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Making the connections…

Tina Steffensmeier: Substance abuse is often a factor in instances of domestic violence

By A Contributor

Domestic violence is the use of intentional emotional, psychological, sexual or physical force by one family member or intimate partner to control another. Substance abuse is an unhealthy pattern of alcohol or drug use that usually leads to frequent, serious problems at home, school or work. Substance abuse also can cause significant stress in relationships. These two issues often go hand in hand. Much like patterns of substance abuse, violence between intimate partners tends to escalate in frequency and severity over time.

Research has not established a causal link between domestic violence and substance abuse; however, one cannot ignore the correlation between these two issues.

The U.S. Department of Justice found that 61 percent of domestic violence offenders have substance abuse problems. Also, substance abuse treatment programs see substantial numbers of batterers and victims among their client populations and increasingly are compelled to deal with issues related to abuse.

The use of alcohol or other drugs may increase the likelihood that a batterer will commit an act of domestic violence. That’s because it reduces inhibitions and distorts perceptions, because alcohol is often used as an excuse for violence and because both alcohol abuse and domestic violence tend to follow parallel escalating patterns. But it does not fully explain the behavior.

When it comes to victims of domestic violence, research shows that the victims also are more likely to develop substance abuse problems. In fact, women who have been abused are 15 times more likely to abuse alcohol and nine times more likely to abuse drugs than women who have not been abused.

It is crucial to make the connections between domestic violence and substance abuse because they affect our families and communities. As a community, we need to know that treatment is effective and that people can, and do, recover. We need to educate ourselves about these important issues, learn what resources are available and encourage individuals toward treatment when possible.

To address domestic violence, this community has a batterer intervention program which is certified through the Kansas Attorney General’s Office at Pawnee Mental Health Services (785) 587-4315. Our local victim advocacy program is the Crisis Center. If someone you know is a victim of sexual or domestic violence, please believe, listen without judgment, and make a referral to the Crisis Center. Call toll free, 24-hours:  800-727-2785. All Crisis Center services are free and confidential. 

Moreover, there are two licensed outpatient alcohol and drug treatment facilities that serve the Manhattan area; Pawnee Mental Health Services and the Restoration Center Inc. 

Tina Steffensmeier, 1558 Hayes Drive, is program director of Prevention, Treatment & Recovery Services at Pawnee Mental Health Services.

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