Saturday, 30 May 2009

Domestic Violence and Economic Abuse

There is an interesting piece over at TomDispatch about the economic crisis and women in New York city. In particular, the piece highlights the pressure wider economic insecurity is placing on women to remain in situations characterised by partner violence.
When "domestic violence" is mentioned, people usually think of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, but experts say that another form of domestic violence has been on the increase since the global financial meltdown hit. They call it "economic abuse." It not only goes largely unnoticed by most Americans, according to Shugrue dos Santos, but is "not sufficiently explored in the press." Namey concurs, adding, "Financial abuse is something that may not be on the radar for most people, but it is a serious problem."

Sanctuary for Families points to "Jen," a battered client who came to them in the fall of 2008 just as the financial crisis was beginning to sweep the country. According to its staff, she represents an ever more typical case. Speaking of her partner, she put her dilemma this way:

"Sometimes I think it would be easier just to go back to him. I know that he could possibly kill me but... when we lived with him he always had the refrigerator full and I never had to worry about what my baby was going to eat or what we were going to wear. It's just really hard to watch my baby live like this. Sometimes I don't think it's worth it."
The article points out that the vast majority (75%) of those who have lost their jobs in US private sector since December 2007 have been men, and this has put additional pressure on women in the household who are already working. In fact, women now make up the majority of the employed in the US due to the extreme job loss in male-dominated industries. However, the wider economic situation and insecurity means that the prospect for those who consider leaving an abusive partner is additionally grim:
Tyrie's situation highlights the terrible bind that affects so many victims of domestic violence. Her husband was a danger to her and yet, even with only irregular work, a second source of income in the family provided a small protection against the abyss. Now he's gone, as is the abuse -- and the income. Gone as well is Tyrie's immigration security and with it her other job -- and now there are three more mouths in the house to feed.

Tyrie understandably chose to trade increased economic insecurity for personal safety, and as a result, her life threatens to crumble at any moment. For many domestic violence survivors, however, the prospect of economic ruin is more terrifying than physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
Read the article here.

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