Domestic abuse predominantly affects women, and 35 years of experience supporting families affected by substance use has taught Adfam that women are disproportionately affected by the problematic drug or alcohol use of a loved one. The relationship between domestic abuse and substance use is non-causational, but the impacts of the two are interrelated. Despite this, services are rarely constructed with this dynamic in mind.
In the UK, nearly a quarter of women affected by someone else’s substance use report having experienced physical violence or abuse in relation to the problematic substance use. To address this issue, Adfam’s Women’s Project (2017-2020), funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (via the ‘Tampon Tax’ fund), sought to reduce the risk to women affected by co-occurring substance use and domestic abuse through a national training programme helping practitioners to identify and support women at risk of domestic violence in this context, along with a programme for volunteers and experts by experience, empowering them to support women in their communities. This report, which draws together our learnings from the frontline of service provision and makes a number of service and policy level recommendations, represents the third phase of our project. We hope that the insights gathered here will inform service practices nationally, and help shape future discussions around the relationship between substance use and domestic abuse.