Domestic Violence


What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive, controlling behavior that can include physical abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, sexual abuse or financial abuse (using money and financial tools to exert control over someone).

Physical abuse is only one aspect of domestic violence – you can be a victim of domestic violence without ever having experienced physical violence.

1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.

Domestic violence can affect anyone, regardless of age, economic status, race, sexual orientation, religion, or education.

No one deserves to be abused. If you are being abused, know that it is not your fault and that you are not alone – there is support for you.


Are there any red flags or warning signs of domestic violence?

There is no way to “spot” an abusive partner in a crowd, but below are some common signs of potentially abusive relationships:

  • They pressure you to move fast in a relationship or push for immediate commitment.

  • They have been abusive in past relationships; they speak disrespectfully of past relationships and partners (calling an ex “crazy,” etc)

  • They are very jealous and possessive.

  • They isolate you from your friends and family.

  • They may try to persuade you not to have a job or go to school

  • They have a violent temper and quickly changing moods.

  • They monitor your whereabouts, activities or spending.

  • They gaslight you - that is, make you start questioning your own sanity, feelings, instincts, and reality through emotional abuse and manipulation (for example, convincing you that the abuse is your fault, that “you’re too sensitive” etc)

  • You question whether or not you are being abused

For a more complete list of red flags, click here.

Be aware that abuse escalates: controlling behavior can become more frequent, more damaging, and closer to lethal over time. If you suspect that you are being abused, reach out for help as soon as possible.


How is substance abuse linked to domestic violence?

Survivors may turn to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism to deal with their abuse. Or they may be forced to start using by their abusive partner, making survivors even more dependent on the abusive partner. An abusive partner may even utilize their substance abuse as an excuse for their behavior. 

The combination of domestic violence and substance abuse can be a dangerous situation. WIT offers counseling and support for women experiencing both domestic violence and substance abuse.


Why do women sometimes stay with their abusive partners?

Many people question why anyone would stay in an abusive relationship. There are many barriers to safety, including:

  • The belief that the abusive partner will change because of their remorse and promises to stop

  • Fear of the abusive partner, who may threaten to harm or even kill them or their loved ones

  • Feeling responsible for the abuse

  • Economic dependence on the abusive partner

  • Social isolation from family and friends

  • Lack of support (family, friends, community, social service agencies)

  • Lack of information regarding domestic violence resources 

  • Lack of job skills

  • Lack of alternative housing

  • Cultural or religious beliefs

To hear from survivors themselves about why they stayed, read more using the hashtag #WhyIStayed on Twitter:

#WhyIStayed Stories Reveal Why Domestic Violence Survivors Can’t ‘Just Leave’

WhyIStayed/WhyILeft Wikipedia article

Instead of asking Why doesn’t someone experiencing abuse leave?, better questions to ask are Why does the abusive partner choose to abuse? and How can I support someone who is in an abusive relationship?


Can abusive partners change?

Yes, but it is very difficult for an abusive partner to stop their behavior - it requires a serious commitment to change and real accountability for their actions. Contact Menergy for more information about counseling for abusive partners in the Philadelphia area.

Abusive partners often promise to change. But part of an abusive cycle may be that they promise to change and then don’t follow through.

If you are in an abusive relationship, do not wait for your partner to change. Call our LifeLine at 215.751.1111 to discuss options and resources for your safety.


What can I do to help?

Listen compassionately and nonjudgmentally when a friend or family member discloses domestic violence. Let them know that it’s not their fault and that they are not alone. 

Encourage them to reach out to WIT's LifeLine for supportive telephone counseling or the Philadelphia Domestic Violence Hotline for crisis counseling: they can learn about their options, resources, and create a safety plan with trained counselors.

Reach out yourself to WIT’s LifeLine (215.751.1111) or to the 24/7 Philadelphia Domestic Violence Hotline (1.866.723.3014) for support, resources and information.

Volunteer with us to provide support for women experiencing domestic violence and substance abuse

Host a Domestic Violence 101 workshop at your workplace, church, school, or private group.

Make a donation to support our lifesaving services of LifeLine telephone counseling, empowerment counseling, peer support groups, advocacy, and more.

Substance Abuse

What is substance abuse?

Substance abuse is the excessive use or dependence on a substance, especially alcohol or a drug.

