Substance abuse and addictions can be emotionally painful for everyone involved. When complicated by physical or emotional abuse, the pain increases exponentially. Domestic violence and substance abuse are problems that can occur to people of any background.

What types of domestic violence are associated with substance abuse?

Intimate partners (like spouses and boyfriends/girlfriends) and children are the most common victims of domestic violence. In the case of partner abuse, the U.S. Department of Justice released statistics that, in 75% of attacks against a partner, the perpetrator was drinking alcohol before the attack. The Bureau of Justice Statistics indicated that about half of partner murders involved alcohol use. While men can certainly be the victims of domestic violence (and awareness of the problem of domestic violence and substance abuse is increasing in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities), women are particularly vulnerable with nearly 85% of all partner-related crimes being perpetrated against women. The victims of domestic violence are often conflicted by the love that they have for their partner (and often a poor sense of self-esteem) and the violence they experience at his or her hand.

Children who live with parents or guardians – or even other family members – who have problems with substance abuse are at an increased risk for neglect and physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that about 40% of child abuse cases involve alcohol use prior to the incident of abuse. Even if an addict does not directly abuse the child physically or emotionally, they are likely to use the resources that should go toward caring for the child to fund their addictive behaviors. Children who grew up in families with substance abuse and domestic violence problems are more likely to have behavioral and other problems in the future. Additionally, pregnant mothers who abuse substances put their unborn children at risk for birth defects and other problems.

Why does domestic violence sometimes lead to substance abuse?

Research indicates that the victims of domestic violence are more likely to engage in substance abuse in the short- and long-term. Females who have been abused are 15 times more likely to abuse alcohol and 9 times more likely to abuse drugs than others who have not been the victims of domestic violence (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence). Alcohol and other substances serve as "avoidance coping" and help the person avoid addressing the real problem by dulling their sense of reality. The problem can last decades according to the National Center on Addiction and Abuse, which reports that nearly 70% of women receiving treatment for substance abuse problems have an incident of sexual abuse in their past.

What should I do if I know someone who is in a situation of domestic violence?

If you or someone you know is involved in domestic violence, you should consider seeking professional help. Call your local government office or Church office to be directed to agencies in your neighborhood that can help you either leave your situation or give you advice about how to help someone in a situation of domestic violence. These agencies respect your confidentiality and can provide you and your children with a safe, substance- and violence-free environment. Many medical professionals are required to report suspected domestic violence, so your local hospital may be a good place to go if your community does not have other resources available. The perpetrator's substance abuse problems will eventually need to be addressed, but first, get yourself to a safe place.