A Baby Lost, the co-occurring relationship between IPV and Substance Use

She woke up rudely from a nightmare. She looked around and noticed that she was in a hospital room, her arms hooked up to machines that beeped loudly. She caught her reflection on a metallic surface and noticed the large black bruise puffing up from her left eye. Her lip hurt, she tasted dry blood. She remembered how he punched her so hard that her body bounced of the car door. She felt her stomach and noticed that her baby bump was no longer there. She gasped and thought, wait, where’s my baby? She anxiously looked around and did not see the baby girl she was so excited to welcome into the world, the one good thing going on in her life. Waves of panic came over her and she started yelling for the nurse to come in. The nurse came in and she immediately started to ask her “Where’s my baby? “Where is she?” The nurse looked at her with a confused look and then she asked her to calm down, “I don’t want to calm down, where’s my baby”?? “ I will bring in the social worker and she can answer any questions you may have but first I really need you to take a deep breath and calm down”. She thought to herself, social worker? What the heck does a social worker have to do with where my baby is at? She suddenly has a strong need for a smoke or something stronger, “wait” she thinks, she looks down at her arms and rubs her fresh track marks. A sudden and strong punch of fear hits deep into her heart, “wait, they know “she says to herself. A woman in a dark suit comes in the room. She feels tears pouring down her bruised cheek and knows immediately who this woman is without an introduction.  “Oh my god YOU took my baby!!” “Give me my baby, she’s mine!!” as she yells in a desperate plea for mercy. “The baby and you where found with high levels of heroine, I’m sorry she is now a ward of the state”. The social worker continues with her explanation but at that moment all she could hear is her heart shatter. Her dreams for a purposeful life with baby Amanda were now crushed. She fell into her bed defeated. As she laid in a fetus position crying for the loss of her baby she began to say under her breath between each moan, “I’m so sorry sweet baby girl Amanda, I tried so hard to stay clean for you, dammit!!... I couldn’t be what you needed me to be, I failed you already, I don’t deserve you….”

The Future Without Violence Association (FWW) defines intimate partner violence (IPV) as “A pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors that may include inflicted physical injury, psychological abuse, sexual assault, progressive social isolation, stalking, deprivation, intimidation and threats. These behaviors are perpetuated by someone who is, was, or wishes to be involved in an intimate or dating relationship with an adult or adolescent, and one aimed at establishing control by one partner over the other(https://www.asam.org). Studies have shown that substance use and IPV often go hand in hand, exacerbating up to 60% of IPV incidents. The US Bureau of Justice has found that 85% of IPV victims are women. Often spousal/partner abuse has been found to enable a substance use disorder. Many women experiencing IPV have reported being coerced into using drugs by their partners.  In a study of prenatal women in North Carolina, survivors of IPV were more likely to use a variety of substances prior or during pregnancy(https://www.asam.org). 

Effective rehabilitation services must focus on both substance use and IPV for those who have a history of IPV in order to help reduce the prevalence of this co-occurrence that has created havoc for many woman, men and children.




Alejandra Luna LCSW, Mental Health Therapist/LGBTQ+ Specialist

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