ECONOMIC SECURITY AND Domestic Violence
Ilana Flemming, JWI Manager of Advocacy Initiatives
One of most common and damaging form of DV is financial abuse. This form of abuse makes the victim vulnerable in very specific and very debilitating way.
The CDC estimates that 1 in 3 women experience abuse by an intimate partner, and 1 in 4 women experience severe physical violence. 1 in 4 women also experience rape, and over half are assaulted by an intimate partner.
Gender-based violence remains an epidemic in our country. When this violence intersects with lack of economic security, or restricts economic security, it can impact safety for victims and survivors. Financial dependence on an abuser keeps women tied to abusive relationships. If you think about DV as pattern or behavior by which one person exerts power and control over another, this makes sense — victims are not just emotionally controlled or afraid for their physical safety, but also financially tied. Financial abuse keeps victims trapped.
Financial abuse can mean withholding money, keeping paychecks, destroying credit cards, sabotaging employment, and more. This leaves the victim with few options outside the relationship, and creates more risk for the victim due to financial insecurity and lack of independence.
21% of adults working full-time are DV victims. Every year, a cumulative 8 million days of work are lost due to DV. It’s hard to hold down a full time job if you are missing work due to DV, and many workplaces don’t understand DV or how it impacts victims at work. Being a victim creates vulnerability at work – she could be fired if she discloses the abuse.
Also, the abuser may sabotage employment by making a lot of threatening phone calls at work, call her boss, stalk her at work. A victim who loses job is more tied to abuser, keeping her more isolated. Often, employers want to do right thing but don’t know how, and there is a lack of legal infrastructure to help victims maintain employment safely.
Paid sick and safe days: Over 4 million workers have no access to paid sick or safe days. 1 in 5 low-wage workers do not have access to paid sick time, and cite loss of income as the #1 reason for not taking unpaid sick days.
Paid safe days are a component of paid sick days legislation that allows victims of domestic violence to take time to deal with implications of victimization. Paid sick days don’t cover unique needs of suriviors, which extend beyond physical illness and need for medical care. Paid safe days cover time needed for counseling, legal assistance, attending court dates, meeting with police, seeking safe housing, and more.
Staying safe in abusive relationship or leaving an abusive relationship is difficult and dangerous. Leaving is the highest risk time for lethality, and a victim is unlikely to be able to leave successfully and safely if she loses her job. Survivors who are afraid of disclosing abuse at work are less likely to seek help. If there are potential consequences to disclosing, victims become even more isolated.
No one should have to choose between a job and their safety, but quite often, that is what happens. Stable employment as a component of financial security is key to victims and survivors.
Legislation that would make a difference:
The SAFE Act - Targets discrimination against survivors in the workplace. Covers a broader definition than most state laws, including domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual assault.
Allows workers to take up to 30 days of safe time per year, with 7 of those days paid. Protects workers from being fired because of DV, and helps ensure that victims are not discriminated against at work.
The Healthy Families Act – A bill would set national standard for paid sick days. Wrokers would be able to earn up to 7 paid sick days per year, with a provision allowing workers to use those days also as safe days. This would give victims paid, job-protected time off to seek services related to victimization.