Futures Recovery Healthcare

Drugs, Love, and Violence: Understanding the Connection


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Domestic violence also referred to as domestic abuse or intimate partner violence (IPV), is defined by the National Center Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) as the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, or sexual assault and/or other abusive behaviors in a pattern of control and power by one intimate partner over the other. The exact behaviors occurring with IPV can vary greatly from one situation to the next, however, the overarching behaviors are ones of power and control over the partner. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the United States, about 20 people per minute are physically assaulted or abused by an intimate partner. This equals about 10 million women and men each year being abused by an intimate partner. And while both genders can be victims of domestic violence, women tend to experience higher rates of IPV than their male counterparts. 

However, it’s important to realize that domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of gender, race, socio-economic status, educational background, etc. Much has been done over the past few decades to raise awareness about domestic violence and combat it. Overall, the rates of domestic violence seem to be trending down, however, some current data reveals that COVID-19 has added to an increase in more violent domestic violence crimes. In addition, it has been theorized that due to quarantine, some victims are unable to now reach out for help and report IPV. 

Most recently, the case of Gabby Petito has showcased how quickly violence in relationships can escalate and end tragically. And while Gabby’s intimate partner has not been charged, police body cams and friends of Petito indicate IPV was present in the relationship. Often, with IPV the victims may blame themselves and not reach out for help. This is one reason why it’s vital to raise awareness about early signs of domestic violence and understand the associated facts about domestic violence. 

Domestic Violence Today: Know the Facts

The NCADV reports the following statistics related to IPV:

  • 1 in 4 women experience severe IPV 
  • 1 in 9 men experience severe IPV
  • 1 in 3 women have experienced some type of physical violence by an intimate partner
  • 1 in 4 men have experienced some type of physical violence by an intimate partner
  • 1 in 7 women have been stalked by an intimate partner
  • 1 in 18 men have been stalked by an intimate partner
  • About 200,000 calls are placed to domestic violence hotlines in just one day
  • IPV accounts for 15% of all violent crimes
  • IPV is correlated to higher rates of depression and suicide

It’s important to raise awareness about the continued prevalence of domestic violence as well as provide resources for those in need. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and it aims to do just that. Beginning in 1987, this movement has raised awareness, supported those being abused and survivors, held abusers accountable, and promoted legislation to help promote these goals. The theme for 2021 is #weareresilient. While IPV can happen to anyone, there are certain situations and groups that are more at risk. Substance abuse is one area that has been linked to higher rates of domestic violence. 

Domestic Violence and Substance Abuse 

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) reports the following when it comes to substance abuse and domestic violence: 

  • 40-60% of IPV involves substance abuse
  • Spousal abuse is an indicator of developing a substance abuse problem
  • IPV increases by 11 times when a perpetrator has a heavy drug or drinking that day
  • More than 20% of male perpetrators reported drinking alcohol or using drugs prior to their most recent and/or most violent domestic violence acts

It has also been found that women who are in abusive relationships or experiencing domestic violence are more likely to either use alcohol or drugs as well as be coerced into using them by their abusive partner. 

As illustrated, there is a direct relationship between domestic violence and alcohol and/or drug use. The good news is that when the perpetrator of domestic violence gets treatment for an alcohol or drug problem, it seems to help promote a decrease in IPV.

The opposite is also true. When a victim of domestic violence gets treatment for their own alcohol use disorder (AUD) or substance use disorder (SUD), they too have a greater chance of leaving the situation where they are experiencing IPV. 

What Does Domestic Violence Look Like? 

There is a need for education about what domestic violence is and what it isn’t. According to Futures Without Violence, two out of three children are exposed to trauma and violence. It’s imperative that we become aware of signs of abuse and help those experiencing it to get help. Childhood trauma increases a person’s risk for developing a substance abuse issue including alcohol or drugs. In order to protect the victims of IPV and the children witnessing it, family members and loved ones must know what to look for when it comes to signs of domestic violence. 

Domestic violence usually starts off subtly with controlling and possessive behaviors and progresses to violence. Here are some signs to look for in the early stages of IPV:

  • Insults and telling the victim they can’t do things right
  • Becoming jealous when the victim spends time with family or friends
  • Accusing the victim of cheating
  • Controlling money 
  • Controlling the victim; where they go, who they see, what they do
  • Shaming or putting down the victim
  • Discouraging the victim from spending time with family and friends
  • Telling the victim how to dress or controlling how they look (makeup, hair, etc.)
  • Stalking the victim or monitoring them
  • Threatening and intimidating the victim
  • Pressuring the victim to do things they don’t want to do including have sex with them or others or using drugs
  • Stopping the victim from making their own decisions

As you can see, IPV doesn’t always start out as physical abuse. However, these types of control and power constitute emotional abuse and often move to physical abuse. Once physical abuse begins, without the proper intervention and help, it rarely changes. 

When alcohol or substance use disorders are involved, the need for professional intervention is even greater. However, it’s important to realize that when an individual—either the victim or perpetrator of the violence—gets treatment, life can get better. 

If you are experiencing domestic violence or know someone who is, you are not alone. There are thousands who have left relationships with IPV and gone on to lead healthy, happy lives. If you or someone you love is living with an alcohol or drug addiction that is making the situation worse, there is help and hope. No matter how bad things may seem now, they can get better. 

Finding the courage to reach out for help can be the most challenging step for both victims of domestic violence as well as for those with an alcohol or drug problem. When you are ready to learn more about how to get help or simply talk to someone who understands the Domestic Violence Hotline is a great place to turn. Here is their information: 

Domestic Violence Hotline

Online Contact or call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

This group provides local resources and support, safety plans, and more. They provide support for both those experiencing the abuse themselves as well as for concerned family members and friends. They are available by phone, chat, or text 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

If you or a loved one are also struggling with an alcohol or substance use problem or a mental health issue, Futures Recovery Healthcare can help. We offer three different addiction treatment programs and a mental health program. Our team members are well-versed in helping those with trauma recover and many understand the relationship between domestic violence and substance abuse. 

Learn more about our programs online or call us at 866-804-2098


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