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Domestic violence and substance abuse: A complex link

You may assume that the link between domestic violence and substance abuse is easy to understand: Someone who abuses drugs or alcohol is more likely to abuse family members and those living with them. It can create domestic violence situations and lead to arrests.

At least, that's the prevailing thought from those who have never studied the issue. The reality is that it is far more complex.

Victims under the influence

For one thing, substance abuse is not just constrained to those accused of physical abuse. In some cases, it is the victims who use these substances. This can lead to confusion about what really happened when they cannot clearly remember the events. They may combine two different events or get confused about who was there.

In one example, a young woman blamed her ex for abusing her and leaving her with bruises. The woman and her mother even made a video about it to use as evidence.

Things were not that simple, though. Her mother was later accused of editing the footage to blame a specific ex, whom she claimed caused the bruises. The young woman also said that she was intoxicated during the filming of the video, which could call her account into question. She even claimed later that the man blamed in the video wasn't the one who harmed her: A different ex gave her those bruises. Her mother disagreed.

You can see how convoluted a case can get when drugs or alcohol are involved. How do you know who is telling the truth? How do you know what really happened or sort fact from fiction?

Choosing substance abuse

Why would these alleged victims decide to use alcohol or drugs? According to one expert, it could be specifically because they have suffered from abuse in the past. "Other research indicates that a battered woman may use substances with her abuser in order to attempt to manage the violence and increase her safety," claimed one report.

This, too, paints a picture of a more complicated relationship between substances and abuse. The common cliche of an abuser using the substances alone and becoming violent does not necessarily hold up. Are both people using them? How does that impact the situation or the accounts that they give?

Legal defense options

It is important to take all of this into account whenever someone gets accused of domestic violence. These cases are not always straightforward and it can be hard to sort through everything and get to the truth. It is important for those facing allegations to understand the legal defense options they have available to them.

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