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Domestic Violence and Substance Abuse

If you are a victim of domestic violence, you most likely know that substance abuse can interfere with a person’s mood and exacerbate anger and frustration. Substances like alcohol may make a person feel good for a little while, but later their mood can crash, and they feel even worse. As a victim of domestic violence abuse, you may also struggle with substance abuse as a way to cope. Let’s take a look at how substance abuse and domestic violence are related.

Alcohol and Domestic Violence

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. It works to dampen anxiety and the body’s natural reaction to stress by inducing relaxation, slowing your heart rate and blood pressure, and lowering your body temperature. 

According to Alcohol.org, “Evidence suggests that alcohol use increases the chance and gravity of domestic violence, showing a direct correlation between the two. Because alcohol use affects cognitive and physical function, it reduces a person’s self-control and lessens their ability to negotiate a non-violent resolution to conflicts.”

Many people rely on alcohol to relieve stress, but it can be a double-edged sword. Drinking every day can change the brain’s chemical makeup. The brain is sensitive to chronic alcohol use and may adjust accordingly. The chemical imbalance caused by regular overdrinking makes a person want to drink even more to feel better again. 

North Carolina Health News states that “Domestic abuse is more likely when a potential perpetrator is unemployed, experiences isolation from other people, participates in heavy alcohol or drug use, or is depressed.” 

No matter the emotional and stressful struggle a person addicted to alcohol may face, their addiction is not an excuse for violence. And you have legal recourse you can use to find relief from the violence.

Alcohol Use By Abused Partners

It is also common for abused partners to rely on alcohol or other substances to help them cope with the abuse. Mood disorders abound in those facing violence at home. Many with PTSD and depression use alcohol or other substances as ways to self-medicate. 

When trying to stop substances, quitting can be even more difficult because of the chaotic and violent life with the partner. Substance abuse can lead to risky choices that you wouldn’t make while sober. While violence is never your fault, risky behavior can increase your chances of being victimized. Alcohol can even increase any suicidal thoughts you may have. 

Problem drinking can cause you to become socially isolated. Your interests and passions can fade as you become secretive and withdrawn. Mood swings, personality shifts, and uncharacteristic behaviors are typical. In addition, sleeping and eating patterns can shift. (1)

What Does Alcohol Do To You?

There is no doubt that alcohol affects your body and mind, and not in a good way for your future health and well-being. “Alcohol can impair cognitive functions, impede coordination, lower inhibitions, and interfere with functional decision-making abilities, which can then increase the odds that a person will engage in risky or hazardous behaviors, get into an accident, become injured, or be the victim of a crime or sexual assault. Therefore, it may also play a role in worsening situations of domestic abuse.” (1) 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “alcohol can make a person less likely to try to navigate a potentially volatile situation and therefore can inhibit a person’s abilities to negotiate a nonviolent solution due to a lack of self-control brought about by alcohol.” 

Again, there is never an excuse for a partner’s abuse, and turning to alcohol and/or drugs to help survive an abusive situation is normal. But there are other supports as well. Seeking out substance abuse or domestic violence counselors can help light the way to a brighter future where you may be able to take steps to leave an abusive partner without the need to escape into drugs or alcohol.

Domestic Violence is a Crisis

Domestic violence is a crisis around the world. According to a UN Office on Drugs and Crime study, “Women killed by intimate partners or family members account for 58 percent of all female homicide victims reported globally last year.” Women as a whole are in more danger with their intimate partners than when anywhere else.

However, both male and female victims can and do suffer domestic violence at the hands of a partner. Same-sex partners also struggle with abuse. Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence regardless of age, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or culture. Because domestic violence is a problem that affects everyone worldwide, it is vital to support those who need help getting out of an abusive or dangerous situation. 

Last Year Was Bad

In 2020, people were more isolated and less likely to seek help for issues like domestic violence. In North Carolina, “Reports of domestic violence spiked in the last year… Sheriff’s offices across the state saw higher incidents of domestic violence. Counties reported almost 2,000 additional cases in 2020 over 2019. The virus wreaked additional havoc on victims seeking help by making it more difficult to access services.” (2) 

In 2020, numbers of drug overdoses hit an all-time high. Studies showed a 59% increase in alcohol use, increases in opioid overdoses, and rises in suicidal thoughts. Additional statistics include 81,000 reported drug overdoses in 12 months during 2020, the highest ever recorded in a year. (3)

It’s been a challenging year for everyone, but you have a legal right to find safety and security. Seek out a counselor or attorney who can help you find your way into a better future.

It’s Time to Find Help

If you live with threats by words, gestures, or physical touch, there are resources available to help you find the best way for yourself and your children. One first step is often getting a restraining order, called a Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO). When you file a DVPO, you get the protection you need from the person who is hurting you. 

A DVPO allows a judge to order specific forms of protection. Most importantly, it grants law enforcement the power to charge the abusive partner criminally if they violate the order. If you have a personal relationship with the person abusing you, you can file a DVPO.

The legal definition of a personal relationship is:

  • Current or former spouses
  • Persons of the opposite sex who live together or have lived together
  • Persons related as parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren (no DVPO against a child or grandchild under the age of 16)
  • Have a child in common
  • Current or former household members
  • Someone in (or who was in) an opposite-sex dating relationship. If you have a same-sex dating partner who has never been a household member and you are not married to each other, it may be more challenging to find protections under this law. At Scharff Law, we have successfully worked within the judicial system to find protection for LGBTQ persons..

The Protection of a DVPO

Getting a DVPO can protect you in these ways:

  • Ordering the person harming you to have no contact with you of any kind, directly or through third parties
  • Prohibiting the other person from assaulting, threatening, abusing, following, harassing, or otherwise interfering with you or your children by any means, including in-person, through social media, at work, or on the telephone.
  • Ordering the other person to move out and not return from the home where both of you may have been living – no matter who owns or leases the home.
  • Giving the police permission to remove the other person from your home.
  • Giving you possession of personal property including a car.
  • Ordering the other person to stay a fixed distance away from any place you request, such as your work, your children’s school, your friends’ homes, and any other place where you may be seeking shelter.
  • Giving you temporary custody of a minor child
  • Giving you possession of your pet and ordering the other person not to harm your pet.
  • Ordering the other person to surrender firearms and not be able to purchase firearms
  • Ordering any other prohibitions or requirements that the court feels necessary to keep you safe

We Can Help

At Scharff Law, we are familiar with the options available to those facing domestic violence, including the LGBTQ community. We can help you think through what legal solutions will work best for your unique situation. Alcohol and substance abuse can contribute even more instability to an already difficult situation. However, there are ways to go forward and find your life again. Don’t let others tell you it’s not possible. Talk with us today and find out how we can help you find a way out of the pain you’re in now. We are here to help and are on your side.