Archive | December 2013

Domestic Violence & Substance Abuse

Thinking Woman

”Husbands often suggest that they beat their wives because their wives drink. But several studies have shown that many battered women start drinking subsequent to the battering. So, it may be defensive behavior on the part of women, trying to cope with an intolerable situation.” – Linda Salzman, PhD, Criminologist at the Centers for Disease Control.
• 33% of battered women suffer depression.
•26% of all women who attempt suicide are victims of
domestic violence.
•10% of all battered women abuse drugs or alcohol.
•50% of all alcoholic or addicted women are victims of
domestic violence.
•A survey of 2,099 women found that women who had experienced abuse reported more frequent use of sleeping pills and sedatives than women who had not been abused.
◦40% more battered women reported sleeping pill use.
◦74% more battered women reported sedative use.
◦50% more women physically abused as children reported sleeping pill use and all reported sedative use.
•Substance abuse adds more problems for the victim because:
◦There is less resistance from the victim
◦It gives more power to the abuser
◦The victim feels like they ‘deserve’ the abuse
◦There is less support from the victim’s family
◦The victim tends to ignore the home, bills,
children, etc.

Batterers:
•Ten studies reporting chronic alcohol use, alcoholism, or alcohol abuse reported that between 24% and 86% of battering incidents involved alcohol abuse. When batterers reported, the result was a combined average of 36% of battering incidents involving alcohol; when victims reported, the combined average was 67%.
•A study of 400 battered women found that 67% of batterers frequently abused alcohol; however, only one-fifth had abused alcohol during all four battering incidents on which data were collected.
•In one batterers intervention program, 90% of the men had abused alcohol at the time of the latest battering incident. The vast majority of participants also reported battering their partners when not under the influence of alcohol.

Battering is a socially learned behavior, and is not the result of substance abuse or mental illness. With regard to domestic violence, substance abuse may be viewed as:
• An excuse. In many societies, including ours, substance use has a role as a time out from responsibility during which the user can engage in exceptional behavior and later disavow the behavior as caused by the substance rather than the self (MacAndrew & Edgerton, 1969). Some observers suggest batterers use substances first as a vehicle, then as an excuse, for being controlling and violent.
•A cognitive disrupter. Drugs or alcohol may reduce the user’s ability to perceive, integrate, and process information, increasing his risk for violence (Pernanen, 1991). Batterers may be more likely than non-batterers to misinterpret the actions of their partners in this manner, and substances enhance the misinterpretation.
• A power motive. Substance abuse and woman abuse may share common origins in a need to achieve personal power and control (Gondolf, 1995).
•Situational. Violence may occur during the process of obtaining and using substances. The situational relationship between substance abuse and woman abuse is particularly relevant when illegal drugs are involved. A battered woman may use substances with her abuser in an attempt to manage his violence and increase her own safety (Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, 1997), or she may be forced to use substances with her batterer.
•A chemical agent. Substance abuse may increase the risk for woman abuse through chemical actions on brain mechanisms linked to aggression (Miczek, et al., 1994). However, there is no evidence that batterers are neither “hard wired” for violence, nor that their socialization or choice-making processes are not operational when using substances.
•Partial to certain characteristics. Substance abuse may increase the risk for woman abuse only for those men with certain
characteristics. In Kenneth Leonard’s national study of 23-year-old men, heavy drinking was associated with woman abuse only for those men with a high levels of hostility and low levels of marital satisfaction (Leonard & Blane, 1992).
•Effective across generations. Substance abuse and woman abuse are learned through observation and practice, and are related over time. Parental substance abuse and parental woman abuse may impact the development of children, increasing the chances of a child growing up to be an abuser, a victim of abuse, and/or a substance abuser (Kantor & Asdigian, 1993).[1]

Similarities between substance abuse and domestic violence:
•Affects entire families
•Negatively impacts a pregnancy
•Strong denial tendencies
•Blames others
•Thrives on isolation, shame, and silence
•Social stigma
•Pervasive social and health problems cut across all demographic categories
•Potentially life-threatening
•Often intergenerational
•Tend to become progressively worse
•Often lead to other kinds of problems (e.g. health, legal and financial)

Source(s): Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Linda Salzman, PhD, Criminologist at the Centers for Disease Control. Kantor & Asdigian, 1993. Leonard & Blane, 1992. Miczek, et al., 1994. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, 1997. Gondolf, 1995. Pernanen, 1991. MacAndrew & Edgerton, 1969. Larry W. Bennett, Ph.D. “Substance Abuse and Woman Abuse by Male Partners.” University of Chicago, Jane Addams College of Social Work. September 1997.

