“Childhood should be carefree, playing in the sun; not living a nightmare in the darkness of the soul.” ~ Dave Pelzer
Domestic violence rarely affects only those directly involved in the abusive relationship. Domestic violence is any behavior involving physical, psychological, emotional, sexual, or verbal abuse. It
is any form of aggression intended to hurt, damage, or kill an intimate person.
It is seldom that domestic violence is an isolated episode; rather it is comprised of a number of episodes over an extended period of time. The probability of alcohol and drugs being involved in a domestically violent relationship is considerably high.
THE DESENSITIZATION OF DRUGS, ALCOHOL, AND OTHER SUBSTANCES
Reportedly, the consumption of alcohol accounts for approximately 65% of all cases related to domestic violence, verses 5% of all accounts associated with drugs. “Alcohol is a factor in 40% of all violent crimes today, and according to the Department of Justice, 37% of almost 2 million convicted offenders currently in jail report that they were drinking at the time of their arrest.” The probability
of the use of alcohol verses drugs stems from the ease of access and the societal acceptability of alcohol. The media is somewhat accountable for the societal acceptance of alcohol and the glorification of drugs. A report published in the Journal Pediatrics, which is the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (APA), analyzes and carefully examines in detail the relationship of alcohol, drugs, and others substances in relationship to the media.
“Although parents, schools, and the federal government are trying to get children and teenagers to ‘just say no’ to drugs, more
than $25 billion worth of cigarette, alcohol, and prescription drug advertising is effectively working to get them to ‘just say yes’ to smoking, drinking, and other drugs.” The media’s love affair with the consumption of drugs, alcohol, and other substances has a dire effect upon our society.
“The power of advertising to influence children and adolescents (and adults, for that matter) is incontrovertible. Advertising works; otherwise, companies would not spend billions of dollars on it.” The billions spent marketing to young people is not only perpetuated by the movie and television industry, but with the viral society with which we now live, such media’s are becoming more and more prevalent having an instant impact upon our society.
The Pediatric article also highlighted the fact that many of the current movies and television programming has purposefully sensationalized smoking, drinking, and substance abuse. Whether we are discussing media like Harold and Kumar, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, 22 Jump Street, Everything Must Go, or Two and Half Men; the movie and television industries have made use and abuse of cigarettes, alcohol, and other substances morally acceptable. “A content analysis of the top 100 box office hits between 1996 and 2004 revealed that tobacco use was depicted in three-quarters of G-, PG-, and PG-13– rated movies and in 90% of R-rated movies.”
Moreover, the love affair of substances also provides allowances for egregious behaviors of the famous and the infamous such as: the Justin Bieber incident of urinating in the mop bucket of a New York City establishment; or the Charlie Sheen escapade of ranting and binging while working as a cast member of Two and Half Men; or the allowances for domestic violence with figures like the NFL Player, Ray Rice who stated “I blame liquor for elevator attack.” The excuses provide an unwritten tolerance and the lack of accountability for those who have acted egregiously.
“Alcohol is often a factor in violence where the attacker and the victim know each other.”
Domestic violence is frequently excused when alcohol and other substances are involved:
• “He isn’t normally like that, he was intoxicated.”
• “Alcohol makes him mean”
• “I just slapped her or punched her, I never forcefully struck her”
• “She provoked me into my anger”
• “She doesn’t know when to just shut up”
• “His lack of help around the house makes me aggressive”
• “She’s normally a very kind and loving person, she didn’t intend on harming me”
Domestic violence is often associated with drugs and alcohol. The majority of those who are domestically violent and use have a greater propensity to be egregiously violent. However, the use of alcohol and other substances is not a guarantee of a domestic violent person, nor is the use of alcohol and other substances an indication of the probability of domestic violence. Nevertheless, perpetrators of domestic violence have a greater probability of increasing their domestic abuse when using substances and alcohol. “Most people who abuse substances don’t abuse their partners, but a substantial proportion of people who abuse their partners also abuse substances.”
