Substance Use Coercion
- People who abuse their partners often coerce them into using substances, including deliberately sabotaging their recovery attempts. This insidious form of power and control cuts across every facet of a survivor’s life and has potentially lethal effects. Forcibly keeping a survivor reliant on substances can harm their mental and physical health, impact their relationship with and custody of their children, interfere with their housing and employment, and create other barriers to getting help.
- Substance use coercion is a form of abuse targeted toward a partner’s use of substances that is essential to keep in mind when working with survivors across multiple settings and systems. One national survey (United States) found that more than 60% of those who sought help for substance use said their abusive partners had tried to prevent them from accessing treatment.
- In addition to the harmful effects of abuse, many survivors experience services as harmful rather than helpful due to substance use-related stigma, particularly in relation to parenting. As one expert said during the meeting, “People won’t ask for help if they are being told how bad they are. We have to make it safe for people. There is nothing worse than putting the most vulnerable moment of your life out there and being told you are horrible.”
(SUBSTANCE USE COERCION AS A BARRIER TO SAFETY, RECOVERY, AND ECONOMIC STABILITY NATIONALCENTERDVTRAUMAMH.ORG National Centre on Domestic Violence, Trauma, and Mental Health RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FEDERAL POLICY)
Effects of Victimization
- Factors related to IPV victimization include: low self-esteem, guilt, shame, powerlessness, depression, sexual dysfunction, and relationship dysfunction. All of these provide a foundation for the development of substance abuse.
- The abuse of alcohol/other drugs impairs judgement and thought processes so that victims may have difficulty with adequate safety planning. Alcohol/other drug use makes it more difficult for victims to leave violent relationships.
- Victims may be reluctant to contact police in violent situations for fear of their own arrest and/or being reported to Child & Family Services if they have children.
- Use of alcohol/other drugs may increase involvement in other illegal activities