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Domestic Abuse, Sexual Violence and Substance Misuse



Cases of domestic violence have been rising over the past few years, and it’s saddening. A marriage or relationship that was once happy turns into chaos.

But what is domestic violence? In simple terms, this is a situation whereby one partner in an intimate relationship attempts to gain control over the other.

It’s also referred to as domestic abuse or intimate partner violence.

Even though law enforcement authorities and human rights activists have employed their best efforts to reduce domestic violence, it’s still a huge problem.

In the United States, a study indicates that every minute, twenty people are physically abused by their intimate partners [1].

That is around ten million individuals every year.

A separate study [2] shows that 1 in 9 men and 1 in 4 women go through intimate partner violence (IPV) physically, sexually, and stalking, all which bring impacts such as PTSD, fearfulness, and injury. With these statistics, it’s clear that we need to do something about it.

Different Types of Domestic Violence and Their Examples

Many people think that domestic violence only shows itself physically. However, domestic violence has many faces, and it’s vital you understand these varieties better so that you’re able to help a loved one in that situation.

Let’s look at the different types of domestic violence and some examples in each type.

  • Physical Violence – Physical violence/abuse is where one person intentionally causes trauma or injury to another person by means of bodily contact. The abuser may slap, hit, push, bite, or other forms of physical contact to exercise violence on the victim. One notable thing about physical abuse is that it’s easily noticeable by the people around the victims.
  • Emotional abuse – This is whereby the perpetrator hurts the emotions and feelings of the other person. It’s aimed at diminishing a person’s sense of self-worth, dignity, and identity. The weapons used by the perpetrator are humiliation, manipulation, intimidation, confinement, infantilization, isolation, and many others. The victim ends up with PTSD, depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts.
  • Sexual violence – This is an act where one person uses force or coercion to get or attempt to get sex from another person. The perpetrator oversteps the victim’s sexual boundaries. Examples of sexual violence are sexual harassment, unwanted touching, rape, and forcing someone into uncomfortable sex acts. In most cases, sexual violence occurs jointly with physical abuse.
  • Spiritual abuse – Spiritual abuse is the act of denying or using religious or spiritual beliefs in an attempt to control another individual. This act can affect a person’s confidence and self-esteem, damage their spiritual practices, and sometimes even abandon them. It can occur alongside sexual violence, physical abuse, and sexual abuse. Examples of spiritual abuse are preventing a person from doing what their religion says, misusing religious actions to justify mistakes, forcing someone into actions that are against their religious beliefs, etc.
  • Verbal abuse – This is where an individual used words to control, demean, or frighten somebody. It’s worth noting that there is a huge difference between verbal abuse and a normal argument. Normal arguments are mostly zero-sum games, and they don’t result in name-calling or insults. However, verbal abuse is characterised by name-calling, condescension, criticism, gas-lighting, threats, accusations, manipulation, and degradation.
  • Other types of domestic violence are financial abuse, elderly abuse, image-based abuse, and social abuse.

Domestic Violence and Emotional or Mental Disorders

Whether the domestic violence act was physical, emotional, sexual, spiritual, verbal, or any other type, it can lead the victim to develop mental or emotional disorders.

If the victim was suffering from mental health issues initially, they can worsen with continuous exposure to abuse.

Some of the emotional problems a person can develop are suicidal thoughts and sometimes even attempts, lack of self-confidence, low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, PTSD, insomnia, aggression, and low grades (if the victim is attending school).

Also, the sufferer may end up with a damaged career, isolating themselves from other people, looking old, and losing or gaining weight.

The worst thing about mental disorders that arise from domestic violence is that they force a person into negative strategies to cope.

For instance, they may turn to alcohol or drugs for self-medication. As you have seen, there is a close relationship between domestic violence and mental health disorders.

Causes of Domestic Violence and Addiction

In domestic violence, one partner aims to control the other partner.

It’s worth noting that this act is completely wrong, and there isn’t any justifiable reason to engage in it

A worrying fact is that some perpetrators go-ahead to come up with claims in an attempt to justify their actions.

For instance, they may say that they were abused when they were kids, and that’s why they’re engaging in domestic violence. However, that is wrong because every person should observe personal responsibility, and they shouldn’t take it out on other people.

