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Domestic Violence and Addiction – How are they linked?

There is an uncomfortably close link between domestic violence and addiction; substance abuse is often the cause of domestic violence, while domestic violence can just as well cause substance abuse.

Therefore, both substance abuse and domestic violence are considered the cause and effect of the other, and when investigating the one the other should always be considered.

Domestic violence and addiction

Domestic Violence and Addiction

It’s not uncommon to discover that a substance abuser comes from a background of abuse, whether it be childhood abuse or witnessing domestic violence between parents or guardians as a child.

Substance abuse in adulthood is very often a result of a traumatic childhood.

Definition of Domestic Violence

“A pattern of coercive tactics used to gain and maintain power and control in an ongoing, familiar relationship.”

Broadly including – physical abuse, mental abuse, and emotional abuse.

What Causes Domestic Violence?

Abusers are very often victims themselves who have not learned how to deal with the pain of their own trauma.

In response, they become violent towards someone they consider as powerless.

It’s often that they were the powerless one before, and to compensate they use their physical strength as well as violent tactics to control another person.

Abusers may also suffer from low self-esteem, jealousy or an exaggerated sense of superiority.

Mental illness can also be a major factor which drives violence; an inability to control emotions, resulting in a short temper and other anger management issues.

Perceived gender roles can also result in domestic violence, as some belief structures result in the need to display male dominance through aggression and force.

Types of Domestic Violence

There are several types of violence in domestic situations and abusers often use more than one to gain full control over the victims physical, emotional and mental well-being.

  • Physical abuse – bumping, hitting, pushing, biting etc
  • Mental abuse – damaging of their victim’s self-perception and highlighting their flaws. Abusers will also make the victim feel like they’re causing the abuse
  • Emotional abuse – ignoring their victim’s needs, belittling the victim and making them believe that nobody else will love them
  • Verbal abuse – shaming, insulting and demeaning comments to break down the victim
  • Gaslighting – using manipulative methods to make the victim feel like they are imagining their own reality by invalidating their claims resulting in self-doubt
  • Sexual abuse – any form of sexual act that is forced onto the victim without consent.

Why is Seeking Help Hard for a Victim?

In situations where substance abuse and domestic abuse are both present, seeking help becomes far more difficult.

When a victim has turned to substance abuse to cope with the violence, they start to drift further away from what they consider right and wrong.

With substance abuse typically impairing judgement, victims often accept the violence as a normal part of their lives.

Furthermore, an abuser often lacks the ability to admit that they are doing something wrong and believes that there is no need to change. This ideology paired with substance abuse if even more unshakable.

In addition, prolonged domestic abuse can cause the victim to believe that nobody will believe them when they expose the violence.

They may also have feelings of shame that debilitate them to the point of total disempowerment. People who are ashamed find it extremely difficult to ask for help.

Lastly, many victims have been threatened to a degree that they fear the repercussions of exposing their abuser. The fear of being beat up prevents victims from speaking up about the violence.

Step Away Rehabilitation Centre South Africa

Anybody can be a victim of domestic violence and substance abuse. If you or a loved one is in need of assistance with substance abuse, please feel free to contact us.

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