Domestic violence, addiction and connections people miss

October is national Domestic Violence (DV) Awareness month.

We’ve made gains in recent years toward understanding the causes and solutions of DV but we still have far to go. The stigma and misconceptions about DV (also referred to as intimate partner violence) continues to be a major barrier to the safety of millions of women and men. It has best been defined by to the Center for Disease Control:

“Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a serious, preventable public health problem that affects millions of Americans. The term “intimate partner violence” describes physical violence, sexual violence, stalking and psychological aggression (including coercive acts) by a current or former intimate partner.”

Folks know that substance use disorders are common amongst batterers. One of the big pieces that’s missing from our awareness is that countless folks use drugs and alcohol to cope with violence perpetrated against them. All too often, this leaves survivors needing to escape two destructive forces: their abuser and their addiction.

That’s two cruel masters. Both of which seek to control, consume, and ultimately destroy. The most dangerous times are usually when we try to leave them.

It’s two sets of barriers, two forms of shame, and two things we feel we can’t explain.

DV is similar to addiction in many ways, most notably in that we’re still asking all the wrong questions about those lost in their throes:

– Why doesn’t s/he just leave?

– Why don’t they just stop drinking/using?

– Isn’t there help for folks who need it?

– Why did they get themselves into that?

These questions not only perpetuate stigma, they facilitate violence, destruction, and death. The better questions are:

– What prevents her/him from leaving?

– How can I help?

– How can we develop resources at every level (grass roots, church, civic, professional)

– How do we educate and support prevention efforts?

Monday October 17th at 2pm, the Bangor Area Recovery Network (BARN) will be hosting a panel presentation collaboratively with Spruce Run, Brewer P.D., folks in long term recovery, and Higher Ground Services. There is no cost for this event and we urge you to join us in support of your neighbors, coworkers, friends, and families.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.