“I was not allowed to work for 12 years for more than an odd job here and there. I can’t even begin to start listing lost opportunities.”

Contact: Jennifer Clark, clark@iwpr.org, 202-785-5100

Washington, DC—Nearly three in four survivors (73 percent) of intimate partner violence report that they stayed with an abusive partner longer than they wanted or returned to them for economic reasons, according to the findings of a new survey released today by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). IWPR surveyed 164 survivors (nearly all women), finding:

  • Disrupted Education: Two-thirds of respondents say their partner’s behavior negatively affected their educational and job training opportunities. One survivor said, “He would show up at my school and physically remove me from class or lie and say one of my kids is in the hospital. He would also quit his job to make me get another job so I have to drop out of school. He would also delete my homework or mess up my study time by waking up the kids and leave so I would have to attend to my kids instead of studying or he would mess my computer up so I would not be able to access my work and notes for school.”
  • Diminished Ability to Work: 83 percent said abusive partners disrupted their ability to work. Of these,70 percent were not able to have a job, and 53 percent lost a job because of the abuse. “I was not allowed to work for 12 years for more than an odd job here and there. I can’t even begin to start listing lost opportunities.”
  • Workplace Sexual Harassment on Top of Partner Abuse: Many (39 percent) survivors had also experienced sexual harassment or violence at work from a co-worker or supervisor.
  • Financial Abuse and Damage to Credit: About three in four respondents (73 percent) had abusers take money from them against their will, such as their paycheck, savings, or public benefits. Three in five respondents had their credit score harmed; of these, 66 percent said it prevented them from getting a loan and 63 percent said it prevented them from getting housing. “Everything financial currently seems to revolve around my ex and the control he still seems to have over my life even though we have no direct contact.”
  • Reproductive Coercion: Four in 10 survivors said they had a partner who tried to get them pregnant against their will or stopped them from using birth control. Among these survivors, 84 percent became pregnant. Unplanned pregnancy can negatively affect women’s ability to establish economic security by diminishing their educational and work opportunities and generating costs associated with raising a child.

The report, Dreams Deferred: A Survey on the Impact of Intimate Partner Violence on Survivors’ Education, Careers, and Economic Security, outlines the complex web of abuse that affects survivors’ abilities to secure and keep jobs, choose when to start families, and maintain good credit, all factors that can contribute to achieving economic security.

The report includes quotes illuminating how the economic dimensions of abuse permeate survivors’ lives, from their education and career goals to the dreams they have for their family’s safety and security. As one survivor said, “I fantasize about having a well-furnished, cozy home for my children and me…the ability to always provide. I want a cozy, happy life so bad it hurts.”

Report co-author and IWPR Associate Director of Research Cynthia Hess, Ph.D., commented on the findings:

“While the tangible costs associated with intimate partner violence, such as health care expenses and lost worker productivity, are profound, the true cost of abuse—to society and to individual survivors—is much higher than a simple dollar figure. How do you quantify the economic impact of lost opportunities?  The nation must take more concerted action to help survivors get on solid economic footing and realize their dreams for their future and the hopes they carry for their families.”

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that conducts and communicates research to inspire public dialogue, shape policy, and improve the lives and opportunities of women of diverse backgrounds, circumstances, and experiences. IWPR also works in affiliation with the Program on Gender Analysis in Economics at American University.