n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Intimate violence and substance (ab)use - the correlative relationship

Volume 16, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



This paper examines the prevalence of any correlative relationship between intimate violence and substance abuse. At the outset the authors consider the abuser and the use of dependence-producing substances in relation to the abusive conduct. Based on a conspectus of the research, the conclusion is that whilst substance use may be one of the traits demonstrated by a large percentage of abusers, many prohibited substances used are, in fact, less of a root cause of violent interactions than a facilitator and a rationalisation for them. Establishing any general correlative link between intimate violence and drug use is made even more difficult by the fact that the different prohibited substances yield differing psychological effects.

Substance use by victims of violence often begins as a crutch to assist them out of their circumstances of shame and powerlessness. In many instances, the coping skills are characterised by the use of licit drugs like anti-depressants and tranquilisers. However, depending on the continuing environment, licit drugs can (and often are) abused with the patient resorting to more than the prescribed dosage.
In summary, one cannot deny the correlation between alcohol and drug use and the degeneration of the lives of the many women who are victims of abuse. To provide a palliative for the latter, means dealing with the former. In this regard there are various options, including leaving the abusive environment, divorce and damages, a protection order, and applying the provisions of Act 41 of 1971. Each of these possibilities is considered and dismissed.
Finally, the paper contrasts the prohibitionist model of drug rehabilitation with the proposal for a programme of harm reduction. In supporting the latter approach, the authors are persuaded by the argument that harm reduction legitimises treatment goals other than abstinence, which is both difficult to achieve and not in accordance with the immediate intention or want of the patient.

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