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Domestic violence and substance abuse

Posted: September 30, 2011 - 12:03am

In response to the article on IPV (intimate partner violence) by Emily Miller, I would like to comment about something not identified in the article. This is substance abuse. Take away substance abuse and the following could potentially be cut in half: domestic violence, child abuse, vehicular fatalities, overall crime (violent and non-violent), occupational absenteeism, higher mortality rate, illness and injury (occupational and non-occupational), homicides, suicides, welfare dependence, incarceration and the list goes on. Alcoholism increases the rate of breast cancer potentially by 40 percent but little is said about this relationship. I am not saying that substance abuse is the entire problem, as it goes much deeper, i.e., values, perceptions and responsibility. I am saying that to negate one of the largest societal problems is to put energy into programs that might have little impact.

I think we need to educate people early in life about what drugs (this includes alcohol — alcohol is a mind-altering drug which causes more problems than all the other drugs put together), due to the health, interpersonal relationships and spirit. And we need to do more; we need to teach young people how to cope with life (both ups and downs) without negatively altering one’s self. We have a batterer’s program in town, which is positive, but a participant can potentially attend the almost year-long session and be abusing substances, so any learning or advancement is negated by an inability to absorb and put the materials to use in daily life. And this program is for men, who are just as often the victims of IPV as women, perhaps even more so. Female-to-male violence is less stigmatized and men don’t often report or talk about it. I have rarely worked with someone who committed IPV whose partner was not also a participant and, at some point, a perpetrator of domestic violence.

So, I believe an effort to address substance abuse is likely to make a significant positive impact on numerous problems in our society, including IPV.

Samantha Abernathy

Licensed counselor (substance abuse, mental health)

Juneau

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