Domestic Abuse Linked to Serious Mental Health Concerns
Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is on the rise. In fact, over 50% of women will experience relationship violence at some point in their life. Violence against male partners is increasing too; with reporting steadily increasing across the globe.
In the USA alone, over 15.5 million children witness regular assaults and violence in the home. The longer term affects of witnessing emotional or physical abuse are alarming. Children who have experienced family setting abuse are more likely to suffer the affects of psychological harm. Play therapy and talk therapy can help children and adolescents to express the feelings associated with traumatic events. Living in a volatile environment where arguments and regular is damaging for children and young people.
56% of women who report domestic violence have serious mental health concerns. The link between abuse and psychiatric problems is pronounced. Intimate partner violence is also noted in both disordered eating, body image and morbid obesity. Victims are also 70% more likely to have personally experienced severe alcohol and drug related issues.
Violence, Addiction and Mental Health
Violence in the home and domestic abuse is a common theme for therapists in both inpatient and outpatient settings. Emotional, financial and psychological terror is experienced by many partners living with substance abuse disorder in the family. Gambling addiction and gaming disorder also correlate to high levels of abuse within relationships.
Violence between couples is 11 times more likely when preceded by intoxication or periods of heavy drug or alcohol use. Aggression and fear are evident in the majority of relationships where addiction is a problem.
Family and couples therapy can be seen to be part of many residential treatment programs that specialize in addiction and associated disorders. Therapists are increasingly challenged to work with families who have experienced a wide spectrum of abuse. Studies have shown that for those entering treatment, violence at home has been reported in over 60% of cases, in the year prior to entering treatment.
One of the challenges for families who suspect violence in the home, lies in how to best help the victim. In many family systems, violence maybe suspected but often it is hidden for months and possibly years. Shame, fear, guilt, love and loyalty, are all reasons that victims go to great lengths to protect those who hurt them most. Well meaning friends may advise victims to ‘just leave’, although those in the situation rarely see the option in black and white.
So, why do victims stay? There are as many reasons as cases. It can be financial, fear of reprisals, children, homelessness and the lack of provision for places of safety. It can also be that victims hope and believe that ‘if only’ their partner could get well, that the situation would somehow change for the better. In some cases, it gets worse. The chances of a violent incident being a ‘one off’ are slim. All research indicates that following a first incidence of violence, further aggression and violent assaults are likely to take place. Each incident is likely to become increasingly severe. Sometimes this leads to death.
In fact, it takes an average of 20 episodes of intimate partner violence for a report to take place.
Getting into treatment for substance use disorder and family/couples therapy with an experienced trauma therapist is essential for families with a history of violence.
It is also important to remember that violence can escalate quickly and to have an emergency plan ready to put into place.
If you or someone you care about has experienced domestic violence, please consider the following emergency safety plan:
Plan ahead a place of safety for yourself and any children. This might be with a friend or family or it may be a local shelter, nearest hospital or police station. Ask someone to help you to write a personal safety plan.
Have a bag packed and ready to use, in case you need to leave in an emergency. Consider leaving your packed bag with a friend or relative.
It is useful to collect photocopies of important documents; birth certificates, passports and other ID documents.
Have a spare telephone or SIM card, with a cash card that cannot be accessed by your partner or some cash that can be hidden for emergencies.
If you have children, pack essential spare clothing and familiar toys. A small first aid kit and toiletries bag. Spare keys and a recent photograph of your partner.
Once you have left the property do not return without legal assistance. Risks increase upon return. Remember that violence is never ok. It is never acceptable. It is never your fault.
Contact your nearest crisis center, hospital or therapist. Rebuilding takes time and is an investment in yourself.