Domestic violence and the substance abuse connection is the subject of today’s guest post by Karen Ogden. Karen Ogden is a part-time writer who works within a variety of communities as part of domestic violence outreach programs. She can be reached via email at Kareniogden@outlook.com.
Domestic Violence Belongs in the Substance Abuse Conversation by Karen Ogden
Conversations about substance abuse tend to focus primarily on the abuser(s), and the path to recovery—and rightly so. As was shared in Diane Mintz’s recent post on this very site, 23 million Americans live with the struggle toward recovery, and treating these addictions is of paramount importance not only for the individuals’ health but for the good of society as a whole. However, it is also important to recognize the facts of the damage that substance abusers can inflict on others, and this is why domestic violence should occupy its own branch of the substance abuse conversation.
Back in 2011, Addiction Treatment Magazine tackled this topic with an article titled Domestic Violence—The Hidden Side Of Substance Abuse. The article asserts that while no one can factually claim that substance abuse causes domestic violence directly or with any kind of recordable frequency, there is a clear correlation between the two issues. Batterers frequently are found to have abused drugs or alcohol before committing physically violent crimes. Additionally, victims of domestic abuse are also known to turn to drugs and alcohol as coping mechanisms during recovery. Specifically, women who are victims of domestic abuse are 15 times more likely to abuse alcohol and nine times more likely to abuse drugs. Clearly, statistics like these shed light on a disturbing pattern: not only are many cases of domestic violence found to have stemmed, at least in part, from substance abuse on the part of the abuser, but the crimes themselves frequently contribute to forming dangerous substance abuse behavior on the part of the victims.
And yet, despite this deeply problematic cycle, there is little being done to address the link between substance abuse and domestic violence. Generally, the two are treated as serious but entirely separate issues. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence took on this problem and posted some fairly disturbing statistics regarding the attention given to substance abuse in domestic violence programs, and vice versa. According to the report, 60% of domestic violence programs claimed not to address substance abuse because of a lack of experience with the issue; 71% blamed a lack of staff resources; and 75% said they didn’t have the financial resources needed to cover both issues.
What One Company Is Doing to Help Domestic Violence Victims
For at least these last two issues—a lack of staff resources and adequate financial resources—one popular help outlet for domestic violence victims has emerged. Since the mid-1990s, the Verizon Wireless “Hopeline” program has developed a unique approach designed to give victims of domestic violence a simpler and safer way to voluntarily seek help. And, in doing so, the program is also managing to provide additional financial support to domestic help treatment programs. With a focus primarily on young people and college students, the program calls for people to donate out-of-use cell phones back to Verizon. These phones are wiped of all data and restored, and those that can be used are resold (while those deemed unusable are recycled). The proceeds from the restored phone sales go to domestic violence organizations, and the phones themselves can offer safe communication options (free calls and texts on an independent phone line) to victims who may otherwise be afraid to seek help.
Expanding Domestic Violence Prevention to Include Substance Abuse Prevention
This is merely a single program, and it offers a nice look at how large companies can at no cost to themselves contribute to causes like preventing domestic violence, or treating substance abuse. But what’s important is how donated funds are used by domestic violence organizations. While the first priority generally is (and should be) the safety and wellbeing of victims seeking treatment, it would be great to see these organizations allocate funds to treating and preventing substance abuse in both batterers and victims. As stated previously, it would be inaccurate to claim broadly that substance abuse causes domestic violence. However, it’s certainly fair to say there’s often a link between the two, and we do know that domestic violence can cause substance abuse. Hopefully further studies on the links between the two issues, as well as creative service and funding operations looking to improve the quality of treatment centers, can achieve positive results. But for now, it’s important that we do not ignore the link between substance abuse and domestic violence.