Sarah Fox

I am an Early Career Researcher within the Substance Use and Associated Behaviours (SUAB) research group based in the department of Sociology at Manchester Metropolitan University. I was awarded my Doctorate in February 2019 with a thesis that explored the journeys to support among women who experienced co-occurring substance use and domestic abuse victimisation; this was funded by the SSA.

I hold a MSc in Drug and Alcohol Studies from The University of Glasgow, an MSc in Applied Social Research from Trinity College Dublin, and a BA (Hons) in Humanities from Dublin City University. I have professional experience in research and social care including children’s support, homeless services, and women’s services.

My area of expertise is women and substance use, influenced by feminist theory. My research uses narrative and creative methods to explore the lived experiences of substance use among women from diverse backgrounds. In 2018 I founded the SUAB PhD group, which includes national and international PhD students working in the area of substance use.

A chicken and egg scenario: Acknowledging women’s history in drug and alcohol service provision

Research has shown that there is a definite relationship between problematic substance use and past experiences of childhood adversity, domestic and sexual violence and other traumatic experiences. This is why a trauma informed approach to drug and alcohol support is advocated, particularly for women. However, despite this recommendation, drug and alcohol services tend be siloed in their provision of support. For example, many women who enter drug and/or alcohol treatment have experienced domestic and/or sexual abuse, and for many of these women, their experiences of abuse have impacted their use of substances. However, trauma informed support around these experiences, is often limited. Similarly, within domestic abuse services, women who present with co-occurring substance use are often denied refuge support because staff are not equipped to support substance use. Support for both substance use and domestic abuse is therefore siloed.  Due to this identified gap in service provision, this research sought to explore the experiences of help-seeking and support among twelve women who have experienced co-occurring substance use and domestic abuse. A key finding of this research found that although women prioritise substance use support, they are also presenting with complex and multi-faceted histories of rape, childhood physical and sexual abuse and other childhood adversities, domestic and sexual violence, prostitution and incarceration. However, these experiences are not being explored in support despite one participant highlighting the benefit of naming and vocalising her experiences out loud. As such, this presentation will highlight these experiences in more detail. By using the women’s own words, this presentation will show that although women access support for substance use, they carry a history of experiences that have impacted their use and this history needs to be named and supported by practitioners in treatment. Overall, this presentation aims to create a discussion on the importance of a trauma informed approach to drug and alcohol support.
Click here for presentation slides.

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