Marissa Project

MARISSA is a transnational project started in 2020 and running until 2022, co-funded by the EU in the framework of ‘Rights, Equality and Citizenship’ (REC) DG Justice Programme. The aim of MARISSA is to address the phenomenon of co-occurring Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) victimisation and Problematic Substance Use (PSU). In fact, it appears that existing victim support programmes currently fail to adequately address the scenario of IPV survivors with PSU issues, treating the two elements separately. In MARISSA, we believe that it is necessary to approach IPV and PSU under a common-wise protocol. For this reason, six European organizations partnered up to develop practical multi-agency tools and capacity building material on the topic. The ultimate goal is to facilitate professionals and improve the services provided to women with co-occurring IPV victimisation and PSU issues. At the same time, implementing strong awareness raising activities to inform stakeholders, survivors and the general public about this important issue is one of the goals of MARISSA.

To recap, MARISSA will contribute to advancing the capacity of professionals and promoting multi-agency collaboration in the field of IPV and PSU through the development and testing of a comprehensive training manual as well as innovative practical intervention tools for social care professionals in IPV and PSU.

Why focus on Intimate Partner Violence & Problematic Substance Use?

According to the European Institute for Gender Equality, 9 out of 10 survivors of IPV in the EU are women According to experts, although PSU is strongly related to IPV, there does not seem to be a direct causal relationship. Rather it is mostly a multi-factorial phenomenon, in which PSU acts as a significant risk factor, increasing the likelihood of IPV. Therefore, it is important to focus on IPV and PSU, since intimate partner abuse is more likely to occur in intimate relationships where both partners have a problem with alcohol or drugs.

For what concerns survivors, PSU can be a coping mechanism to deal with the devastating effects of abusive experiences. Many studies have found that women who have been abused by an intimate partner are more likely to use or become dependent on substances, as compared to women who have not experienced IPV. In studies of people who use or are dependent on substances, researchers have consistently found high rates of lifetime IPV. In this context, emerging research demonstrates that substance use coercion is also common within abusive relationships as a tactic to further control the partner; and has a chilling effect on the survivors’ ability to access safety and support and to retain custody of their children. Since PSU increases the vulnerability of survivors, it should always be considered when making decisions about the safety of IPV survivors.


Why do we need MARISSA?

Notwithstanding the indisputable correlation of IPV & PSU, in most cases professionals of these fields are not trained or equipped properly to support IPV survivors with PSU issues, and relevant material and tools are not widely available. Therefore, there is the necessity for coordinated practices between IPV & PSU treatment services to screen, assess and assist women with both issues, which is the aim of MARISSA.


  • European Institute for Gender Equality (2012). Women victims of violence receive insufficient support in the EU. Available at: https://eige.europa.eu/news/women-victims-violence-receive-insufficient-support-eu;
  • Galvani, S. (2010). Supporting families affected by substance use & domestic violence. Available at: https://adfam.org.uk/files/docs/adfam_dvreport.pdf;
  • Macy, R., & Goodbourn, M. (2012). Promoting Successful Collaborations Between Domestic Violence and Substance Abuse Treatment Service Sectors: A Review of the Literature. Trauma, violence & abuse. 13. 234-51. 10.1177/1524838012455874.
  • Rivera, E. A., Phillips, H., Warshaw, C., Lyon, E., Bland, P. J., & Kaewken, O. (2015). The Relationship Between Intimate Partner Violence and Substance Use: An Applied Research Paper.