Promising Directions for Helping
Chemically Involved Battered
Women Get Safe and Sober
THERESA M. ZUBRETSKY
Chemically involved battered women often find themselves in the ultimate Catch-22: Substance use may begin or escalate as a response to the trauma of victimization, and efforts to stop using substances may precipitate abusive partners' use of increased violence. A battered woman's words about her own recovery capture the essence of the dilemma. She said, “As an alcoholic, AA and treatment saved my life; as a battered woman, it nearly killed me.” Yet, despite significant correlations between domestic violence and chemical dependency and intimate links between safety and sobriety, domestic violence advocacy programs and substance abuse treatment programs are frequently ill prepared to provide the range and depth of services needed for chemically involved battered women to get both safe and sober. In addition, the system is no better prepared to respond to the safety-related needs of battered women whose partners are involved with substances and who seek services in substance abuse treatment programs.
The common roots shared by the domestic violence and substance abuse service systems provide a strong foundation for cooperative relationships. Long before there was a formalized movement, women were helping other women, sheltering them in their homes, in churches, and in other places of refuge. One of the strengths of the battered women's movement has been its reliance on empowerment through peer support. When women connect with other women, isolation breaks down, self-blame is challenged, fears are nor-