This post is part of a collaborative narrative series composed of my writing and Chris Arnade's photos exploring issues of addiction, poverty, prostitution and urban anthropology in Hunts Point, Bronx. For more on the series, look here.
Women experience alarming levels of physical and sexual assault, which may lead to escalation of substance use. Reciprocally, evidence from cross-sectional studies indicates that substance use may increase risk of assault. To date, directionality of this relationship remains unclear. This issue is addressed by the present 3-wave longitudinal study in which a national probability sample of 3,006 women were followed for 2 years. Dependent measures were obtained at each wave of the study and included questions about lifetime and new assault status, alcohol abuse, and drug use. Wave 1 use of drugs, but not abuse of alcohol, increased odds of new assault in the subsequent 2 years. Reciprocally, after a new assault, odds of both alcohol abuse and drug use were significantly increased, even among women with no previous use or assault history. For illicit drug use, findings support a vicious cycle relationship in which substance use increases risk of future assault and assault increases risk of subsequent substance use.¹
This is merely a sample of the stories. Such a small sample.
Takeesha, Hunts Point. Courtesy of Chris Arnade.
"My grandfather raped me, and I had his child. I couldn't look at my son without seeing my grandfather's face. I know I would have abused him. My mother raised him well even though she was on heroin. And that bastard, my grandfather still lives with my grandmother. I love my grandmother to death, so I'll see him to see her, but Hell is too good for him."
Carmela, Hunts Point. Courtesy of Chris Arnade.
"When I was in Boston a few days, I was strung out and laying on the couch and my brother climbed on top of me. Just like that, and he's my brother... I do not like sex. I do not. Sex doesn't turn me on. I'm not a lesbian; I mean, it's not my natural tendency to like women, but I hate men. They just want sex or money, that's all. I don't want that no more."
Sonya, Hunts Point. Courtesy of Chris Arnade.
"When Eric's not here I have to watch my back all the time. All these fucking scumbags see a white girl, and they want it. 'No' doesn't mean jack shit. They don't mess with me because I know how to act crazy and fucking fight."
Beauty, Hunts Point. Courtesy of Chris Arnade.
"Your man's your boss. You can have your one man, but others are gonna try stuff. You always got to be balancing who you're going to be with who you're with. And you gotta make sure you chill too."
Shay, Hunts Point. Courtesy of Chris Arnade.
"I can't have a functional relationship with a guy. As a woman I feel like I'm damaged, can't have a one-on-one relationship. As a kid, I was beaten, and my mom couldn't control me, so she sent me to a group home. Marijuana and drinking is something I have to do now."
Jennifer, Hunts Point. Courtesy of Chris Arnade.
"I grew up in a fucked up situation. My dad and my brother raped me, so I left. I'm homeless and screwed up in the brain right now.
Egypt, Hunts Point. Courtesy of Chris Arnade.
"He beat me up. I'd be fucking stupid to say I want to go back. But I probably will because what else do I got? He's not a bad guy, gives me a place to crash. Me and my friend vodka."
Pepsi, Hunts Point. Courtesy of Chris Arnade.
"Heroin makes her [Pepsi] act crazy. I knocked the shit out of my ex for that. She's deaf in one ear, but she aight."
-This post is dedicated to women who have undergone trauma and who resultantly struggle with mental illness and substance abuse, to women strong beyond measure.
I am humbled to know the women above, who have shared their stories in hopes of helping others.