‘Domestic abuse’ covers a wide range of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent or sexually violent behaviour, carried out by a partner or ex-partner, as defined by Women’s Aid.If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse and suffers addiction problems, contact us for professional support.
Domestic violence is widespread; 25% of women in England and Wales will suffer domestic violence in their lifetime, and 8% will experience it in any given year. (Crime Survey of England and Wales, 2013/14).
Drug and Alcohol Addiction and Domestic Abuse
US statistics indicate that there is a relationship between domestic violence and alcohol and drug abuse. The relationship between domestic abuse and addiction can become a vicious cycle that is very difficult for the victim to break.
- Female domestic violence victims are 15 times more likely to abuse alcohol, and nine times more likely to abuse drugs than those who haven’t suffered violence.
- Regularly abusing alcohol is one of the top risk factors for violence between spouses or partners.
- Women who abuse alcohol can find it more difficult to leave an abusive partner.
- One survey found that 69% of women being treated for drug abuse were sexually abused in their childhood.
Domestic Violence Victims and Prescription Drug Abuse
It is not uncommon for domestic violence victims to develop a dependence on prescription drugs. They may initially be prescribed these drugs for legitimate medical reasons. However, due to their physical and emotional suffering, they may begin to overuse the drug as a way of self-medicating. Sedatives and painkillers are particularly likely to be abused in this way.
Over time, a prescription drug problem will further damage the domestic abuse victim’s mental and physical health. It can lead to problems such as absenteeism from work, and resulting disciplinaries, as well as difficulty caring effectively for yourself or your children.
Common Signs of Domestic Abuse
Victims of domestic and sexual violence often self-medicate with alcohol or drugs in order to reduce severe psychological and physical suffering. It may also be a way for the individual to block memories of previous or ongoing traumatic episodes. These are some common characteristics of women who have experienced domestic or sexual abuse:
- Psychological symptoms such as anxiety and depression in addition to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and suicidal feelings.
- Hyper vigilance when it comes to monitoring their partner’s moods and behaviour. This is a preventative tactic; they are trying to reduce the likelihood of an outburst from their partner by minimising the environmental cues to their violence.
- Hyper vigilance means they are constantly alert, scared, and anxious. Over time, this behaviour takes its mental toll, leaving the victim emotionally and physically exhausted.
- They remain in the damaging relationship due to concerns for their own or their children’s safety if they tried to leave, or because they suffer from issues of codependency [Link to codependent resource page].
- They do not report the domestic abuse to social services for fear that it will lead to their children being taken into custody.
- They may also fear the social stigma attached to their situation.
- It’s common for the victim’s abuser to also be their supplier of drugs or alcohol, increasing the addicted person’s reliance on them.
Rehab Treatment for Female Domestic Violence Victims
Victims of domestic abuse who also struggle with drug and alcohol addiction must be treated within a dual diagnosis rehab programme. This is because their addiction problems should be treated at the same time as the mental health effects of domestic abuse, such as PTSD, eating disorders, anxiety or depression.
Addiction and other psychological issues are always intertwined, and if one condition is treated without the other, there is a greater chance of relapse. Residential rehab programmes are recommended for dual diagnosis treatment because both problems can be addressed at the same time, on the same site, by a team of mental health professionals who are in dialogue with each other. In addition, it provides the patient with a new, safe and secure setting, removed from the presence of their abusive partner and any environmental triggers to their addictive behaviour.
During a combined programme of dual diagnosis and PTSD treatment, patients can work through issues such as shame, guilt, trauma, anger or sadness.
Smarmore Castle’s Residential Rehab Treatment for Domestic Abuse Victims
Smarmore Castle’s dual diagnosis treatment programme effectively helps women to overcome their alcohol and drug addiction. Our programme of therapy provides them with the coping skills necessary to achieve long-term sobriety.
Where patients have suffered domestic abuse, our programme:
- Provides a new, safe environment, far removed from the influence of an abusive partner.
- Through therapy, the patient’s feelings are validated, and she is empowered to commit fully to her recovery.
- Our continuing care plan helps to support the patient after they have left treatment, and sets up contingencies to ensure their safety.
Our abstinence-based rehab programme takes a holistic approach to care. It recognises the myriad influences of addiction, mental health issues and a history of traumatic experiences on a patient’s behaviour.
- The patient’s history of medical and psychological health, to identify any mental health issues, or symptoms of trauma.
- The patient’s history of drug use, which informs their personalised detox schedule.
An individualised treatment plan is then developed, which is designed to treat the patient’s drug or alcohol addiction problems at the same time as any psychological issues sustained as a result of domestic violence. The plan incorporates a balance of specialist addiction therapies and complementary therapies.
How We Treat Victims of Domestic Violence
- Individual, intensive psychotherapy helps patients to work through emotions such as guilt, shame, or anger in a healthy way, without self-medicating using drugs or alcohol.
- Our Women’s Group helps female patients to address some of the most common issues experienced by women during addiction recovery.
- It is common for victims of domestic abuse to experience post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Our specialist therapists deliver individual and group trauma therapy sessions, where past traumas are explored and the patient is taught a range of coping methods.
- Any patient suffering an eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia or binge eating in addition to problems of addiction receives support within the eating disorders group.
- Cognitive behavioural therapy is an effective treatment for both addiction problems and the psychological effects of domestic abuse. It helps victims to reframe negative thoughts, revise damaging beliefs about themselves and provides them with healthier coping mechanisms.
- Mindfulness meditation is a complementary therapy that is designed to relieve patients of stress and help them to focus on the present.
- Aromatherapy can improve relaxation in patients.
- Smarmore Castle’s rehab programme is founded on the 12-Steps ideology. While in treatment here, patients attend regular local AA/NA meetings. The patient is strongly encouraged to continue to do so after returning to their daily lives.
- Our continuing care programme is particularly helpful for women who have been victims of domestic abuse. On leaving treatment, the patient works with their individual therapist to develop a two-year plan designed to maintain their recovery in an everyday setting. Their safety is our utmost priority and the plan reflects this, for example ensuring they are not at risk from a former abusive partner.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse and suffers addiction problems, contact us for professional support. Our clinically proven treatment model has been effectively rehabilitating drug and alcohol abusers for over 30 years.
Last updated on clinically assessed 4 February, 2021