Photo credit: Microsoft Clip Art.

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[1] Larry W. Bennett, Ph.D. “Substance Abuse and Woman Abuse by Male Partners.” University of Chicago, Jane Addams College of Social Work. September 1997.

Help Feed Those In Need

Little Girl Eating

If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be that person? 1 John 3:17

For many Americans, one constant in the holiday season is food. We have food at parties, food at the office, and at social events. During this time of the year, food is often so abundant that one of the common complaints that is heard from people is how much weight they have gained. We’ve all heard it.

It is important that we try and remember that many in our country will have limited or no food at this time of the year. And that this time is just like most other times in their lives- one of hunger and need. This is real hunger, not the growling stomach that you may experience between meals. This is the type of hunger where parents worry if they or their children will eat at all that day, or if what they can afford will be enough. It’s the kind of hunger that negatively impacts health.

According to a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture state-by-state report on national “food insecurity,” a term that means hunger or susceptibility to it, paints a bleak picture. During the recent recession, many U.S. households suffered job losses, declining incomes, home foreclosures, and diminished net worth. Food security means having dependable access to enough food for active, healthy living-is vulnerable to these financial challenges. In 2009, 14.7 percent of U.S. households (17.4 million) were food insecure, meaning that at some time during the year, they had difficulty providing enough food for all members of their family due to insufficient resources. Although essentially unchanged from 2008 (14.6 percent), food insecurity remains at the highest level observed since food security surveys were initiated in 1995.

According to the national news, food pantries across the country have experienced record high levels of requests for assistance. As a volunteer at a local poverty program that provides food assistance, I have seen the record level requests for assistance first hand. As a result, the food pantry shelves were nearly bare. These feeding agencies can’t do it alone. As you prepare for holiday celebrations, please keep in mind those who are most in need in our communities and donate to a nonprofit agency serving the most vulnerable members of our society. There is so much that needs to be done to help those caught in the vicious cycle of poverty.

Together, we can help the poorest women as well as men, and their families, live, learn, earn, survive — and thrive — in the new year and beyond! With an equal amount of conscience, mind, heart, and collective action –we can improve the human condition.

“…Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness…”—Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sources: The Holy Bible. United States Department of Agriculture/Economic Research Service, Household Food Security in the United States, 2008 and 2009; Cook, John. Feeding America. Child Food Insecurity in the United States: 2006-2008; http://www.share.org; http://www.feedamerica.org; and Food Research and Action Center.

Photo credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Extend Unemployment Benefits: Help Make the Holidays Bright for Millions of Americans

woman with cellphone

While Congress is preparing to return to their home states to share in holiday festivities with their family members, millions of working Americans are bracing themselves for the expiration of their unemployment benefits. This post is written to remind the fortunate among us that as winter festivities continue across the country for many, there are literally millions of other Americans who are sitting at home right now, waiting to hear if they will have basic needs such as food and shelter met next month.

Federal unemployment insurance has proved vital support for millions of struggling families across our nation. Unemployment insurance for millions of citizens is slated to expire on December 28, 2013. The Economic Policy Institute says more than five (5) million U.S. workers have been unemployed longer than six months. This is more than four times the number of long-term unemployed before the onset of the Great Recession.

The National Association of Working Women remind us that, “…Nearly 8 million workers and their families have been kept afloat by the extension of the federal unemployment insurance program while they search for work in this tough economy. Long-term unemployment is at a level not seen since the Great Depression– over 42% of all unemployed have been without a job for over 6 months, and 30% (4.4 million workers) have been out of work for over a year.” The National Association of Working Women asks that we help give struggling families something to be grateful for by telling Congress to extend long-term unemployment benefits.

“The unemployment benefits these struggling families receive kept at least 3.3 million Americans from falling into poverty in 2009 alone, including 1.5 million children.” Until the national unemployment rate shows measurable signs of improvement and the economy begins generating meaningful numbers of living wage jobs, the program of federal jobless benefits should be continued by Congress. Extending unemployment benefits will not simply benefit the enrollees but our national economy. I know that to some it sounds counter-intuitive but continuing to support long-term unemployment benefits will help facilitate the growth of our economy—but it is true.

