More than one in three women in the United States experiences sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in her lifetime. Intimate partner violence thus can impose devastating consequences on both individual survivors and society as a whole. In 1994, Congress passed the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to combat intimate partner and all other forms of violence against women. VAWA established a wide array of programs to support survivors. The law’s expiration in December 2018 and the impasse over government funding during the current government shutdown threatens the sustainability of many of these essential programs. In addition to addressing the physical and psychological needs of survivors, many programs help with the economic impacts of abuse.
A recent IWPR survey details the many and pervasive economic, career, and educational effects that survivors experience. The survey was conducted between April and July 2018. The survey reports the experiences of 164 survivors in shelters, transitional housing, and other domestic violence programs in 11 states and the District of Columbia. The survivors – nearly all of whom were women — described extensive direct and indirect economic effects of abuse. Key findings include:
- More than eight in ten survivors (83%) said their abusers interfered with their ability to get and/or keep a job. As one woman put it, “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.”
- Two-thirds reported that their abusive partners blocked them from finishing education or training by, among other tactics, denying access to money for school, monitoring or controlling their mobility, and/or using physical or sexual violence;
- Roughly three-fourths (73%) stated that their abusers took money from them against their will, including paychecks, savings, or public benefits.
Economic factors often thwarted survivors’ ability to leave abusive relationships. Nearly three-fourths of those surveyed (73%) said that financial problems forced them to remain with their abusers longer than they wanted, or to return after having left. Of these, half reported spending at least two more years with their abusive partners.
Even those survivors who managed to leave their abusers permanently often reported that economic hardships continued. As one said, “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.”
The survey noted that many survivors needed comprehensive services in order to achieve safety and independence. All too often survivors could not get access to all the necessary resources. The survey found that this services gap extended to economic aid. Six in ten respondents (61%) reported receiving some guidance in addressing financial problems caused by their abuser, but just 13 percent said they obtained all the help they needed. Under these circumstances, the US must strengthen resources for survivors to help them establish economic security and safety.
The complete survey report is available here.