Female victims of partner violence are vulnerable to mental ailments and substance use issues, according to a study at The University of Western Australia.
As part of her PhD research in UWA's School of Population Health and UWA's Law School, Dr Marika Guggisberg surveyed 227 adult women in Perth about links between male-perpetrated violence against women, mental health problems and psycho-active substance use among victims.
Women who suffered physical and sexual violence by a current or former intimate partner were up to 24 times more likely to experience mental health and /or substance use issues than women who were not abused, Dr Guggisberg said.
Experiences of victimisation included physical violence, sexual violence and controlling behaviour; mental health problems involved anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder; and substance use covered alcohol, tobacco, pharmaceuticals for non-medical purposes, cannabis, heroin and ecstasy.
Participants were divided into four comparison groups: 1) women experiencing concurrent sexual and physical violence as well as controlling behaviour; 2) women experiencing physical violence and controlling behaviour, but no sexual violence; 3) women experiencing controlling behaviour but no physical forms of violence; and 4) women not experiencing any form of partner violence or controlling behaviour as reference group.
"With remarkable consistency, co-occurring mental health and substance use problems were highest among participants in group 1. The study concluded that the use of alcohol and other drugs may be a strategy to manage physical and psychological outcomes of the violence," Dr Guggisberg said.
According to the researcher, the study revealed an urgent need for safe and appropriate intervention in cases where women were subjected to both physical and sexual violence. Dr Guggisberg has recently published a book on the subject: Women, Violence and Comorbidity.