“How could unemployment insurance payments to these Americans help the economy? The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says every one dollar of unemployment insurance benefit grows the total economy by $1.10. And every one million of the benefit adds six new American jobs. Moreover, unemployment insurance has more economic impact than many other spending proposals according to the CBO.”

The Brookings Institution states, “Families on UI rely on it to maintain necessary spending, thus the money is rapidly spent rather than saved. Absent such benefits, spending would fall sharply, resulting in hardship on not just their families but also on the shops and workers that depend on those consumers.”

The provision of Extended Unemployment benefits has been part of every response to recessions since 1958, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Our country has never permitted benefits for the long-term unemployed to expire when unemployment was above 7.2 percent.

Allowing these benefits to lapse will be nothing short of a disaster for families and our economy. With that said, it is time for each of us to tell our Representatives in Washington to ensure that ALL Americans can celebrate this season. To accomplish said goal, call 1-888-245-3381 NOW and ask your Representative to extend federal unemployment insurance benefits.

World AIDS Day 2013

hands with red bands

World AIDS Day is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV. December 1 is World AIDS Day. Over the past quarter-century, twenty-five (25) million lives have been lost to HIV/AIDS, but remarkable strides have also been made in halting the disease’s progression.

Only 28 percent of the 1.2 million Americans living with HIV have the infection under control, increasing the risk that they will spread the disease to others, U.S. health officials said Tuesday. One in five U.S. adults infected with HIV are not aware that they have the virus. For years, people can be infected with the AIDS virus without manifesting symptoms. Of those who are aware, only half receive ongoing medical care and treatment for the illness, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in its latest report on HIV in America.

Fortunately, HIV/AIDS is preventable. Nevertheless, each year, HIV/AIDS continues to destroy countless lives. HIV/AIDS takes the greatest toll among African-Americans, Latinos and MSM of all races. Fighting the spread of HIV and AIDS has been an uphill battle for over 30 years. This disease has disproportionately affected the black community. One in sixteen African American men and one in thirty-two African American women will be diagnosed with HIV during their lifetime. The rate of new infections among blacks is seven times the rate among whites. Among Hispanics, the rate of new HIV infections is three times as high as that among whites. And according to a recent CDC analysis, the HIV diagnosis rate among MSM is forty-four (44) times that of other men.

One out of four HIV cases in our nation are among women and girls, thirteen years of age and older; and two out of three of these women and girls are African-American. “Socioeconomic and cultural factors—including poverty, discrimination, and inadequate access to health care, among others—often render black women more vulnerable to HIV than other racial/ethnic groups. Many women of color are paralyzed by fear—of being stigmatized, of abandonment by their partners, and of deportation by immigration authorities. Fear of being stigmatized by HIV/AIDS appears to have at least some relationship to people’s decisions about whether or not to get tested for HIV. But most important for women of color who are often the family caregiver and breadwinner, they are afraid of their families’ reactions to either their HIV status or disclosure of sexual orientation. What we know about the social and cultural impact on Black women’s lives is that HIV-related stigma and denial regarding how the disease is spread, particularly among self-identified heterosexuals who are positive, and stigmatization about the disease remains an enormous barrier to effectively fighting the epidemic.”

Given these grim statistics, this pressing public health issue challenges each of us to be “our sisters’ keepers.” This World AIDS Day, you can choose to make a difference in the lives of others. Toward that end, take action in the fight against HIV and raise awareness of its impact on women and girls. Get tested. Encourage every female within your sphere of influence to be tested for HIV/AIDS. Additionally, you can plan or support HIV prevention efforts in your community.

The fight against HIV and AIDS is a fight we can one day win. We must work together to end this insidious epidemic and eradicate this disease. With an equal amount of conscience, mind, heart, and collective action, each of us can educate members of our community about the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the importance of knowing your HIV status. For further information about HIV/AIDS, visit the Centers for Disease Control’s website at http://www.cdc.gov.

Source(s): MSN. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), HIV Surveillance Report: Diagnoses of HIV infection and AIDS in the United States and Dependent Areas, 2009.; Evaluate website. Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative (AAALI). MSNBC.com, “Few Americans With HIV Have Virus Under Control”, November 29, 2011.

Photo Credit: Microsoft Clip Art