Others may claim that they lost control, while others put their blame on stress. However, relieving stress by abusing others is a personal choice, and it’s not a logical reason.

What about domestic violence and addiction? When you look at these two, they’re closely related.

When someone is intoxicated either by taking drugs or drinking alcohol, they’re susceptible to losing control. Inebriation can increase a person’s chance of engaging in abusive practices.

When someone is abusing drugs or alcohol, these substances rewire their brains to concentrate on looking for these drugs or alcohol regardless of the consequences.

That’s why addicts may think about controlling their partners, being violent, and behaving irrationally.

Both addiction and domestic violence even have common traits such as losing control, worsening as time passes, continuing despite adverse effects, and they involve shame or denial.

If both partners in the relationship are abusing alcohol, the risk of domestic violence goes up.

For instance, if the victim is intoxicated, they may not know that they’re actually in danger. They may have a hard time defending themselves and even calling out for help. They’ll take abuse head-on.

The abuse may go on, especially if the victim doesn’t call for help or retaliate of the fear of being subjected to further abuse. If it’s not handled early enough, domestic violence may end up causing devastating effects, such as death.

How Exactly is Domestic Violence Linked to Addiction?

As we mentioned earlier, substance abuse and domestic violence are linked in several ways.

One is that if a person is a victim of domestic violence, or they grew up in a family where there were these acts, they’re likely to abuse drugs in their adult life.

The second and most common link is that many perpetrators of domestic violence have addictions or substance abuse problems.

A 2014 study published by the American Society of Addiction Medicine indicates that 40-60% of domestic violence issues are linked to substance abuse [3].

Also, in that study, more than 1 in 5 male perpetrators admitted that they had consumed substances before they performed acts of violence.

That is a clear indication showing that taking alcohol or drugs can worsen the risk of engaging in abusive behaviours.

According to the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics, women make up 85% of victims in domestic violence.

Women who use substances are more prone to these acts compared to those who don’t use them. Similarly, those in violent relationships use substances more compared to those in non-violent ones.

A North Carolina study on expectant mothers indicated that domestic violence victims were more prone to using substances during and before pregnancy compared to those not involved in domestic violence [4].

And, the American Society of Addiction Medicine says that around 56% of women victims have psychiatric issues.

Some of them even end up getting into alcohol and drug use, eating disorders, and obesity.

Women involved in domestic violence go through PTSD, fear, anxiety, stress, depression, insomnia, and other issues.

They turn to drugs or alcohol as a way of self-medication or to drown their agony. And because of the anxiety and depression they go through, medical practitioners prescribe painkillers, sedatives, and tranquillizers. Some of these women end up misusing these drugs.

Other than the ways we have described, substance abuse is linked to domestic violence in ways such as forced prostitution to get money or drugs, introduction to substance abuse, forced carrying or selling of drugs, and prevention from getting addiction treatment.

Addiction and Domestic Violence – The Effects

Addiction and domestic violence have a wide range of effects on the victim.

For people who have experienced domestic violence, they may have various psychological health disorders and may need inpatient treatment to handle the trauma.

After facing domestic violence, the victim may start experiencing effects such as substance abuse to numb their agonies.

They engage in drug and alcohol abuse to forget their sorrows. The other effect they may have is developing an eating disorder.

Some of these eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa where a person eats too little food, Bulimia Nervose where the individual eats too much food, and binge eating where a person eats more than necessary over a short period.

Other effects of domestic violence and addiction are anxiety, stress, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Dealing With Sexual Abuse and Substance Use

Substance use is linked to sexual abuse in several ways. The first one is where the perpetrator uses substances before they commit the act.

The second one is where the perpetrator forces the victim to take drugs or alcohol before they do their act on them.

The third is where the victim uses substances to cope with the results of sexual abuse. We’ll look at this third way.

We all have different strategies when it comes to handling negative situations in our lives. Even though some people have positive strategies, those affected by sexual abuse often turn to negative ways, such as denial and substance abuse. For people who have been greatly affected, they may show effects such as anorexia, bulimia, and self-harm.

Others turn to drugs or alcohol. The need for substance use comes from the societal stigma associated with sex abuse cases involving alcohol or drugs.

Therefore, victims see substances as cheap and convenient solutions to drown their problems. However, that doesn’t work; the problems worsen as time passes.

