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Link Between Drug Abuse And Domestic Violence Addressed In New Treatment Program


We'll learn about a pilot program being tested in East County, which is designed to reduce domestic violence by utilizing drug treatment and family violence counseling.

Event: HOPE In The Park

  • Balboa Park between Laurel Street and 6th Avenue
  • Saturday, October 9, 2010
  • 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Age Requirement: All ages
  • Cost: Free

Full Event Information

October is domestic violence awareness month. More than half of San Diego County's domestic violence-related deaths have involved current or past use of methamphetamine according to the County's Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team. We'll discuss a pilot program, in practice in San Diego's East County, that is designed to reduce repeat domestic assaults utilizing drug treatment and testing strategies alongside family violence counseling for perpetrators. We'll also hear about Hope In The Park -- a community event happening this weekend to raise awareness for domestic violence in San Diego County.


Dawn Griffin, PhD. is a forensic psychologist and president of the San Diego Domestic Violence Council.

Audie Brinker, Ph.D. is chair of the Substance Abuse Committee of the Domestic Violence Council, and is program manager for REBUILD Institute for Counseling.

Read Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.


I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. Domestic violence is a subject we've been hearing about for many years. There have been efforts to increase awareness of the problem, offer shelter to the victims and change laws as understanding of domestic abuse increases. But violence in the home doesn't seem to be going away. In fact, domestic violence reports went up last year in San Diego county while funding for shelters hangs by a thread in Sacramento. October is domestic violence awareness month and it's being marked by a walk of hope in Balboa park this weekend. And by a new treatment option for abusers here in San Diego. I'd like to introduce my guests, Doctor Dawn Griffin is a psychologist and president of the San Diego Domestic Violence Council. Doctor Griffin, welcome.

DAWN GRIFFIN: Thank you.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Doctor Audie Brinker is chair of the Substance Abuse Committee, of the Domestic Violence Council, program manager of Rebuild. Doctor Brinker, welcome.


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And we'd like to invite our listeners to join the conversation, if you have survived domestic violence or if you're looking for a way to get out of a bas situation, give us a call with your questions or your comments our number is 1 888 895 5727. And I want to tell our listeners that some of the accounts of violence talked about during this show may be upsetting to hear. Doctor Griffin, I'll start with you. SANDAG reports a five percent increase in domestic violence reports from 2008 through 2009. It was the first time domestic violence reports had increased in seven years. Do we know why?

DAWN GRIFFIN: You know, I think a lot of the reporting systems have improved. I think we've made tremendous strides in improving our systems throughout the county written I think victims are more likely to come forward and reach out for help, having said that, we still have so much more to do. You know, at one point, domestic violence was viewed only as a woman's issue. That's not true. Victims are men, victims are women, victims are children, victims are animals. And I think that the more we provide them the support and services in the community, knowing that when you come for help you're not gonna be victimized, you know. In history's past, I think a lot of victims have come forward and fingers have been pointed at them. Why are you not doing more to protect your children. Why are you staying? I mean, we hook at them from a today we're looking at victims and batterers from more of a trauma informed lens. In other words, moving from what's wrong with you, to what's happened to you? And so on.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm wondering what is the domestic violence counsel doing to try to understand what's happening in society and how that relates to the number of domestic violence cases that there are? What is that conversation going on between the larger picture of the pressures that everybody's under and the pressures in the home?

DAWN GRIFFIN: Absolutely. Well, I do actually have to correct you because it's not one conversation.


DAWN GRIFFIN: It's many. And it's multifaceted and it's dynamic. And you can be, the beauty of the DV Council is that it was created from a grass roots movement. I mean of course it was from an advocate coming into a system saying you've got it wrong and you 92 Ed to listen to us. And from that, really the work of the DV counsel is our committees, they're the ones that are doing the working they're the ones that are volunteering their time, the DV counsel's not funded at all from any local entity or it's local foundations or what have you. It's our committees that are out doing the good work, and having those multiple conversations. And I think within of the things we're learning and doing more often is listening more to the victims, knowing them, taking that time to get to know who they are, what their story is, knowing the batterers, who they are, what their story is, is really important for us to be able to say, we understand, we know that your particular issues may be different, whether they're mental health, substance abuse, you know, whether they are, they're unique, and so the DV council is very much aware, and all the entities and it's quite a large group of people, we realize that there is no simper bullet. There's no one entity that's got it right. There's no one program that's gonna to it. You know, the county is initiating their health strategies initiative, and I think they got it. They're really understanding that it does take a community to address this issue, and coming at it from multiple lenses, understanding that those individuals who are living with domestic violence, number one they may not even know they're living with domestic violence because that's their norm.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Yeah, that's right.

