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

January 2005

If you have any questions regarding the documents found in the Appendix Resource, please contact Teresa Tudor via email or at 217-558-6192.

Domestic Violence and Chemical Dependency: Languages Different

Communication between domestic violence advocates and substance abuse counselors can be frustrated by their lack of a common language.  Learning and respecting the need for different languages is an important step in strengthening their ability to work together.  This handout contrasts common language usages within the fields in an effort to make communication between them a little easier.

Chemical Dependency Battered Women Batterers
Recovering Survivor/Victim Non-abusive/Non-coercive
Recovery Attaining safety/Healing from effects of abuse Accepting responsibility for choice to use violence and behaving non-coercively
Treatment Provision of information and support with goal of safety and empowerment Intervention with accountability/Provision of information to support choice to behave non-violently
Self-help Peer Support Legal and social accountability/Peer accountability
Powerlessness Empowerment Abuse of power
Medical model/Individual is "sick", has a disease Socio-political model/Society is "sick" Socio-political model/Society is "sick"
Social service mission Social change mission Social change mission
Loses control over substance Is controlled by partner's use of violence and coercion Selective use of violence/ Escalates violence in order to maintain control over partner
Family as dysfunctional Family engaging in adaptive strategies in an attempt to protect themselves Battering is functional in the sense that the batterer gets what he wants
Enabling Protecting self from harmful consequences
Co-dependent/Co-alcoholic Socialized female behavior/Adaptive survival strategies
Addicted to substance Trapped in relationship by fear and lack of support Intentional behavior supported by attitudes of male privilege and lack of accountability
Relapse-a part of the recovery process Leaving and returning-a part of the safety process Reverting to violence - a crime
Intergenerational patterns of addiction/Biological and environmental predisposition No such pattern for female victimization Intergenerational patterns of male violence/Socially learned and supported behavior
Increased physiological tolerance to substance Coping/Managing/Surviving in the midst of danger and fear Social tolerance of battering contributes to batterer's choice to escalate violent behavior

Developed by Theresa Zubretsky, New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence.

Key Assumptions of the DV Community

  1. Safety. 
    The primary purpose of domestic violence programs for both victims and perpetrators is to increase the safety of victims (including secondary victims such as children) not personal growth or remediation of pathology.  Disorders are best treated, at least initially, as outcomes rather than causes of domestic abuse, and treated in a parallel fashion.
  2. Responsibility & Choice. 
    The perpetrator is fully responsible for the violence, and is not provoked, triggered or stressed into violence.  Violence is always a choice.  The victim, regardless of her behavior, is not responsible for the violence.
  3. Violence Is A Vehicle. 
    Domestic violence is not an expression of an inner condition (e.g. anger, depression, stress, intoxication, attachment, object constancy) nor is a response to an external condition (provocation, homeostasis, triggers, codependency, or foul mood) but is a vehicle chosen to establish control over a person, persons, or a situation.
  4. Why She Stays. 
    Battered women do not choose to remain with their abusers, but rather choose when it is safe to take action or leave, which for many battered women is never.
  5. Families In Society. 
    Our society and our culture support, in a variety of ways, woman abuse, so the problem is never viewed entirely at the personal level.  Violence in the family is the imprint of a violent society; violence in society is family violence writ large.

Regarding Domestic Violence and AOD:

  1. Disinhibition & Abstinence. 
    Alcohol and drugs are not the cause of domestic abuse.  Alcohol does not disinhibit domestic abuse.  Abstinence and sobriety are neither necessary nor sufficient conditions for non-violence.
  2. Co-dependency. 
    Co-dependency does not describe the behavior of battered women (or batterers) and should not be used in domestic violence cases.  At times, co-dependency, when applied to domestic abuse, becomes victim-blaming deseasification of the socially sanctioned rolls of women

Note: Assumptions can often be wrong at the individual case level after the fact.  An assumption is what we have going in, not coming out.

How Can Your AODA Program Better Respond To Issues of Domestic Violence?

