Co-occurring drug or alcohol abuse
Substance abuse issues are often mistaken as the root of intimate partner violence, but we must be clear: Substance abuse and domestic violence often coexist in relationships, but substance abuse is not the cause of abuse. Many individuals who abuse substances never abuse their partner and, conversely, many who abuse their partner never abuse alcohol or drugs.
The cause of abuse is rooted in power and control, not the use of alcohol or drugs, but substance abuse is connected to increased risk of lethal violence. Alcohol and drug abuse were present in 52 percent of the Project’s cases prior to the fatal incident and Project data falls closely in line with other research. In a national study on the risk of intimate partner homicide, victims of completed or attempted femicide experienced abuse by a partner who was drunk every day in 42 percent of cases (Campbell, 2017). Increased alcohol abuse may also be part of an overall deterioration of the perpetrator’s personal circumstances including neglect of hygiene, depression, lack of sleep and job loss. Any combination of these factors is a cause for concern for victim safety.
Just as with depression, there is help for perpetrators who abuse drugs and alcohol. Although just 7 percent of perpetrators in reviewed cases were known to be in contact with a substance abuse treatment provider in the five years prior to the fatal incident, addressing substance abuse issues in addition to the domestic violence is paramount to reduce risk.