Coordinated Community Responses to Domestic Violence in Six Communities: Beyond the Justice System. Drunk Driving and Other Chemical Dependency Programs


It stands to reason that if abuse of alcohol and drugs is heavily involved in many battering situations, the obverse is also true—many batterers will be found in large groups of alcohol and drug abusers. This overlap suggests a role for chemical dependency providers in a community's response to domestic violence.

The sites in the study provide a couple of examples of the involvement of substance abuse providers in addressing domestic violence. In Baltimore, for example, a nonprofit substance abuse provider has operated an intervention program since 1992 for batterers who are chemically dependent. While this program focuses mainly on battering issues, the provider is aware of and sensitive to substance abuse issues among this population, and provides an intervention for chemically-dependent batterers who may be unable to participate in traditional intervention programs. The program also operates a women's therapy group for chemically-dependent women that includes discussion of domestic violence issues, which are prevalent among the participants. Despite this agency's interaction with battered women and batterers and its role in addressing domestic violence among its clients, it has limited interaction with other community agencies or organizations around domestic violence, except for the Probation Department. As one respondent characterized it, this agency is "not in the loop."

In Northern St. Louis County, judges hearing drunk driving cases automatically sentence offenders to chemical dependency treatment in addition to any fines or jail time they may receive. The same judges automatically include chemical dependency treatment when it is relevant in any protection orders or conditions of probation in domestic violence cases. The director of the chemical dependency treatment center in this community says her agency only knows whether people are court-ordered to treatment, not the primary reason they are there (drunk driving or battering). She also says she finds if very difficult to tell the difference; she knows that those in for drunk driving do a lot of battering, and vice versa. When questioned about whether her staff ever raise issues of battering in their groups rather than staying strictly to issues related to drinking, she said they do not, but began to wonder how this might be done and whether it could be done effectively or would backfire. The conversation raised the issue for us of whether there might be additional opportunities to intervene with batterers through these chemical dependency treatment programs.