Topic: Alcohol and drugs
Substance use, support for you.
Can I go into a refuge if I'm taking drugs?
Substance misuse and domestic violence.
For organisations supporting women with drug and alcohol issues.
Women's substance misuse in the context of domestic violence
"Women experiencing domestic violence are up to fifteen times more likely to misuse alcohol and nine times more likely to misuse other drugs than women generally". (1)
Alcohol and drugs are often seen as a "cause" of domestic violence - but this is a myth.
While problematic alcohol or drug use - by either the perpetrator or the victim - can make the situation worse, the use of substances does not in itself lead to violence: many men are abusive whether or not they have been drinking - and many people drink without becoming violent.
However, men may blame their violent behaviour on being drunk or stoned at the time; and when both partners have been drinking or using drugs, the violence tends to be more severe, and the woman may be less able to protect herself (Galvani, 2001). The perpetrator (and others) may blame the victim, if she has been using substances - and when she reports the abuse, the police and other agencies are likely to take her less seriously.
Many women use alcohol or other drugs to help them cope with the abuse; and there is also evidence that some women are introduced to substances by their violent partners in order to increase their control over them (Swan, et al., 2000).
Domestic violence services and legal issues
Many domestic violence organisations (including refuge services) can offer support and accommodation to women who use alcohol and other drugs. However, all domestic violence services must comply with legal requirements, in particular those under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. Section 8 of this Act states that those concerned in the management of any premises commit an offence if they allow the production or supply of any controlled substance, or if they allow cannabis or opium to be smoked on the premises (1) ; however the legislation need not be a barrier to the development of services. Most refuge organisations also have rules governing the use of alcohol within their premises.
Report from Women's Aid on substance use
Struggle to Survive: Challenges for delivering services on mental health, substance misuse and domestic violence is a report on findings of from an indepth survey taken in 2002-3, researched and written by Jackie Barron. You can purchase the report from Women's Aid.
1. Stark, E. and Flitcraft, A., 1996; Maryland Department of Health, 2001