DAWN GRIFFIN: This is how they have been taught how to love, how to communicate this, is what they've seen throughout their lives. So the DV council, what are we doing? We're listening. We're going into the communities, we're on the streets we're in the families' homes from a trauma informed perspective saying teach us. Let us know you. Let us stand body. We don't have all the answers but together we can, you know, find your path.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm speaking with doctor Dawn Griffin. She's a forensic psychologist and president of the San Diego Domestic Violence Council. Doctor Audie Brinker is here. He's chair of the substance abuse committee of the Domestic Violence Council and program manager of Rebuild, and we're taking your calls at 1 888 895 5727. Doctor Dawn Griffin, Doctor Brinker, just mentioned the fact of substance abuse being a part of this entire picture as to what the causes might be of domestic violence, how to address it. Now I know in recent years San Diego County has been learning more about the connection between specifically meth abuse, methamphetamine abuse, and domestic violence. Tell us about that link.

AUDIE BRINKER: Well, first of all, I want to correct you. I'm not a doctor.


AUDIE BRINKER: I am a master addictions counselor and always a forensic council. And that gives me the latitude to do some of the work that I do with ark diction. And I've been working with the domestic violence council fair while on this issue and about six years ago, we got together and we developed the substance abuse committee for the domestic violence council and our whole goal was to look at not just meth but the over all issue of drugs and domestic violence. And we were able to do that and we got a pilot project start indeed this county just renal in 2008, and that project is actually ran through MAUREEN CAVANAUGH system. And the goal of the pilot project is to help individuals look at both disorders not just the domestic violence but also the substance abuse order.


AUDIE BRINKER: And you'd be amazed, probably nine out of 12 individuals that are sitting in our group have a substance abuse disorder, whether it's methamphetamine, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, oxycontin, prescription drugs, and we are attempting to find a way to be able to hold them more accountable through drug testing and also by allowing the MAUREEN CAVANAUGH to be the broker where they could be sanctioned if they do not test clean they'll they're in this 52 week program that addresses both alcohol excuse me, addresses both drugs and alcohol and domestic violence all in a 52 week, 2 hour 1 week session.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now the thing they understand it that's different about this program the level two program, I think we're talking about, is that it addresses substance abuse, not in the last part of any kind of domestic violence counseling but as part and parcel of domestic violence counseling. And presses it up front of what's the point of that?

AUDIE BRINKER: Well, the emphasis of that is that first of all, when you're dealing with addicts or people who are chronic abusers repetition is always a way to get people to understand change. So by weaving the program together, by teaching DV and substance abuse and getting them in once a week over a 52 week period, we're trying to drive home a message, and the message is, if you don't stop using the drugs, there's a high propensity that you're going to repeat the violate, also if you don't stop the violence, then it's a high propensity that you're going to continue to use the drugs. We see it kind of a as core morbidity. We see these two issues come together, and we have to treat both issues. We can't ignore it. I think for years we've ignored it, and I think dawn and I'd say to her she has been just in the grass roots of really helping us emphasize to the community that this issue has to be looked at, and to move away from your fear, which is real big, and fear has been hay driving part of the community for a while in looking at this issue. And I think today I can say we're finally making progress where people don't fear anymore and looking at both issues.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Dawn Griffin, why has this connection between substance abuse and domestic violence been ignored do you think.

