Domestic Violence and Substance Abuse in Women – The Importance of Getting Help

Abuse by a domestic partner causes both physical and emotional pain.  Sometimes that pain can trigger substance abuse in the woman being victimized. If you (or someone you love) are in a violent relationship and struggling with an addiction, finding help is critical to your healing. This article will help you learn more about the relationship between domestic violence and substance abuse, and offer advice for getting treatment from an alcohol and drug rehab center.

Link Between Domestic Violence and Addiction

Research consistently shows a connection between substance abuse and domestic violence. Women who have been abused are 15 times more likely to abuse alcohol and 9 times more likely to abuse drugs than those without a history of abuse. In addition, substance abuse by women may make them more vulnerable to being victimized. Addicted women are more likely to be abused physically, emotionally and sexually and for longer periods than non-addicted women. The overwhelming majority of domestic violence program directors say that the risk of violence increases when both partners are abusing substances. This does not suggest that you are responsible for the violence in any way.  It does indicate, however, that addiction puts you at higher risk for physical or emotional injury by a partner. One of the most dangerous aspects of abusing alcohol or drugs is that it impairs your judgment.  This makes it very difficult – and sometimes impossible – to determine how much danger you may be in. If you’re drunk or high, you’ll have a difficult time defending yourself against your partner’s fists.  You may also be unable to protect your children from a dangerous situation. Substance abuse can incapacitate you so much that you’ll be unable to dial 911 for help or execute a pre-determined safety plan.

Resistance to Rehab

It’s often difficult for any addict to make the decision to enter alcohol or drug rehab.  But for a woman who’s being victimized, it can be that much harder. If you’re being abused, it can seem easy to just self-medicate the pain and stress with drugs or alcohol.  Drinking or using may initially numb the negative emotions as well as the physical pain. However, the reality is that substance abuse will inevitably make your life worse. You’ll have a much harder time making good decisions, protecting yourself from violence, caring for your children, or holding a job that provides some measure of financial stability. Stigma is one of the main reasons that abused women often avoid drug rehab treatment. You may fear that if you acknowledge your substance abuse, it will be harder for you to retain custody of your children. You may also worry that if you admit to having an addiction, you won’t be allowed into an emergency shelter when you need one. Childcare is another frequent factor that prevents women in violent relationships from reaching out for help. Very few inpatient alcohol and drug rehab centers provide childcare during treatment. Outpatient therapy can be a problem, too, if you don’t have the money or support system to arrange for a babysitter during your treatment appointments. Addiction Treatment for Domestic Violence Survivors No matter how great the obstacles may seem, don’t give up on substance abuse treatment. Overcoming some of the barriers may feel daunting – if not downright impossible, but you (and your children) deserve a life that is safe and secure.  You deserve to be free from the constant worry about where the next punch is coming from or when the next sexual assault will occur. Safeguard yourself. If you’re still in the violent relationship, it’s time to get out. Contact your local domestic violence shelter. The staff will give you resources to help you make and execute a plan that safeguards you and other family members. These centers often provide access or referrals to housing, legal aid, financial assistance and childcare. Seek treatment. Look for a rehab facility with the know-how to handle your unique situation. For example, they’ll need to understand how to deal with an abusive husband trying to get access to a woman in residential treatment. If you opt for outpatient substance abuse treatment, locate a counselor who has experience working with victims of domestic violence. Substance abuse rehab typically involves therapy.  Therapy gives you the opportunity to understand and explore your feelings, which often include sadness, frustration, anger and disappointment. Since abusers often try to isolate their victims, you may be dealing with profound loneliness as well. A therapist or counselor will help you find ways to cope with those emotions in a healthy manner – without resorting to alcohol or drugs. Additional treatment may include medication, group therapy, and participation in stress-relieving activities, such as yoga or meditation. Communicate openly with your addiction team. Good communication is essential for successful alcohol or drug rehab. For example, if you’re uncomfortable working with a male counselor, let the addiction team know. Your progress will be hindered if you don’t feel safe or if you are unwilling to talk openly with the therapist.  Likewise, don’t hesitate to request a female-only therapy group if the idea of sharing your thoughts with men makes you uneasy. Get help for children or other family members. Domestic violence and substance abuse affect every family member, regardless of age. Your addiction counselor may recommend therapy for children or teens to help them manage their own emotions and actions. Family therapy can also help heal other fractured relationships, such as those with parents or siblings. A therapist will provide guidance in identifying and resolving conflicts that create the additional stress and anxiety that could lead to your own relapse. Parenting classes may be another component of substance abuse treatment for victimized women. This kind of intervention can help rebuild relationships with children and lay the groundwork for reunification, if necessary. If you are the victim of partner violence and have a substance abuse problem, you deserve a better life – one that’s free from trauma and addiction. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for domestic violence assistance and alcohol or drug rehab treatment today.                  

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