In the United States, a woman is hit by a partner every 15 seconds, and approximately 3 million children witness domestic violence yearly. Domestic violence is a pervasive issue that affects millions of families worldwide, leading to physical, emotional, and psychological trauma for victims. Among the many factors contributing to this social problem, addiction significantly fuels and exacerbates domestic violence. Substance abuse, whether drugs or alcohol, can lead to a destructive cycle that perpetuates violence within the confines of a home.
At GateHouse Treatment, we believe many individuals unnecessarily destroy their lives by falling prey to addiction. It’s our mission to help these individuals stand up and make strides toward a healthy, happy life. Addiction and domestic violence go hand in hand, and the damage it has done to families historically is impossible to account for. This article explores the complex interplay between addiction and domestic violence, shedding light on the underlying causes and solutions to break this harmful cycle.
1. Addiction and Domestic Violence: The Link
Domestic violence, or intimate partner violence (IPV), is a pattern of abusive behavior one person uses to gain control and power over the other individual in the relationship. It can involve physical, emotional, sexual, or financial abuse and have severe long-term consequences for victims or children exposed.
The evidence for addiction’s role in domestic abuse is overwhelming.
- 40% of children from violent homes believed their fathers were abusive drinkers.
- One-fourth to one-half of men who batter have a substance abuse disorder.
- 80% of child abuse cases involve some substance use.
- Intimate partner violence is higher when the victim or the victim’s partner uses drugs or alcohol.
It’s essential to note that addiction doesn’t cause domestic violence alone. It’s theorized that drugs either have a disinhibiting factor on someone’s violence or alter perception, making someone violent. There are often underlying psychological problems that drug use exacerbates.
What is clear is that addiction often leads to erratic and unpredictable behavior, creating a hostile environment within the household. As the addicted individual’s dependence on substances deepens, they may become increasingly aggressive and emotionally volatile. This heightened tension can manifest in verbal, emotional, and physical abuse towards family members, particularly those closest to the addict, such as spouses, children, or elderly parents.
2. How Drugs Interact with Intimate Partner Violence
Some of the commonly provided reasons by substance-abusing batterers for their violent behavior include:
- Stress and Anger Release: Substance-abusing batterers often cite stress and anger as triggers for violent actions. They may claim that drugs or alcohol help them cope with overwhelming emotions, and violence becomes a means of releasing built-up frustration. The scenario typically associated with this is the spouse who returns from a bad day at work, drinks, and takes it out on their family.
- Impulsivity and Lack of Control: Many substance-abusing batterers claim that their violent behavior is impulsive due to being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. They argue that substances impair their judgment and inhibit their ability to control aggressive impulses. When drugs lower inhibitions, violent socialization can take over and result in abuse.
- Blaming the Substance: Some batterers may blame the substance for their violent actions, stating their bad behavior doesn’t occur if they are sober. In this perspective, the drug becomes a convenient scapegoat for their behavior, deflecting responsibility away from themselves. In questionnaires, many victims of abuse state that drug use worsens their partner’s condition. However, abuse often doesn’t let up even when the person is sober, becoming normalized in the relationship.
- Historical Trauma: Some substance-abusing batterers may attribute their violent behavior to past traumatic experiences, often suggesting that substance use helps them numb the pain or cope with unresolved emotions. Research indicates that drug use is both a risk factor and a consequence of child abuse.
- Learned Behavior: Batterers who grew up in environments where domestic violence and substance abuse were prevalent may use this as a justification for their actions, claiming that they learned such behavior from their upbringing. Violence is socialized, and researchers attribute societal norms, particularly those that negatively target women, to justify violent behavior in the mind of an abuser.
- Relationship Conflicts: Substance-abusing batterers may point to ongoing conflicts or dissatisfaction within their relationships as reasons for their violent behavior. They may perceive substance use as a way to escape or cope with relationship problems, lashing out violently when under the influence. In interviews with men who suffered from substance abuse and the partners they assaulted, a recurring theme was sexual jealousy and accusations of infidelity.
- Altered Perception: Under the influence of substances, batterers may have distorted perceptions of reality, leading them to misinterpret situations and react violently to perceived threats or provocations. Questionnaires show misinterpretations or those under the influence concocting paranoid tales and using them as a reason to abuse.
- Gendered Interactions: Although abuse is not gender exclusive, most involve man-on-woman violence. When stereotypical attitudes toward women clash with reality, men can experience profound rage, further exacerbated by drug use. Attitudes such as women being submissive, obedient, quiet, and loyal are common in society, and when challenged, men can react violently. Perhaps they can control these feelings sober, but the disinhibiting effect of drugs makes them more confident.
It is essential to note that these reasons provided by substance-abusing batterers are not justifications for their violent actions. Instead, they offer insights into how addiction and violence can become intertwined in complex ways, perpetuating a cycle that requires comprehensive intervention and support to break.
3. Consequences of Addiction and Domestic Violence
Domestic violence costs are personal, financial, legal, and intergenerational. It scars the victim, leaves a mark on children who witness or suffer it, breaks up families, and sends individuals to jail.
Addiction can lead to substantial financial burdens for families, as the addicted person prioritizes their substance use over necessities. Financial strain can contribute to heightened stress levels within the household, increasing the likelihood of conflicts and violence. In desperate attempts to obtain money for their addiction, the addicted person may resort to criminal activities, further exacerbating the home violence risk.
Addiction co-occurs with mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, or personality disorders. These mental health conditions can intensify aggression and exacerbate domestic violence incidents. Moreover, when addiction and mental health issues coexist, addressing the root causes of violence within the family dynamic becomes even more challenging.
In many cases, addiction and domestic violence create a vicious cycle. The addicted individual may feel remorseful and vow to change their behavior after an abusive episode, leading to moments of remorse and regret. However, this cycle continues without adequate support and intervention as the addiction drives them back to substance abuse, thus perpetuating violent behaviors. Family members, too, can unknowingly become enablers, inadvertently supporting the addictive behavior and enabling the cycle of violence.
With such a delicate issue, it’s important not to face it alone. You can overcome addiction, and GateHouse Treatment can help.
GateHouse Treatment and Recovery
At GateHouse Treatment, we understand that addressing addiction isn’t just about drug use. We don’t see substance abuse as a series of symptoms to tick off on a chart. Our team believes in holistic wellness, ensuring a healthier and more complete you that can become secure, fulfilled, and happy.
Call 855-448-3588 or reach out on our website to begin your journey to long-lasting recovery.