DAWN GRIFFIN: Well, boy, if I had the answer to that! You upon, it's complex. Domestic violence is an issue this, first of all, lives in silence. It thrives there. And then when you add to the layer of substance abuse, when you add will layer of mental health issue, when you add homelessness. You know, we tend to categorize folks, we want to diagnose them, label them, and the reality is that it's often intertwined there's a great researcher at UCLA called Doctor William Patrich, and he's done some amazing things with mental health issues, and this notion that there are self induced states of mental health. Well, you look at to substance abuse, often you see individuals who are using substances as a way of self medicating, coping with traumas of the past, coping with frustrations of the future. And I think for us in the systems to really wrap our heads around that, you know, there's a lot of good people doing good things but when you add complexity to it, it's much easier to look at the more simple, blatant, what's right in front of us, rather than looking at, oh, boy, this is multilayered. It's gonna time take time and money, do I don't think there's one single answer. But I'd point folks in the direction that it's hard, it's complex and that's difficult to jump into.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm speaking with doctor Dawn Griffin and Audie Brinker and we are taking your calls at 1 888 895 5727. Just to bring this down to earth for a minute, if I could, not that we haven't been firmly planted on the earth but you know, Audie from time immemorial people have talked about, you know, the old man gets drunk, comes home, and beats up his wife. I mean, this link has been known for a long, long, long time. So why is this new?

AUDIE BRINKER: Well, I think at new for two reasons, I think it's new it's the 50 time, this is the only program, and just to bring it back a little bit, this is the first time that an integrated program has been tried. And it's new, and I don't know that it's necessarily new the fact that we recognize there have been drug and alcohol issues but it's new in our on approach how we're gonna treat the issues, we're not just gonna let it run off the table anymore. [CHECK AUDIO] and all of a sudden he goes in the bedroom and shuts the door, and the whole house goes quiet. Well, that silence represents that. And our community for so long had that silence.


AUDIE BRINKER: And that's what made this program, people are jumping through doors, to know more approximate this program today pause we have removed that silence. That's what's new. It's not okay for that alcoholic or drug addict to come in, and to do those things and think it's okay. And I think by us breaking the code of silence has also made people in higher industries, I say industries I mean things such as the Courts and public defenders and district attorneys as well as judges to really take a firm look that we really can't just turn our back. We have to address both these issues.

You know, when I look at a 90 percent reduction rate in model that we have on positive drug tests of individuals who came in who may have tested dirty in the beginning and now testing clean in this model, that's huge because their chance of success is so much better.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, what do you see in the graduates of this program Audie, that gives you the idea that it's working? Is it is that 90 percent rate is that lots of people did through this new program are really seem to be getting a handle on their substance abuse problems?

AUDIE BRINKER: Well, I think one of the other emphasis is not just the 90 percent rate but one of the other emphasises is that when you combine the language of drug and alcohol with domestic violence it also brings about a spirituality approach.


AUDIE BRINKER: An approach that people can grab onto. And we tend to have more success when people can hold onto something spiritually. And I'm not saying religious. I'm saying spiritual. We tend to have more success because they build a foundation, and that foundation they build is a foundation they hold onto. And it's something that becomes engrained in them, and they want change. Change is a very difficult thing not just for them but if you looked at if we look at ourselves, and when we look the changing things, comes from our foundation that we really have to dig down inside our self and say, you know, this is important to me. And I think that spirituality, the connection with the drugs and alcohol, is allowing them to look to the spiritual component, that's a huge change for individuals and since then, one of the programs in all the completions they've had, she says only had two people come back in the helping hand program. That's huge compared to where we were at. So I think it's the spiritual component.

DAWN GRIFFIN: And I also have to jump in too, I think one of the things that we're doing is we're understanding and addressing the fundamental reasons why they're using substances, why they're engaging in violence, and when you do that, again, the shield of silence comes off, and you're able to sigh here's one of the reasons, of the 20, here's one, let's work on that, it's prioritize, so you know, the wife of this program and many others throughout, you know, but specifically here is that they're getting to the root cause and addressing that. Of.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We have a caller on the lineup, we are taking your calls at 11 888 895 5727 Christine is calling from Linda vista. Good morning Christine and welcome to These Days.

NEW SPEAKER: Good morning. Thank you for taking my call, Maureen. I'm calling because I was actually this conversation is kind of timely for me because I had a friend in a domestic violence situation last week, and I took her and her young son in because she's had nowhere else to go. And I'm calling on her behalf and also for other people in that situation and we're just wondering if there is some kind of programs in the county to helper, excuse me, to help her get on her feet and find a place or anything like that.


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Thank you for the call, Christine.

DAWN GRIFFIN: Actually I'm jumping out of my seat. Oh, absolutely. We have so many great programs and let me give a number to the public, whoever's listening and if you are in need of help, we have a local community hot Hine it's 888 DV links, that's 883854657. Know that there are resources, know that you are not alone, know that it's not your fault, and know that your community will come alongside of you. You know, and just reach out, cull that number and we'll find out what region you're in, and we'll get you the resource that you need. .

