Safety and Sobriety Manual
Best Practices in Domestic Violence and Substance Abuse

January 2005


Introduction:  2000 Edition

In December 1997, the Bureau of Domestic Violence Prevention & Intervention of the Illinois Department of Human Services convened an advisory group to discuss the frequently co-occurring problems of domestic violence and substance abuse. The 30 members of the Domestic Violence-Substance Abuse Interdisciplinary Task Force were drawn from the domestic violence and substance abuse practice and policy communities, academia, and government, including the DHS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse.

In conjunction with the Illinois Family Violence Coordinating Council, and with the support of the lllinois Violence Prevention Authority, lllinois Department of Human Services, lllinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, lllinois Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Professional Certification Association, and a number of private sponsors, the first Better Practices in Substance Abuse and Domestic Violence conference convened in Bloomington in May 1998. This conference succeeded beyond anyone's expectations, drawing nearly 400 participants from across the spectrum of service providers and policy makers in the state. In June 1999, the second Best Practices conference was held in Springfield. The theme of that conference, and the title of this manual - Safety and Sobriety - was drawn from a keynote address by Theresa Zubretsky.

The task force has met for the past two years. While there are few areas where the task force could reach a true consensus, there are some key points about which we do agree:

  • Substance abuse problems and domestic violence overlap and they often co-occur. However, substance abuse and domestic violence are different problems, and they require different interventions.
  • There are multiple causes for both substance abuse and domestic violence. There is little evidence that either problem causes the other.
  • Active substance abuse by the perpetrator of domestic violence or active substance abuse by the victim of domestic violence threatens the safety of the victim.
  • Domestic violence impairs the opportunity for addiction recovery and threatens sobriety.
  • Regardless of setting, workers in all fields will be more effective if they consider the perspectives of safety, sobriety, and justice for the people with whom they work.

One of the tasks this group agreed to undertake is development of a best practices document which reflects the state of the art in substance abuse/domestic violence practice. The document is grounded in the 1997 booklet Substance Abuse Treatment and Domestic Violence published by the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and distributed to participants at the 1998 conference.

The document you are reading was conceptualized as a brief, hands-on, Illinois-specific tool for use by substance abuse professionals, the domestic violence community, and workers in other areas such as criminal justice, child welfare, and public assistance. The core sections of the document target four populations defined by the settings where they would first be encountered: (1) men in batterers' programs, (2) men in substance abuse treatment programs, (3) women in domestic violence victim programs, and (4) women in substance abuse treatment. The task force believes these four settings - in addition to criminal justice, child protection, and public assistance - are the settings where the confluence between substance abuse and domestic violence can be most effectively addressed. Sections are added to address populations (cultural minorities, gays, and lesbians) and settings (child welfare, public assistance, and criminal justice) that could not be adequately addressed in the main sections.

This is only one of many ways to organize a document such as this, and we make no claim to it being the best way. Each of the four sections is designed for staff working in one of those settings. For example, the section on women in substance abuse programs targets addiction counselors working with women's treatment programs. The section assumes that addiction counselors do not need education in addictions, but are likely to need information about domestic violence. Specifically, they may need to learn about domestic violence as it affects practice with women currently receiving addiction treatment. The other three sections follow a similar pattern, targeting staff in batterers' intervention programs, addiction counselors in men's treatment programs, and domestic violence advocates.

There are a few things the reader should know about this document. First, it is not designed to be read cover-to-cover like a book. We believe the best way to use the document is to select the section best corresponding to the type of setting in which you work, then to read the other sections as interests direct. Second, the document was developed by individuals working in a committee. Consequently, it has all the advantages and disadvantages of committee products. On the one hand, it lacks a single voice and may at times appear uneven or disjointed. On the other hand, it reflects a much broader base of opinion than most material you can read in this area. There are parts of the document which contradict other parts of the document. These contradictions reflect the disagreements between knowledgeable practitioners within and between their respective fields. Finally, where research exists to support a perspective, it is reflected in the document. However, there is little actual research to support practice in this area, so we depend heavily on the experience of practitioners to fill the knowledge gaps.

On behalf of the Domestic Violence-Substance Abuse Interdisciplinary Task Force, I welcome readers to join and contribute to the movement to link the domestic violence and substance abuse fields in a way that will enhance the safety and sobriety of the people who look to us for help.

Larry W. Bennett, Ph.D.
University of Illinois at Chicago