Prevention efforts are critical not only for the well-being of children but also to stop future family violence from...
The simultaneous experience of domestic violence and substance use is a serious challenge for many survivors. The National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma and Mental Health has documented a range of adverse trauma-related effects resulting from DV, including pain, injury, depression, and substance use among others (Black et al., 2011; Dutton, 2009; Dutton et al., 2006; Golding, 1999; Jones, Hughes, & Unterstaller, 2001; Phillips et al. 2014). While many survivors use substances to cope with the traumatic effects of abuse (Bennett & O’Brien, 2007; Schumacher & Holt, 2012; Warshaw et al., 2014), others are coerced into using substances by an abusive partner who then sabotages their efforts toward recovery or by threatening to disclose their substance use to law enforcement or child welfare. These tactics are used to control their partner and also impact survivors’ ability to access safety and support and to retain custody of their children (Warshaw et al., 2014). Emerging research demonstrates that substance use coercion is common within abusive relationships (Warshaw et al., 2014).
In a 2012 review of the literature, researchers found that 22-72% of DV shelter residents have current or past problems with alcohol or other substances (Schumacher and Holt, 2012). Researchers have also found that 67-80% of women in substance abuse treatment are survivors of domestic violence. Results of a national epidemiological study found that women whose partners use substances were more likely to experience interpersonal violence, or to experience multiple injuries. Women whose partners had alcohol problems experienced two to three times the odds of victimization, multiple injuries, mood and anxiety disorders, and fair or poor health compared to those whose partners did not use alcohol or other substances (Dawson, Grant, Chou & Stinson, 2007).
While a great deal of literature exists on the effects on children who have experienced domestic violence on or substance abuse, there is less understanding about experiences of dual exposure, and implications for prevention and intervention. What is known however is that children experiencing both domestic violence and parental substance abuse are at a higher risk of experiencing poor mental, emotional, and physical health outcomes (Florida Institute for Child Welfare, 2016). Researchers have also found that children whose parents or caregivers use drugs or alcohol are at a higher risk for entering the child welfare system. According to the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare, drug addiction caused 36% of foster care entrances in 2017. COVID-19 has only further exacerbated substance abuse and addiction, because of limited access to support groups, increased economic pressure, and isolation as a result of social distancing measures. These changes have created additional stressors for everyone, but have had a particularly devastating impact on those who use drugs and alcohol. One of the unfortunate outcomes is more cases of relapse, and increased risk for domestic violence and other forms of violence.
Do you approach your program participants with curiosity rather than judgement about how substance use impacts their safety, empowerment and access to services?
What kind of outreach do you provide for service recipients of alcohol/drug treatment programs?
Do the policies enforced in your program prevent survivors of domestic violence/sexual assault who use drugs/alcohol or are in drug/alcohol treatments from accessing services?
Does your program acknowledge the impact of substance use, trauma, and mental health on safety, recovery and wellness?
Are there integrated tools available for screening and referrals?
Does your program provide trainings on the intersections of domestic violence, sexual assault, trauma, and substance use/abuse and dependence?
Does your program have a partnership with local substance abuse programs and other professionals in the community to support survivors with co-occuring issues?
Do you avoid re-victimizing, shaming, judging, or blaming clients? Are you able to share messages of support, validation, and empowerment?
Can your program support participants with safety planning when they or their partner is abstinent, using, misusing, hungover, or experiencing changes in use pattern, etc.?
Can your program support participants with developing a relapse prevention plan or post-relapse plan?
Are you able to connect participants to a range of DV/SA support networks ie. inpatient or outpatient treatment, advocacy based counseling, shelters, or peer support groups?
Is your program staff trained on harm-reduction principles and strategies?
Does your program stock naloxone (aka Narcan) and train staff about administering naloxone and other overdose prevention strategies?