Q. You know, we heard don just we just had a group of domestic violence shelter providers on, [CHECK AUDIO] and when we heard that the funding had been cut off from Sacramento and then it was restored?


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And now there's a budget that's about to be signed in today.

DAWN GRIFFIN: Yes. People are trying to find out how much money there's going to be in this budget for domestic violence.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What are the concerns of shelter providers that you've been hearing.

DAWN GRIFFIN: Well, you know, this is $20.4 million that the on the table today. And what that will go for is of course providing absolutely critical services of shelters, for both men and women and children, it'll go for therapy. It'll I mean, that's so many there's so much at stake with this money. And it's really it's godsmack that people can't realize when we take away this money, it's not going to take away the situation, and in fact, if we take away some of these services, that problem's still gonna reside. And one way or another, we're gonna pay for it, so the funding is absolutely critical, it provides safe places to heal, to learn, to grow, it provides the services for men and women who are victims of domestic violence, and for the men and women who are batterers, and for the children. We often don't think about that, oh, they're in the other room or they're sleeping. That's not accurate. They know, they feel. They understand when their care givers are when something hey not right. And so this money is critical, and I ask our entire community, please call your local representative, short message, please, restore this funding, pass, when you're doing the budget today, don't put us back in silence.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I want to talk about the walk of hope event that's taking place in Balboa park this Saturday. And I know that a lot of it has to do with remembering people who will not be able to be on the walk of hope, and I wonder if you could tell us about some of the victims that you will be remembering.

DAWN GRIFFIN: Absolutely, well, wee got three there are so many. We're honoring many victims who've died this year, men, and women, and children. Three families are coming and will be a part of the champions of hope at the walk of hope. One of them is Dana, she's the grandmother of tory and their baby son. Tory and Dean were strangled to death. And this is going to be sensitive for some listeners, they were trying to sort out and come to some resolve with their particular issue, and the individual who murdered them came one night on one of those opportunities where they were gonna try and talk it out and work it out and they he ended up, up, killing her, and then going into the child's room, strangling him with a telephone cord and hanging him from the crib. Dana, Tory's mother will be there on Saturday talking about her experience, that she didn't recognize the signs. She didn't listen hard enough. And it's not to point blame please don't misunderstand me. But she's, you know, going to talk about I thought everything was okay. And I just didn't ask the questions. So she'll be there. And then Marylyn Brock who is the mother of a woman by the name of Donna who was shot to death at her work place in mission valley, she'll be there sharing her experiences and what she's learned from it and what we're gonna try and do as a result. Then we have Susan Fisher who's coming down, and her sister, Ron Bruce, who was murdered a few years ago by his girlfriend after she was ling in wait for several hours. Those are just a few of the families but they're, you know, part of the uniqueness of Hope in the Park is that this is it a community event and we anticipate 3500 folks that are gonna come out. And part of the reason we anticipate that large number is that we're framing it in, listen, come and have a free day of, you know, make it a stress free day. Surround yourself in music and resources, we've got, you know, feeding America coming in, and handing out 5000 pounds of food, for those families who are in need. We've got all of our community resources in one spot for families to access, whether it's education, information, whether it's work force related issues, whether it's ID kits for your children. They're free. Everything is bloody free. So come, experience this, and in that day event where we know that violence often goes hand in hand with stress, you know, it's there is a lot of stress happening coming from a variety of issues, and if we can provide our community with as much possible a stress free day, that would be lovely. And then engaging into the very the reality that our while we're engaged in this stress free day, our regions are walking in honor of those that have lost their lives. And as that's happening they're gonna converge into Balboa park, and then we're all going to come together as a community. And once again walk with candles and bag pipers from helix high, they're gonna be join us as well. Escorting us in. So where you know, the victims who've died they're gone but they're never, you know, away from us. We need to remember.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: It sounds like a remarkable event. Thank you. Thank you so much. We're out of time, unfortunately. I know we could talk a lot more. Audie Brinker, thank you so much for telling us about this new program.


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And doctor Dawn Griffin thank you and much luck this weekend.

DAWN GRIFFIN: Thank you.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I want to list everybody know once again, hope in the park will take place this Saturday from 2 to 9:00 PM in Balboa park, between Laurel Street and 6th Avenue. For more information you can go to our website.

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