Domestic Violence

Khalida Haque is a qualified and experienced counselling psychotherapist, clinical supervisor and group facilitator. She has worked (and continues to work) with various, and sometimes difficult and complex, issues as well as for numerous (Muslim and Non-Muslim) organisations. Here is her well-informed article around the link between domestic violence and substance misuse;

Inextricably Linked?

Domestic violence and substance abuse as separate issues cause much damage on numerous levels – individual, familial and societal as well as emotional, psychological and physical. However, the two are often spoken about in the same sentence. This article attempts to looks at the link between these two social ills and tries to understand if they are inextricably linked.

Governmentally domestic violence is defined as;

“Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass but is not limited to psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional abuse.”

This current definition takes into account the rise in teenage abusive relationships and now also incorporates the terms controlling and coercive:

Controlling behaviour is explained as: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.

And coercive behaviour as: an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.

This government definition covers so called ‘honour’ based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage, and is clear that victims (nor perpetrators) of domestic violence are from only one gender or ethnic or religious group. It encompasses any form of intimate and/or familial relationship.

So where does addiction fit into this equation? The answer is on three levels:

1. Children who grow up in domestically violent households are more likely to become involved in risky behaviours such as drug taking and alcohol consumption and at an early age. This likelihood is increased if one or both parents misuse substances.
2. Victims of domestic violence may turn to alcohol and drugs as a way of escaping the pain and reality of what they are experiencing at the hands of their partner. They may well have been introduced to the substance by the perpetrator
3. The perpetrator may use their addiction as an excuse for their behaviour and actions. They may also use the substances as another way of controlling and/or coercing their partner into behaving as they want.

The above facts and statistics related to them along with other researched information regarding domestic violence can be found at http://www.avaproject.org.uk/our-resources/statistics.aspx

As individual concerns domestic violence and substance misuse are not straightforward matters but when the two are combined things become messier and more entrenched. Studies have shown that the impact of domestic abuse on children is greater when the violence is in association with substance misuse, when children witness the violence, are drawn into it, or feel they have to keep the abuse secret. [Children’s Needs – Parenting Capacity, Cleaver et al, 1999]. Also if you consider that a child, growing up in a domestically abusive environment, wants to escape the conflict and when they can’t physically run away substance misuse often presents as a viable option. Substance misuse and other risky behaviours provide an avenue for both numbing the pain and for feeling connected, significant and/or alive.

With regards to victims turning to alcohol and/or drug (both legal and illegal) taking, in a UK study it was shown that approximately two thirds of survivors drawn from domestic violence agencies began their problematic substance use following their experiences of domestic violence. [Humphreys, C. & Regan, L., 2005. Domestic Violence and Substance Use: Overlapping Issues in Separate Services, Final Report]. At a training programme with Alcohol Concern in 2012 it was stated that a woman experiencing domestic violence is fifteen times more likely (than women generally) to abuse alcohol as a way of coping with the abuse and 9 times more likely to use drugs. Statistically 40% of Asian women seeking treatment for alcohol misuse are experiencing domestic violence (and a fair proportion is likely to be Muslim but there is no apparent data to back this thought up). As mentioned earlier the perpetrator may have introduced the victim to drugs as a means of increasing their control over them and so may also be their supplier. This makes leaving the relationship that much harder. The abuse may also increase when the victim seeks help around the drug/drink problem with recovery and treatment being purposely undermined.

One of the many excuses often given by perpetrators is that it is their drink or drugs addiction that leads to them being abusive however, although reducing substance use (including alcohol) may reduce levels of physical injury it has not been shown to reduce the actual occurrence of domestic violence (i.e. non physical abuse such as psychological and sexual violence). [Jacobs, J., 1998. The Links Between Substance Misuse and Domestic Violence. London: Alcohol Concern]. Also if the cause of the abuse is something treatable like an addiction why make the excuse and not opt to do anything about it? Perpetrators make many excuses for their behaviours but they rarely take action to change.

So to conclude, although there are links between substance misuse and domestic violence and both are predominantly learnt behaviours, we know that as human beings we have the ability to change due to having been granted free will and aql (intellect) by Allah(SWT). Therefore, the excuses we may make only stop ourselves from betterment but they may also subsequently harm others/loved ones along the way.

Khalida can be followed  (and contacted) on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/#!/khalida.haque.9

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