Substance abuse may impact the individual’s life in the following ways:

  • Pattern of usage - excessive usage or binging on the substance
  • Inability to control use or to stop taking the substance
  • Impairment in social or work functioning as a consequence
  • Failure to meet obligations to family and friends
  • Persistent use despite harmful consequences
  • Development of serious withdrawal symptoms (depending on the substance) after cessation or reduction in substance use

Substance abuse can impact anyone, regardless of their age, gender, economic status, race, sexual orientation, religion, or education.

Women often face additional stigma and shame around their substance abuse, especially if they are mothers. This may make it more difficult to reach out for support.


How does substance abuse affect women?

Women are physiologically more vulnerable to substances than men and have higher blood alcohol levels than do men after consuming equal amounts of alcohol.

Girls and women are more likely to start substance abuse as a coping mechanism in response to trauma, including trauma from physical, sexual or emotional abuse. Women who have been abused are 15 times more likely to abuse alcohol and 9 times more likely to abuse drugs than women who have not been abused.


How is substance abuse linked to domestic violence?

Although substance abuse does not cause domestic violence, they can occur together and can aggravate each other. Between 25 - 50% of the women receiving domestic violence services have substance abuse problems (Ogle & Baer, 2003), and between 67% - 80% of women in substance abuse treatment have experienced domestic violence (Cohen, et al., 2003).

Survivors may turn to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism to deal with their abuse. Or they may be forced to start using by their abusive partner, making survivors even more dependent on the abusive partner. An abusive partner may also use their own substance abuse as an excuse for their behavior. 

The combination of domestic violence and substance abuse can be a dangerous situation. WIT offers counseling and support for women experiencing both domestic violence and substance abuse.


Is recovery from substance abuse possible?

Yes, recovery is possible, but it takes serious commitment to change, responsibility, and accountability.

Treatment and supportive services are key factors to reaching sobriety and safety. Recovery is not an immediate change of life; it is an ongoing lifelong process.


What can I do to help?

If someone you care about has asked for help, validate this important first step in their recovery process. Acknowledge that it takes a lot of courage to seek help and that you will be there to support them.

Encourage them to reach out to WIT’s LifeLine for free and confidential telephone counseling, or reach out yourself for supportive counseling and resources.

Volunteer with WIT to provide support for women experiencing domestic violence and substance abuse

Host a workshop to better understand substance abuse at your workplace, church, school, or private group.

Make a donation to support WIT’s lifesaving services: LifeLine telephone counseling, empowerment counseling, peer support groups, advocacy, and more.

What Are the Linkages between Domestic Violence & Substance Abuse?

Does alcohol or substance abuse cause domestic violence?

There are many people who use alcohol and drugs but do not abuse others. Domestic violence is caused by an abusive partner’s need to exert power and control, not by substance abuse. Abusive partners may use drugs or alcohol as an excuse for their behavior, but substance abuse does not cause domestic violence. 


Will treating the substance abuse stop the domestic violence?

No, treating substance abuse alone does not stop domestic violence. Abusive partners may blame alcohol or drugs for their behavior, but the absence of alcohol or drugs does not stop domestic violence.

Depending on the situation, it may change the intensity or frequency of the abuse, but it will not address the underlying issues of power and control that cause domestic violence.


Will treating the survivor’s substance abuse stop the domestic violence?

No one ever deserves to be abused, whether they are using substances or not. Substance abuse is no excuse for domestic violence.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and substance abuse, we encourage you to to reach out to WIT’s LifeLine (215.751.1111) for supportive telephone counseling or the 24/7 Philadelphia Domestic Violence Hotline (1.866.723.3014) for crisis counseling.


What causes someone to turn to substance abuse? 

Someone who has experienced trauma – including trauma from physical, sexual, or emotional abuse - may use substances to cope with their trauma.

If they are in an abusive relationship, they may use substances in order to please or appease their abusive partner, or they may be forced to use substances by their abusive partner.


Can substance abuse compromise safety?

Yes, if someone is experiencing domestic violence, substance abuse can compromise their safety.

  • It may prevent them from accurately assessing the level of danger posed by an abusive partner.
  • Under the influence, they may feel invulnerable and have a sense of increased power.
  • Substance abuse can impair their judgment and thought processes.
  • It may make it difficult for them to create and remember their safety plan.