stability. Both people can feel secure, but they are draining themselves of their self-worth.
Victims of an abusive relationship feel loyalty to their partner. After all, this is supposed to be the love of their life. This loyalty keeps them from asking for help, calling the authorities, or leaving. They don’t want to make their partner look bad in front of others. Instead, they try to keep some sort of peace in the relationship. If they have children, there is the added fear of losing the kids. A parent will avoid getting the authorities involved for fear of having their children taken from their home.
Some victims sympathize with their abuser. This is often a result of years of manipulation and mental conditioning. They no longer see the danger. If they do understand the danger, they might be keeping quiet out of fear. They are left helpless and unable to react properly.
Hurdles That Make It Difficult to Get Help
When the abuser is the main breadwinner in the relationship, they can convince their victims that they will be homeless without them. They will be told that they can’t survive without the other’s income. A victim can also feel like no one will believe them. The abuser may appear good and wholesome to friends and family. The thought of trying to convince someone of the abuse can be overwhelming.
Some victims, especially moms, can feel all alone with no one to turn to. They may have spent years at home with the children. They don’t have the opportunities to open up to others that they normally would if they worked outside of the home.
Victims keep quiet many times because they are afraid of making things worse. If they contact the authorities but the police can’t find enough evidence to convict the abuser, things could become more violent out of revenge.
If the victim is suffering from a substance use disorder, they may have impaired judgment. They are unable to think clearly. They can convince themselves that they deserve to be abused or that this behavior is normal.
It isn’t just the abuser that can have a substance use disorder. A victim can use drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism to deal with the current situation or a past trauma. Depending on drugs and alcohol to get through puts them at a higher risk for substance use disorder. It is easy to become addicted to something that gives you comfort.
One can save themselves from becoming just another statistic when it comes to substance use and domestic violence. If you are a victim, or you are concerned for a loved one, you can confidentially call the National Domestic Violence Hotline. You can also seek help from Granite Recovery Centers.
Our rehab centers have over a decade of experience helping people turn their lives around. Treatment programs use a combination of evidence-based clinical psychotherapies along with a 12-step curriculum. Programs include the following:
- Medical detox (Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency.)
- Medication-assisted treatment
- Inpatient treatment
- Residential care
- Sober living
- Intensive outpatient counseling
Granite Recovery Centers uses an evidence-based treatment that encompasses scientifically supported psychotherapeutic approaches that can help you identify harmful behaviors and thoughts, direct them, and reprogram your thoughts and behavior.
Clinical therapies that we use include cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, trauma therapy, and grief and loss therapy. Trained clinicians help you find the therapies that are best suited to your individual needs. They can help you understand and overcome the painful issues related to your substance use as well as your triggers. These therapies are used in combination with a 12-step program for the best results.
We use the 12 traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous at Granite Recovery Centers. They are the core of our treatment programs. You are not just given a booklet on the 12 steps and asked to go to an AA meeting. Instead, you are immersed in the values of the 12 step program from the very first day. These values include giving back, self-acceptance, making amends, and participating in a 12-step community.
Granite Recovery Centers understands that drug or alcohol addiction isn’t simply a symptom of an underlying mental or psychological problem. Half of those with a substance use disorder also suffer from a psychological disorder or have had significant emotional or physical trauma. The includes the effects of domestic violence. The inpatient treatment program and the outpatient treatment program provide clinical treatment for co-occurring disorders in a drug and alcohol rehab setting.
Granite Recovery Centers offers aftercare programs that help you return to your normal life. After you have completed your treatment, you will be going out into the world once again. That world is full of stresses and triggers that will challenge you, but you are not alone in facing these obstacles. Extended care programs help you on your way to independent living with schedules, structure, and rules to allow you to handle daily stress.
For those interested in continuing to live in a supportive environment after their treatment, we offer extended care facilities with apartment-style living. This is an excellent option for those who have completed their treatment program and are looking for a well-structured step towards independence. You will share a kitchen and common areas with others that have been through similar experiences and can provide support and encouragement. There you have access to educational programs, group meetings, and schedule activities to help you stay sober.
If you or a loved one finds themselves in an abusive relationship that combines domestic violence and substance use disorder, help is available. The first step is recognizing that there is a problem. Abuse takes many forms, and some of those versions won’t leave visible scars. This doesn’t mean they are any less harmful. Taking control of the situation requires getting the substance use disorder under control while addressing underlying issues that trigger these situations. The result will be a sober and liberated life that you can enjoy to its fullest.