A report published by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape indicated that 79% of rape survivors who took alcohol started drinking the first time after they were assaulted sexually.

The report also indicated that 89% of rape survivors who consumed cocaine started doing it for the first when they were sexually assaulted [5].

The relationship between sexual violence and substance abuse is evident. You may even be surprised to learn that a huge percentage of people in rehab centres are victims of rape.

Using drugs or turning to strategies such as self-harm can ruin a person’s life. Abusing substances may lead to an addiction which may be hard to beat.

The victim should turn to positive strategies such as getting help to solve their problems.

Addiction and Domestic Violence – Treatments

Earlier in this article, we discussed that there is a link between domestic violence and substance abuse disorders.

Fortunately, these substance abuse disorders are treatable.

However, for successful treatment, it’s vital for medical professionals to realise that victims of both substance abuse and domestic violence have a unique set of needs.

Handling domestic violence or the causes of substance abuse in a rehabilitation facility is more effective than dealing with substance abuse alone. This is because you’re addressing the root cause and not just the problem.

Special treatment options for people who have gone through domestic violence can work wonders to help victims deal with addiction and trauma.

If you are the victim, you should look for a rehab facility that offers a supportive environment that can help you recover. Also, it should have professionals who understand the relationship between domestic violence and drug or alcohol abuse. During the first stages of recovery, these professionals should focus on the victim’s abuse experiences.

This way, he/she will be empowered and encouraged to learn various strategies that will help them overcome what happened.

Barriers that May Hinder Successful Treatment

  • Fear of consequences – The victim may think of going to a treatment centre, but he/she may fear the repercussions that will come after. For instance, they may be worried thinking that their abuser will hurt them if they get treatment for substance abuse or go to a rape crisis facility. When they fear these consequences, they’ll continue tolerating violence as they self-medicate with drugs. For the victims of sexual violence, especially those who have been forced to engage in prostitution, they may fear to land in legal problems.
  • Poor memory – One major side effect of using substances is lethargy and drowsiness. This means that the victim may not recall the events that led to domestic violence. They end up thinking that people won’t believe them because they have poor memory. For this reason, some people do not even report to the relevant authorities.
  • The stigma surrounding substance abuse – The society is another hindrance for victims to get treatment. Many people in our societies view substance abuse as immorality and not as a disease. Therefore, they become unsympathetic towards domestic violence victims. They think that the affected partner is responsible for what they’re going through. They also overlook the fact that substance abuse may have been a result of the violence, and this can lead the victim to blame him/herself. They blame themselves despite the perpetrator being totally responsible for their actions.
  • Work – Many people experiencing domestic violence and substance abuse have jobs and careers. The most unfortunate thing about their situation is that their treatment hours may collide with their job hours. Therefore, they have a hard time choosing between work and recovery.
  • Not being ready for treatment – For many substance abuse victims, they see the need to get treatment; they know it’s the best decision for them. However, they don’t get treatment because they don’t want to stop. Even though they got into drug or alcohol use due to domestic violence, they get used to the addiction. They allow it to control what’s best for them, and it controls their lives. If you have a loved one going through this, then know it’s your responsibility to show them the right way. Enrol them in a rehab facility that deals with both domestic violence and substance abuse treatment.

Getting help

Domestic violence has become a common problem in our society.

The abuser doesn’t have any right or justifiable reason to do their harmful actions.

No one has the right to abuse another person physically, sexually, spiritually, and even mentally.

If you’re a victim of domestic violence, it’s crucial that you speak out before it gets too late.

Seek help from your loved ones or the relevant legal authorities.

Don’t turn to drugs or alcohol as a way of self-medicating.

If domestic violence led you to substance abuse, then work on how you can quit these substances. While they may give you a temporary solution to numb your sorrow, the problem will get worse as time goes by.

Enrol in a rehab facility that deals with domestic violence and substance abuse, and you will get the necessary help.

References

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs_report2010-a.pdf

[2] https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/ndv0312.pdf

[3] https://www.asam.org/resources/publications/magazine/read/article/2014/10/06/intimate-partner-violence-and-co-occurring-substance-abuse-addiction

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1380441/

[5] https://www.pcar.org/sites/default/files/pages-pdf/poverty_and_sexual_violence.pdf

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