“Domestic violence has been described as a hidden face of addiction.” We are a society of excuses, shame, and blame; we avoid accountability and often project our responsibility when involving domestic violence. “The abuser is quite keen for us to believe the cause and effect myth of alcohol and domestic violence – it gives them a ready excuse to deny responsibility for their abusive behaviour.” The lack of culpability of the perpetrator, and his or her transference of blame onto alcohol or other substances only perpetuates the violent behaviors. “…The abuser is quite happy for us to accept that common concept that alcohol and domestic violence are linked by alcohol being the cause of domestic violence. While we believe that, we are likely to concentrate our efforts on helping the abuser aim for sobriety, not challenge his abusive belief system and behaviours.”
“The presence of drug and/or alcohol abuse makes continued offending more likely. Although sobriety may not eliminate the risk for re-abuse, research suggests it may be a necessary ingredient.’ However, substance abuse treatment is usually not effective in reducing domestic abuse over the long term. There are four main reasons for this:
• Abusers who use substances are violent and controlling both when they are intoxicated and when they’re not.
• People who want to quit drinking or drugging do not necessarily want to treat their partner better or give up control of them. Most domestic abusers do not choose to examine and change their entitlement attitudes during substance abuse treatment.
• Substance abuse treatment can’t overcome the social context that supports the control of women by men.
• Substance abuse does not cause domestic abuse in the first place.”
Society has seldom considered the vicarious effects of domestic violence between partners on the lives of children. “A study in Massachusetts found that children who witnessed abuse of their maternal caregiver were 50% more likely to abuse drugs and/or alcohol.” Moreover, studies have found that children who witness abuse are more likely to accept relationships that are abusive. As children, what is the norm within our lives often becomes the norm within our adulthood.
Children who witness abuse are more apt to have a skewed view of relationships; the healthy behaviors within relationships; and a healthy way of interacting with others.
“Many young people who are mistreated by an adult, victimized by bullies, criminally assaulted, or who witness domestic violence react to this violence exposure by developing behavioral, emotional, or learning problems. What is less well known is that adverse experiences like violence exposure can lead to hidden physical alterations inside a child’s body, alterations which may have adverse effects on life-long health.” The repercussions of domestic violence can have a systemic effect on the psychology, biology, and physiology of the human makeup. It is essential that children who are directly or indirectly affected by domestic violence receive psychological care.
“Of pain you could wish only one thing: that it should stop. Nothing in the world was so bad as physical pain. In the face of pain there are no heroes.”~ George Orwell
While we understand many of the causations of domestic violence; it is critical that these factors are not overlooked when providing or requesting treatment. The escalation of domestic violence within the home has been shown to increase when the familial environment is unstable. As clinicians, it is of the utmost importance that you consider the following areas when working with a domestically violent couple:
• What is the financial makeup of the home?
• What are the psychological and physiological factors of the familial environment?
• What are the socioeconomic challenges that this family may be facing?
• Are there any academic disparities or challenges within the home?
• What other stressors may be the catalyst for domestic violence?
Domestic abusers and the abused need to develop healthy support systems (e.g. psychological services, familial support systems, domestic violence programs, and treatment programs). “Do not assume that substance abuse treatment will make your partner treat you better. It may be necessary, but it won’t be enough to end the violence.” It is important to understand that domestic violence does not always occur by those that struggle with substances or alcohol. Furthermore, domestic violence occurs at all socioeconomic levels.
1. Be your best proponent, ally, and advocate.
2. Be an informed advocate and support.
3. Always make your familial environment a safe and inviting place.
a) always allow for healthy and open communication
b) actively listen, even if you disagree, promote healthy conversations
c) avoid jokes that are at the emotional expense of your partner,
4. Never allow yourself to be a bystander. Always be a voice and an advocate for others.
5. Prevent an atmosphere of bullying within your own home! (E.g. physical assaults or discipline, yelling, belittling, trivializing, minimizing, downgrading, sneering, or running down your child or others).
6. If you are living in a domestically violent home, time is of the essence.
7. Be aware of children who may be living in a domestically violent home. Inform the proper authority.
8. Always, always do what is necessary to protect yourself and your family from harm.
While domestic violence is always inexcusable, know that there are a number of reasons that someone becomes a domestic abuser or tolerates domestic abuse. It is always important never to judge those who are living in a domestically violent home, rather help them find a healthy support system.
May you begin living beyond.
Author: Dr. Asa Don Brown, Ph.D., C.C.C., D.N.C.C.M.,
References Provided Upon Request