Research demonstrates that people who experience abuse have significantly higher risks for both mental health challenges and substance use disorders. The complex pattern of abuse that is coercive control increases these dangers for survivors especially when an abuser uses a mental health diagnosis or substance use against the victim. Taken a step further, when an abusive partner alleges substance use or mental health concerns against a survivor, the legal justice system will often revictimize the survivor leading to loss of child custody or other penalties and consequences. From a 2014 study conducted by the National Center on Domestic Violence we learn in-depth the dangers of these types of coercions such as treatment sabotage and emotional abuse. We take a deep dive with Gabriela Zapata-Alma of the National Center on Domestic Violence about how these types of coercion are inflicted, their consequences, the red flags that warn mental health and substance use coercions are happening, and how the use of a trauma lens by medical providers and the court system could better cultivate safety and effective solutions for domestic violence survivors.
Gabriela Zapata-Alma, is a licensed clinical social worker, the Associate Director of the National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma, and Mental Health, and a faculty member at the University of Chicago, where they direct the Advanced Alcohol and Other Drug Counselor Training Program within the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice. Ms. Zapata-Alma brings over 15 years of experience supporting people impacted by structural and interpersonal violence through innovative and evidence-based clinical, housing, resource advocacy, peer-led, harm reduction, and HIV-integrated care programs. As a person with lived experience of violence and trauma, Ms. Zapata-Alma centers survivor-driven solutions, non-pathologizing approaches, and intergenerational healing in the work. Currently, Ms. Zapata-Alma authors best practices, leads national capacity-building efforts, and provides trauma-informed policy consultation to advance health equity and social justice.