An large increase in the number of women entering the justice system promoted the San Diego Association of Governments to conduct a study focused on women detained at the Las Colinas Detention Facility in San Diego County. Results of the study, released in April 2007, showed that 4 out of 5 women had been victims of sexual, physical or emotional abuse. Over half of the women in the sample were victimized within the last year.
Dr. Stephanie Covington, co-director of the Institute for Relational Research and the Center for Gender and Justice, submitted the following Op-Ed to the North County Times on Tuesday August 14, 2007.
For some, the abuse started as children; for others, it started later when they were abused by a partner. While drug use may have preceded some of the abuse, there was a clear connection between the two —- those who had reported previous or current abuse were significantly more likely to have used drugs. They also were more likely to test positive for drugs —- especially methamphetamine.The relationship between abuse —- or trauma —- and the development of alcohol and drug problems has been studied in other locations, with similar findings. When one considers the reasons that the two issues could be related, including women using substances to cope with traumatic situations, the connection is more easily understood.
Until recently, many treatment programs have not systematically explored whether clients had a history of trauma, or attempted to address this trauma as part of the standard treatment program.This is beginning to change and the San Diego region once again is leading the way in the area of substance abuse treatment. Specialists are now incorporating gender-responsive aspects into residential treatment programs for pregnant and parenting women.
The treatment curriculum explains trauma, how it affects individuals and how to utilize effective coping skills to develop emotional wellness and reduce the risk of relapse.In 2004, with a grant from The California Endowment and research assistance from SANDAG, the McAlister Institute for Treatment and Education incorporated a curriculum called "Beyond Trauma" into their residential KIVA Women and Children's Learning Center located in East County. The program at KIVA is built on the understanding that trauma can be a major hurdle in the quest for recovery.
These women —- 34 percent of whom were referred to KIVA by the criminal justice system —- share common histories of childhood neglect, sexual and physical abuse, domestic violence, and rape.Unfortunately, the children of these women share many of these same experiences and are more at risk for drug use. It is a disheartening cycle that can be stopped with a woman-centered and family-focused approach.
Acknowledging the link between addiction and trauma is the first step. Only then can we offer real treatment options and break a destructive cycle that afflicts women, their children, and our future. By establishing and supporting integrated treatment programs, we can stop the domino effect before it impacts another generation. The work under way at KIVA is a step in the right direction.