Substance use and domestic violence have a clear connection. Nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men have experienced some type of domestic violence or intimate partner violence in their lives, and unfortunately, substance use often plays a role.
Experts aren’t sure if substance use begets domestic violence or if it unveils the underlying abusive personality traits, but there is a connection between them. In addition, being a victim of domestic violence can trigger substance use.
What Is Domestic Violence?
The term “violence” can lead many to assume that domestic violence or intimate partner violence includes only physical violence. Still, it can refer to any type of harm or abuse that seeks to overpower an individual and keep them in fear or submission.
Domestic abuse may include:
- Emotional abuse
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Psychological abuse
- Financial abuse
- Verbal abuse
- Social abuse
- Image-based abuse
No matter the type of domestic violence, it originates from one person’s desire to control and overpower another. Domestic violence is the single leading cause of injury to women in the US. Still, it doesn’t only affect women – men, children, elderly parents, pets, or other family members can be the victim of abuse.
Signs of an Abusive Relationship
Many people are unaware that they are in an abusive relationship. Even as adults, some people regard the abuse they experienced as a child as “discipline” or being “kept in line,” unaware of the trauma they experienced.
Abuse never gets better; it only worsens. It typically begins with subtle warning signs, progressing into more overt displays of power and control.
Here are some signs of an abusive relationship:
- Accusations of infidelity
- Constant criticism
- Control over appearance and clothing
- Throwing objects or punching walls, tables, etc.
- Threatening a partner or their loved one
- Yelling or screaming
- Stealing money
- Limiting control over cash and credit cards
- Limiting access to job opportunities
- Withholding funds for necessities
- Surveillance behaviors like tracking devices in a phone or vehicle
- Questioning your whereabouts
- Embarrassing you in front of people
- Forced sexual acts (rape)
- Refusing to use condoms or birth control
- Making you feel like you “owe” sex
- Trying to give you an STD deliberately
The more overt signs of abuse may include:
- Physical punching or kicking
- Locking you out of your home
- Abandoning you in unfamiliar or dangerous places
- Preventing you from basic needs like eating, sleeping, or medical care
- Using weapons
Remember, these more severe or overt signs usually don’t happen early on in the relationship. It begins subtly and grows, so it’s important to know the warning signs.
Statistics on Substance Use and Domestic Violence
Statistics show a clear connection between substance use and domestic violence:
- 25 to 50% of men who commit domestic violence have issues with substance use.
- Over 30% of men consumed alcohol at the time of committing an act of domestic abuse, and 90% abused other substances the same day.
- In situations of attempted murder of a spouse or partner, alcohol is involved in over two-thirds of the cases. Furthermore, a quarter of the murders involving a spouse or partner involved both alcohol and drugs.
- 42% of victims used alcohol or drugs the day they were assaulted. Among those fatally attacked, toxicology screens discovered about one-third of the victims had alcohol in their system. One-quarter used other substances.
- Victims of spousal abuse who seek medical help for their injuries are more likely to test positive for substances than other admissions.
- Roughly 75% of domestic violence victims who use alcohol or drugs are with a partner who also uses substances.
Is Substance Abuse the Cause of Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence has an array of factors – it’s never just one. That said, evidence suggests that substance abuse is connected to a much higher likelihood of domestic abuse. As shown in the statistics, many near-fatal or fatal attacks involved substances.
While drug and alcohol use may be common in domestic violence cases, it’s rarely the only cause. Treating substance use can help, but the abuser also needs to seek help for the underlying mental health conditions that contribute to their abusive tendencies.
For example, some abusers were abused as children, which may make them more likely to be abusive as an adult or more likely to abuse substances. Conversely, some people who are abused as children find themselves victims of intimate partner violence as adults. The path each takes depends on several influences and factors.
Childhood abuse or trauma victims may also turn to substances to cope with the mental effects, creating a vicious circle of violence and substance abuse that continues through generations.
Substance Use and Domestic Violence Victims
Substance use isn’t limited to the abuser – there’s also a concern for the victim. Under the influence of substances, victims may not be able to recognize the signs of imminent violence. Victims are also likely to develop patterns of unhealthy behavior that may further substance abuse, such as:
- Suicidal ideation or action
- Sleep disturbances
- Weight changes
- Low self-esteem
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Seeking Help for Substance Use
If you or your partner are struggling with substance use issues, it’s important to seek treatment before addressing the underlying causes. Both abusers and victims need to seek help for the trauma they may have experienced, both in the relationship or before it and manage the mental health conditions that may contribute to their unhealthy behaviors.
Each situation is unique, however. With treatment, abusers can address their substance use and discover the underlying cause of violence and the desire for control, but it’s not an easy path. Both partners have to want to seek help and find a healthier path forward.
Treatment for Substance Use at Clear Life Recovery
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, Clear Life Recovery can help. We offer a range of tailored programs to treat substance abuse and learning strategies to live a healthy and sober life. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.