No one should have to live with domestic violence and yet, sadly, suffering abuse at the hands of a partner is a fact of life for many men and women. Many children, too, live in fear of violence at home. And, often, domestic violence seems to go hand in hand with substance or alcohol abuse.
This leads to a common misconception that substance or alcohol abuse causes domestic violence. The fact is that the two are separate issues, though each can exacerbate the effects of the other. While a partner who is under the influence of drink or drugs might exhibit violence or have a lower threshold for a violent reaction, that person will still be violent even without the alcohol or drugs.
In abusive relationships it is often the case that the abuser:
Believes he has the right to control the victim through violence; it is a means of demonstrating power. The use of alcohol or drugs increases the risk of such behaviour.
- Uses substance or alcohol abuse as an excuse for his behaviour.
- Views his partner's sobriety as a threat and so coerces her into drinking or taking drugs.
- Encourages the victim to use alcohol or drugs to please him.
Consequences for victims
Aside from the physical injuries those who suffer at the hands of partners who are violent, drug or alcohol-fuelled or otherwise, there are additional consequences that are less obvious:
- Some victims turn to drugs or alcohol as a means of escaping from or numbing the reality of a violent relationship. Some are even coerced into such behaviour by abusive partners. Feelings of shame, helplessness or depression can lead to an inescapable spiral of substance abuse for the victim.
- Often, victims become isolated from the support of family and friends, leading to greater dependence on the abuser.
- The friends and family of victims could themselves be targeted by the abuser if they are perceived as interfering or trying to help the victim.
- The victim and any children in the household are likely to experience post-traumatic stress syndrome, particularly when the abuse continues over an extended period of time, leading to possible mental health issues.
- Children growing up in a violent home environment often perceive violence as the norm and become violent themselves so perpetuating the cycle of domestic violence.
Dealing with domestic violence
It takes courage, strength and help to end a violent relationship, as there are many factors that inhibit victims from seeking help. One problem is that victims often love their abusive partners and live in hope that the abuse will stop, especially as abusers often express deep regret for their behaviour. Fear, however, is also a major factor:
- Victims are frequently afraid that the abuser will take revenge.
- Those victims who use illegal substances abuse or alcohol fear legal repercussions if they seek help.
- Victims are often not financially independent and worry about being able to support themselves if they break away from the abuser.
- Children are a major concern – victims worry that: the abuser might get custody of their children; the children might be removed into care: the children will suffer as a result of the disruption to their lives: and, children might become resentful if a parental figure is removed from their lives.
- Some victims fear that seeking help or ending a relationship will lead to social stigma and isolation.
If you are in a violent relationship, then you should seek help as soon as possible for your own protection and that of your children. Help and protection are available once you overcome the barriers.