In a new memoir, Untied, Actress Meredith Baxter reveals that while married to David Birney (who co-starred with Baxter on the 1970′s sitcom Bridget loves Birney) her husband struck her on more than one occasion.
“It was so sudden and unexpected,” the actress, who came out as a lesbian in 2009, wrote. “I couldn’t tell you which hand hit me, or even how hard. I do recall thinking, ‘I’d better not get up because he’s going to hit me again.’ “
The Family Ties star also writes that one of the ways she coped was by drinking heavily, and said that while some of her relationships’ problems were evident, in private they were far stormier than they appeared.
Unfortunately, Ms. Baxter’s experiences are not uncommon. In a study done by the U. of Michigan Medical Center, 65% of those patients who screened positive for being a victim of DV also screened positive for alcohol abuse. This is particularly troubling when compared to rate of alcoholism among who were not victims of DV: 12%.
It is important to note that these numbers indicate a corralary link to domestic violence, not a causal link. And while it is true that some victims may be prone to alcohol or substance abuse before becoming a victim of DV, other victims may simply have turned to alcohol/substance abuse as a means of coping with the trauma they experienced at the hands of their romantic partner. Victims of domestic violence may find it difficult to cope with the feelings of fear, betrayal, isolation, and confusion that often accompany instances of domestic violence, in addition to lost self-esteem and self-worth. And like Ms. Baxter, some victims may attempt to cope through self-medication with alcohol or other substance abuse, which may exacerbate a situation that is already frustrating, terrifying, and dangerous.
Ultimately, the most important thing for DV victims is that they feel safe, secure, and find ways of coming to terms with their experience in healthy and constructive ways. By far the best way for victims to move past their abuse is to establish sustainable coping mechanisms with the support of friends and extended family, who not only validate their experiences but allow them the chance to express their conflicting emotions in healthy, constructive ways. However, because these events can also be emotionally charged for friends and family, seeking the help of outside professionals like therapists or DV agencies can provide useful insights and perspectives in a non-judgmental setting.
Here at FVPC, we offer support groups and crisis counseling for victims of domestic violence here in Orange County, as well as a 24-hour hotline for victims to get the support and information they need. We allow victims to discuss their experiences in a judgment-free setting and empower them to make their own decisions while offering tools with which they can regain some of the control over their lives that had been usurped by their abusive partners.
If you believe that you, or someone you know, might be a victim of domestic violence or relationship abuse, call our 24-hour hotline at (919) 929-7122 to speak to one of our advocates or volunteers, or to schedule an appointment to come into our office and speak to us, one on one.