People who have suffered serious violent or sexual crimes – especially during childhood – sometimes turn to drugs, prescription medication, alcohol or other addictive behaviours (such as food, sex, gaming, spending or gambling) as a way of coping with their feelings or to feel better. What can start as a coping strategy or a way to sleep or block painful thoughts can become learnt behaviours or addiction. There is more information about the links on this webpage from Psychology Today.
This can be incredibly distressing for 3rd party victims of crime and often they will question what they could have done to prevent this and what if anything can be done to stop their loved ones destructive behaviour. The reality is probably nothing – assuming you didn’t put the substances in their hands or encourage the behaviour!
Victims of crime, whilst damaged and vulnerable are free-thinking individuals who still have the ability (and the right!) to make choices – even bad or risky ones. For 3rd party victims of crime who may have spent years protecting their loved one and providing support, this can be very hard to deal with. Perhaps you have been doing ‘everything’ to support them, making decisions, advocating and defending them, fighting for their rights and have become very used to that role.
Eventually, either as they become adults or recover enough to begin to make choices or strive for more independence, the carer has less control. If at the point of letting go, the primary victim of crime makes negative or risky choices, this can be devastating for the 3rd party victim of crime.
This TED talk offers some compelling arguments challenging preconceptions about addiction.