With October being National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Betknowmore UK wanted to bring attention to the cyclical relationship that exists between gambling and domestic violence, or intimate partner violence (IPV).
If you ask any couple what they fight about the most, you can be sure that money is somewhere on that list, and this is more likely to be the case if one of the people in that relationship is struggling with gambling harms. The University of Nebraska Medical School conducted a survey of people admitted to emergency rooms because of domestic violence and found that, when the person’s partner had an addiction to gambling, the likelihood of IPV increased 10.5 times. Further research by the University of Toledo identified that IPV occurred in more than 60% of families where gambling harms were present.
However, it’s important to recognise that IPV can take many forms. It isn’t just physical violence; it also includes emotional, sexual, legal and financial (or economic) abuse. Economic abuse in particular was the subject of an extensive research by Hing, N et al in 2021, defining it as economic exploitation (for example, fraudulent use of a partner’s bank card) or economic control (such as restricting access to money). The further problem with economic abuse is that it can make it even harder for someone to leave the abusive relationship, quite simply because they cannot afford to leave, which just prolongs the victimisation.
Aside from the clear evidence that people struggling with gambling harms can be perpetrators of IPV, it is also true that IPV may actually lead to the person who is being abused developing gambling harms. Someone who is the partner of an abuser may find themselves turning to gambling as a coping mechanism, with venues such as casinos and bingo halls becoming almost a refuge … a safe space if you like. Hing, N et al (2022) recruited 24 women who had been victimised byIPV and who all experienced problems relating to gambling on electronic gaming machines. They identified ‘pull factors’ that attracted women to gambling venues, and ‘push factors’ that motivated them to gamble as a physical or psychological escape from IPV.
Despite the fact that gambling venues can be seen as safe spaces for victims of IPV, this really is an illusion. They may be finding a temporary escape, but they are exposing themselves to an increased risk of developing gambling harms. The more they turn to gambling as a refuge, the more likely they are to expose themselves to increased frequency or severity of abuse from their partner. And so the cycle continues.
Knowing that there is this cyclical relationship between IPV and gambling, what can be done? Firstly, Hing et al recommend that gambling support services should be screening for IPV, and that IPV services should screen for gambling. Secondly, if the screening process flags up that there is additional support needed, knowing where to refer people to appropriate sources of help is then crucial. Whilst it is true that both men and women can be victims of IPV, domestic abuse is a‘gendered crime’ according to Women’s Aid. So it is also important that there are support services tailored to the unique needs of women where appropriate.
If you, or someone you know, is experiencing domestic abuse, you can contact the freephone, 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Refuge, on 0808 2000 247.
Hing et al(2021)_Problem gambling and economic abuse against women_final.pdf
Seeking solace in gambling: the cycle of gambling and IPV against women who gamble