Coordinated Community Response

  1. Develop a relationship with your local battered women's service agency: 50 to 75% of your clients are perpetratiors or victims of domestic violence.  To find your local BWS agency look in the phone book, call your local States Attorney, or contact the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ICADV) at (217) 789-2830, the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDSH) at (217) 524-6034, or Chicago Domestic Violence Help Line 1-877-863-6338 --1-877-TO END DV.
  2. Develop policies which identify and address what you will do with clients who are using your AODA program to undermine the coordinated community response to domestic violence.
  3. Have a key staff member of your program actively involved with the local Family Violence Coordinating Council.  If you do not know how to contact your FVCC call (217) 524-4962 or go to


  1. Make literature on domestic violence available, including referral information and posters.  Put the information where you clients will read it, such as restrooms.  It is especially recommended that you put BWS agency cards in the stalls of women's restrooms where they can safely read it.
  2. Join your state coalition, the ICADV (217) 789-2830, and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, P.O. Box 18749, Denver, CO 80218 or
  3. Develop policies for your program/agency which address screening for DV and what to do with domestic violence perpetratiors.  Remember: domestic violence threatens sobriety.


  1. Consider conducting groups (gender segregated) at your facility where the myths, dynamics, and statistics of domestic violence can be discussed.
  2. Indicated to your clients that DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CAN BE TALKED ABOUT HERE.
  3. Consider what development your policies may need to address domestic violence and...
    1. Assessment (all AODA clients should be screened for DV).
    2. Conjoint, marital, couple, family counseling (not recommended in most DV cases).
    3. Referral for DV services.
    4. What aspects of programming you will or won't involve battered women or batterers in?
  4. Consider using an ongoing DV consultant from the local BWS agency.  The BWS agency will usually be interested in "trading" consultation and training, so you AODA program can provide consultation an training to the DV workers, while they do the same for your agency.  In addition to cross training, consider focused training on service areas which DV and AODA have in common: group counseling, support groups, and case management.
  5. Provide safety planning for any battered women in your agency (training on safety planning is available from your local BWS agency).
  6. Make sure your assessment, diagnosis, intervention, and referral staff are educated and competent about the dynamics of domestic violence.

Staff Development

  1. Remember: 50 to 75% of your AODA clients are victims or perpetrators of domestic violence.  Your training resources should reflect this reality.
  2. Have staff complete the basic 40 hour training program in domestic violence.  The local BWS agency often provides in this training, which is required for anyone in Illinois working directly with victims or perpetrators of domestic violence, and they may be willing to train your staff in-house.
  3. Have DV speakers address your staff on occasion.
  4. Build a library on DV and make it available to your staff.

AODA Issues

  1. Ensure that your staff can educate their clients on how Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Al-Anon and other self help programs (which are otherwise useful) can pressure or mislead battered women about issues like empowerment, powerlessness, and obligation.
  2. Ensure that your staff can educate their clients on how Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Al-Anon and other self help programs (which are otherwise useful) can reinforce and support an alcoholic's or addict's arsenal of weapons used to control his family.

The guiding principle of (potential) victim safety must guide all of your actions.

(Note:  Adapted from the Alternatives to Domestic Aggression program, Ann Arbor, Michigan)

What are the differences between lntimate Partner Abuse Intervention Programs and Anger Management Programs?

Anger Management Intimate Partner Abuse Intervention Programs
Does Illinois assess program as protocol compliant? No Yes - Should be, always check first
What is the emphasis? Generic focus on violence of all kinds Specialized focus on male domestic abusers of intimate partners
What kinds of clients are included? Violent offenders of all kinds. Male offenders of intimate partner violence only.
How long is the program Usually 8-10 sessions A minimum of 36 hours of program contact over 24 sessions at least 90 minutes each session
What is the basis for program completion? Often based on good attendance and participation only. Besides good attendance and participation, clients must be free of violence and accept full responsibility for past violence.
Does the program contact victims No Yes - they could but is not mandated.
What is the philsophy about the causes of battering? Battering is seen as an anger problem. Battering is seen as an attempt to control victim.
How is violence defined? Physical assaults / threats. A pattern of coercive control which includes physical, sexual, verbal, emotional and economic abuse.
Group leaders' experience/training in domestic violence No prior work experience or training requirements. Experience and intensive training are required, minimum 60 hours.  Also supervision and continuing education.  Regularly reviewed by State for protocol compliance.
Are group leaders screened for violence in their personal lives? There are no requirements for agencies to do this. Agencies are required to do this.
Are programs monitored by a state agency? No Yes - by Department of Human Services.

Adapted from article by David Adams, Emerge.