Washington, DC—In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) released a briefing paper documenting the economic insecurity faced by survivors of intimate partner violence, who represent over one in four women in the United States. The paper reviews available social science and policy research on the economic impact of domestic violence and presents data on the economic disparities faced by specific populations, including survivors of color, LGBTQ survivors, and survivors with disabilities, among other groups.
Research finds that an estimated three in four survivors (74 percent) stay with an abuser for economic reasons, and one study found that nearly all survivors (94 percent) experienced economic abuse—including tactics, such as generating credit card debt or committing identity theft—limiting their options and make them financially dependent on the abuser. On average, physical assault victims lose over 7 days of paid work per year, and the health care costs for physically abused women are 42 percent higher than for non-abused women. The aggregate annual cost of intimate partner violence in the United States was estimated to be about $8.9 billion in 2015.
“The barriers to economic security facing survivors of intimate partner violence are two-fold,” said Sarah Gonzalez Bocinski, Director of IWPR’s Economic Security for Survivors Project. “Survivors face a high likelihood of economic abuse from within their intimate relationships, and research finds that higher health care costs, lack of paid sick and safe leave, and limited access to help with legal fees create challenges to achieving, safe, healthy and economically secure lives.”
The economic costs of intimate partner violence are compounded by the economic inequalities faced by specific populations. For instance, women of color face a significant wage gap, with Black women earning 63 cents and Hispanic women earning 54 cents for every dollar earned by White men. Women over the age of 65 are more likely than their male counterparts to live in poverty (11.3 percent, compared with 7.4 percent for men), and have nearly $20,000 less in annual total income than their male counterparts. Rural women earn only 79 percent of what women living in urban areas make, and often have experience limited access to resources such as medical care, legal services, and shelters.
The briefing paper recommends assessment of survivors’ economic needs during intake and case management; making economic and employment services more widely available to survivors; establishing partnerships between domestic violence programs, legal service providers, and workforce development programs; training all sectors of the justice system on the intersection of economic security and survivor safety; and reducing economic barriers to participating in an investigation, prosecution, or trial. Policy recommendations to improve the economic security of survivors include guaranteed paid sick and safe leave for workers, improved unemployment policies for those who leave jobs due to intimate partner violence, improved access to counseling on campus, and improved workplace policies to promote job stability.
“It should not be cost prohibitive to leave an abuser and seek safety and justice,” Gonzalez Bocinski said. “Policymakers, service providers, and justice system professionals should consider economic security central to survivor safety by reducing costs faced by survivors and removing barriers to opportunities that can lead to long-term economic stability.” The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that conducts rigorous research and disseminates its findings to address the needs of women and their families, promote public dialogue, and strengthen communities and societies.