October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Throughout the U.S., incidents of domestic violence occur on a daily basis and substance abuse is often involved. Congregations and communities need to know the basic facts on the correlation between substance abuse and related violence.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Throughout the U.S., incidents of domestic violence occur on a daily basis and substance abuse is often involved. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, two-thirds of domestic violence survivors reported that their spouse or intimate partner had been drinking while committing the violent act.
Yet substance abuse— abusing drugs or alcohol—does not necessarily lead to violence, and substance abusers do not necessarily commit violent acts. The relationship between the two is often misunderstood, and is not a direct cause and effect. Instead, there is a correlation between the two. Compelling evidence suggests that substance abuse can lead to an increase in the number of occurrences and severity of domestic violence, the World Health Organization reports.
Substance abuse treatment cannot “cure” violence nor does it address the underlying issues that cause domestic violence. Both domestic violence and addiction must be addressed and treated to ensure that the abuser receives adequate counseling or health services to deal with both issues.
Congregations and communities need to know the basic facts on the correlation between substance abuse and related violence:
- Substance abuse is a contributing factor to domestic violence, but is not the cause.
- Not all persons who abuse substances become violent.
- The treatment of substance abuse and addiction will not eliminate violent tendencies of individuals, nor will treatment of violent behavior eliminate substance abuse and addiction. Both need to be treated.
In the 1990s when the United States experienced a dramatic rise in drug-related violence, The United Methodist Church recognized the correlation between the two and asked the question: "Where is the Church and what is its role in drugs and drug-related violence?” For the next two years, Bishop Felton Edwin May (now retired) led a churchwide study to examine alcohol, other drugs and related violence to develop the denomination’s response. The study findings led to the creation of the United Methodist Special Program on Substance Abuse and Related Violence (SPSARV).
What Your Church Can Do
- Churches must create a support system for responding to domestic violence concerns, including posting hotlines in places where those that need help can access it; maintaining a list of shelters for women and children; and offering a referrals to professional counselors that deal with anger management, and addiction.
- Working in partnership with countries recovering from war to establish rehabilitation programs to help soldiers who were drug induced to fight in civil wars, helping them to heal and be reintergrated back into the community.
- Advocate for local, national and global policies that protect domestic violence victims.
- Educate youth and young adults about substance abuse related violence and help them to make wise choices.