Intimate partner violence (IPV) and substance use disorder (SUD) frequently co-occur and are rarely addressed together despite evidence indicating benefits of combined interventions. Both are linked to trauma. Scholars have theorized attention to trauma may facilitate engagement with IPV and SUD but have not studied this potential empirically.
Using service system level quantitative data on organizations focused on IPV or SUD (n = 281) in a midwestern city in the United States and semi-structured interviews with policymakers, funders, and practitioners in both areas (n = 27), this paper uses grounded theory to explore whether attention to trauma facilitates attention to IPV and SUD.
While quantitative data suggest addressing trauma and both IPV and SUD are associated at the service system level, analysis of interview data indicates greater complexity. Despite consensus on trauma-informed care’s potential, competing understandings of temporality (when trauma occurs in relation to IPV or SUD), different liabilities associated with addressing trauma, and different intervention approaches combine to limit engagement by both IPV and SUD organizations. Rather than adopting trauma-informed care, both types of organizations more typically engage trauma selectively, offering discrete services rather than holistic intervention. Findings have implications for addressing co-occurring IPV, SUD, and trauma and for practice, policy, education, and research.
There is need for greater consensus about what it means to address trauma, increased investments in practitioner education and training around intersections of IPV, SUD, and trauma, and additional supports to incentivize movement from a trauma services approach towards meaningful implementation of trauma-informed care.