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Substance Abuse and Domestic Violence March 14, 2011

Posted by Syd in Domestic Abuse, Substance Abuse.

As Ruth’s story below illustrates, domestic violence can often occur in relationships where there is existing substance abuse.  

This does not mean that violence in the relationship is caused by the substance abuse, or that all drug or alcohol abusers are violent.  One does not cause the other.  However, if the predisposition to violence already exists, the drug or alcohol use often makes it easier to act on those impulses because it is easy to blame the lack of impulse control on the substance.

There some interesting common aspects to substance abuse and domestic violence (taken from  study that  was undertaken by the University of Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) and reported in the February 2003 issue of the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology).

  • Both may be centered around control and power.
  • Both can be transmitted from generation to generation.
  • Both involve denial or the attempt to down play the problem.
  • Both can involve the isolation of the family, the perpetrator, or the victim.
  • A battering incident that is coupled with alcohol abuse may be more severe and result in greater injury.
  • Alcoholism treatment does not “cure” battering behavior; both problems must be addressed separately

What will be common in most abusive relationships (sober or not) is the Cycle of Violence.

According to the Women’s Issues and Social Empowerment (WISE) of Australia, the issues of power and control are essential to an understanding of Domestic Violence. “Domestic Abuse occurs in relationships where conflict is the continuous result of power inequality between the partners and one partner is afraid of, and harmed by the other,” they say. 

  • Build-Up Phase – The tension builds.
  • Stand-Over Phase – Verbal attacks increase.
  • Explosion Phase – A violent outburst occurs.
  • Remorse Phase – You shouldn’t have pushed me, it was your fault!
  • Pursuit Phase – It will never happen again, I promise.
  • Honeymoon Phase – See, we don’t have any problems!

And repeat.  While it may sound a little hokey, The Hotline has a checklist of questions that may help you identify if you are in an abusive relationship, as well as resources to contact if you are.

In addition, if you are attempting to treat the substance abuse problem as well, this link may be helpful in locating a drug counseling center.    It is important, as the article states above that treating one issue will not solve the others.



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