Domestic violence is an increasing problem in Pennsylvania. According to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 1,600 people died from domestic violence incidents in Pennsylvania from 2009 to 2019. Across the country, as many as 20 people are subject to domestic violence every minute, and one in three women and one in four men have been victims of intimate partner violence. The statistics are alarming, and Pennsylvania courts have implemented programs to decrease repeated family violence.
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is more than just assault or physical violence. In Pennsylvania, other crimes that fall under the umbrella of domestic violence include:
- Sexual assault,
- False imprisonment,
- Physical or sexual abuse of a child,
- Putting someone in fear of a bodily injury, and
- Online harassment.
If any of these happen with a family member, including a spouse or intimate partner, a family or household member, or someone with whom you have a child in common, it may qualify as domestic violence.
Family Violence and Substance Abuse
The causes of domestic violence can be hard to pinpoint and complex. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that some of the most common factors leaving families vulnerable to domestic violence include:
- A childhood history of physical or emotional abuse,
- Mental illness, depression, low self-esteem, and suicide attempts,
- Anger and hostility, and
- Low levels of education,
- Economic stress and low income, and
- Heavy alcohol and drug use.
Substance abuse can also increase other factors leaving families to domestic violence like economic insecurity, mental illness, anger, and hostility. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, substance abuse is also reported in 40 to 60% of domestic violence incidents.
Domestic Violence Treatment
The criminal justice system is very aware of the link between substance abuse and domestic violence. As a result, Pennsylvania courts will often impose substance abuse treatment and domestic violence counseling as conditions of release from jail, as part of diversion programs, and as conditions for probation.
In domestic violence cases, anyone convicted will face mandatory domestic violence counseling and, with an accompanying drug or alcohol problem, substance abuse treatment. In Pennsylvania, after a conviction, the defendant will go through a “batterer's evaluation.” As part of this assessment, the evaluator will ask about childhood history of abuse, mental illness, and drug and alcohol abuse. The point of the evaluation is to determine the ongoing risk to the victim and appropriate treatment options.
Domestic violence treatment programs aim to prevent future family violence through education. The class will include:
- The effects of family violence on families and children,
- Education about attitudes and behaviors that contribute to domestic violence,
- Victim safety plans,
- Alternative solutions to violence and abuse,
- Identifying abusive behaviors, and
- Conflict resolution.
In some cases, abusers with drug problems may attend domestic violence treatment programs specifically for those with substance abuse issues. These programs may focus more specifically on how and why drug use can increase domestic violence in general and personally.
Hire an Experienced Pennsylvania Domestic Violence Attorney
If you and your family face domestic violence and substance abuse issues, you don't have to go through this alone. There are treatment and legal options. For victims of domestic violence, an experienced attorney can help with a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order. For those facing domestic violence charges and seeking treatment, a skilled attorney can assist in navigating the criminal justice system and ensure you get the help you need.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the skilled Family Law Team at the Lento Law Firm are experienced in family and criminal law issues associated with domestic violence. Whether you're trying to protect your family or facing criminal charges, they can help. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888.535.3686, or contact them online to schedule your consultation.