Sexual Violence Victimisation and Subsequent Problematic Alcohol Use: Examining the Self-Medication Hypothesis
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Findings from in-depth interviews conducted as part of a larger study that examined theinterrelationship between male-perpetrated intimate partner violence, mental health problems, and alcohol/other drug use are presented. A subset of 15 adult women who were part of a larger study (N = 227) were asked about their experiences of sexual violence by an intimate partner, and their motivations to use alcohol in the context of chronic victimisation. Results suggested women use alcohol as a deliberate stress response to cope with anxiety and fear. Furthermore, participants reported to use alcohol as a form of gaining and/or maintaining control. Additional unsympathetic treatment by professionals was reported to exacerbate perceptions of helplessness and readiness to utilise alcohol as coping mechanism. The study concluded that women subjected to sexual violence by an intimate partner use alcohol for selfmedication purposes. Positive and negative reinforcement effects increase the probability of ongoing self-medicating behaviours. Recommendations include addressing the needs and fears of women using an empowerment approach. An improvement of inter-professional collaboration efforts may result in removal of barriers victimised women experience accessing support services.
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