I hadn’t realized how many assumptions I had before going into a training on the relationship between Domestic Violence and Substance abuse. Although the correlations between the two have been in the back of my mind, the real dynamic of working with these clients became very real to me. Most people look at Domestic Violence as a form of anger, and routinely refer clients to anger management treatment in order to control the problem. What was one of the most interesting pieces of this course was the distinction that was made between Anger Management and Domestic Violence.
Does Domestic Violence happen at times out of anger? Sure, but it is not an anger management issue because domestic violence is demonstrating choice and control in their target. True anger management would occur at any time towards anybody; the mailman, your boss, the policeman. When it shows itself to be directed at one person, usually a spouse or family members, the person is showing an ability to control themselves…this is not congruent with normal anger. The second distinction is that in most anger management courses, anger is taught to be “ok” and “acceptable” so long as it is expressed in an appropriate way. Also not true for domestic violence. Domestic Violence is never ok, nor acceptable, and what the batterers need to learn is that violence, be it verbal, financial, physical or sexual, is never ok, we must never allow it to be acceptable.
Many of us deal with or will deal with abuse, abusers and anger during our careers. Although we take no official oath, our main goal will always be to first do no harm. What we don’t always realize is the harm that we can do through our own ignorance. Many, including our presenter on this topic spoke about how our first reaction to domestic violence is to get them out, or send them to couples counseling. What we forget is that the most dangerous period of time for those being abused is when they try to leave. And that couples counseling is contraindicated for abusive couples. So our interventions must always reflect the population we are working with, and to fall short of that is to put our charges in harm’s way.
Now a piece of policy change on the subject. As of 2013, all those doing a specialization in substance abuse will now need to also complete an amount of trainings for domestic violence as well. We have realized that there is a connection, despite that one cannot be responsible for causing another. Just remember, our commitment to continuing education is what makes us competent in our profession. It might be the single greatest responsibility we have.
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