This past week, there has been a lot of news coverage focusing on domestic violence. Nationally and locally, these stories are really gaining traction and getting a huge response from the public. In one of these cases, the defendant was sentenced to prison, followed up by his attendance at meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Many of my friends in the program, mostly female, have had a visceral response. Practicing alcoholics are often physically abusive. Whether you are the victim or the perpetrator, once the frontal lobe of the brain is numbed by alcohol, all bets are off. In one case, the perpetrator was to attend 12 step meetings upon his release from prison.
While substance abuse does not cause domestic violence, say the experts, there is a statistical correlation between the two issues. What studies of domestic violence have found is that there is frequent high incidence of alcohol and other drug use by perpetrators during domestic abuse. The reality is that not only do batterers tend to abuse drugs and alcohol, but the probability that victims of domestic violence will turn to alcohol and drugs to cope with the abuse increases as well. Delving into what’s known about the two issues – domestic violence and substance abuse – can shed some light on the problem that affects so many in America:
- Regular alcohol abuse is one of the leading risk factors for partner violence
- When there is a battering incident coupled with alcohol abuse, the battering may be more severe and result in greater injury to the victim or victims.
- In fact, women who have been abused are 15 times more likely to abuse alcohol and nine times more likely to abuse drugs than women who have not been abused.
- Treatment for alcoholism does not cure abusive behavior.
- The Department of Justice found in 2002 that 36 percent of victims in domestic violence programs also had problems with substance abuse.
- According to a majority of domestic violence program directors (51 percent), a woman’s use of alcohol can be a barrier to her being able to leave a violent relationship with a spouse or partner.
- An even greater percentage (87 percent) of domestic violence program directors agree with the statement that the risk of intimate partner violence increases when both partners abuse drugs or alcohol.
Several of the women I work with in AA have lost sleep over these stories. One woman watched her father beat her mother repeatedly and the powerlessness and guilt have never left her. Another was the victim of an assault committed by a man high on PCP. In my short tenure working in recovery, I met several parents who lost custody of their children due to physical abuse. Staying sober was a huge part of getting the family back together, but so were domestic violence and anger management programs. In the last several years, the courts have ruled in favor of alternative sentencing for alcoholics and addicts. In one sense this has been a blessing. But there are skeptics who wonder if the courts are not too far reaching. Only time will tell. The starting point is sobriety and the practice of the 12 step program. From that point, more will be revealed.Share post