This study examined the potential link between women’s experiences of partner abuse and substance abuse problems and the ability of shelters and domestic violence programs to address the substance abuse problems of clients, as well as substance abuse treatment programs to address partner abuse of clients.
The purposes of this study were to: (1) describe the association of substance abuse (primarily alcohol abuse) and partner abuse among two at-risk populations, women in substance abuse treatment programs and women receiving services for victimization by partner abuse; (2) determine if other problems (i.e., mental health issues) were greater for women with both substance abuse and experiences of partner abuse or women with a single problem; (3) examine the current level of integration between the substance abuse and partner abuse service delivery systems as well as factors that impeded or enhanced the integration; and (4) determine the feasibility of developing and evaluating an innovative treatment program which addressed the problems of substance abuse and partner abuse, within regular treatment settings for both substance or partner abuse. Two primary data sources were used. First, interviews were conducted with 447 women; 225 were receiving treatment for alcohol or drug abuse from one of five substance abuse treatment programs in a Midwestern State, and 222 were receiving services for partner abuse from one of seven shelters of domestic violence programs in the Midwestern State. The second consisted of pilot study interviews with 39 staff from substance abuse programs and 20 from shelters or domestic violence programs. Highlighted conclusions for goal one were: (1) the majority of women in substance abuse treatment had experienced child abuse or partner abuse and a significant percentage in shelters or safe homes for battered women had substance abuse problems; (2) the majority of women in substance abuse treatment had experienced recent partner physical abuse and a significant percentage of women in shelters or safe homes have alcohol or drug problems, women in substance abuse treatment with partner abuse experiences had greater alcohol or drug problems, and women in shelters or safe homes with alcohol or drug problems had greater levels of partner abuse; and (3) the association between substance abuse and experiences of childhood abuse was significant only for alcohol problems. Highlighted conclusions for goal two were: (1) almost half of the women in the shelter or safe home sample had level of depression or anxiety classified as moderate or severe; (2) a diagnosis of alcohol dependence was associated with higher levels of mental health problems in both samples; (3) associations between partner abuse and mental health problems were stronger for the substance abuse treatment sample; and (4) experiences of childhood abuse were associated with higher levels of mental health problems in both samples. Highlighted conclusions for goal three were: (1) There were attempts by both substance abuse treatment and domestic violence agencies to address the cross-problem; (2) staff from both substance abuse treatment and domestic violence agencies would like to see more collaboration between these agencies; and (3) barriers to collaboration included both philosophical issues and a lack of resources to address the cross-problem. Staff at both substance abuse treatment agencies and shelter or safe homes for battered women were very aware of the need for programs to address jointly substance abuse and partner abuse for women. Based on the results of this study, these joint programs would consist of the following components: educational and support groups; therapy groups; and victim advocacy services. References, tables, and appendix
Date Published: May 1, 2001