What does economic autonomy have to do with domestic violence?

Thinking Woman

Domestic violence continues to pose a clear and present danger to the health and well-being of countless victims. An important factor to consider when pondering the question why doesn’t the victim leave is her/his economic ability to live independently. Studies indicate that one of the best predictors of whether a victim will be able to stay away from her abuser is her degree of economic independence. However, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking often negatively impacts victims’ ability to maintain employment.

Abusers often seek to exert financial control their partners by actively interfering with their ability to work, including preventing their partners from going to work, harassing their partners at work, limiting the access of their partners to cash or transportation, and sabotaging the child care arrangements of their partners. [2] Studies indicate that between 35 and 56 percent of employed battered women surveyed were harassed at work by their abusive partners. [3]

Victims of domestic violence also often miss work due to injuries, court dates, and safety concerns requiring legal protections. Victims of intimate partner violence lose 8,000,000 days of paid work each year–the equivalent of over 32,000 full-time jobs and 5,600,000 days of household productivity.[4] According to a 1998 report of the General Accounting Office, between 1/4 and 1/2 of domestic violence victims surveyed in 3 studies reported that they lost a job due, at least in part, to domestic violence.[5] Women who have experienced domestic violence or dating violence are more likely than other women to be unemployed, to suffer from health problems that can affect employability and job performance, to report lower personal income, and to rely on welfare.[6]

Domestic violence also affects perpetrators’ ability to work. A recent study found that 48% of abusers reported having difficulty concentrating at work and 42% reported being late to work. Seventy-eight ( 78) percent reported using their own company’s resources in connection with the abusive relationship. More than 35 percent of stalking victims report losing time from work due to the stalking [11] and 7 percent never return to work. [12] The Bureau of National Affairs has estimated that domestic violence costs United States employers between $3,000,000,000 and $5,000,000,000 annually in lost time and productivity, while other reports have estimated the cost at between $5,800,000,000 and $13,000,000,000 annually. [13]

United States medical costs for domestic violence have been estimated to be 1,000,000,000 per year.[14] Ninety-four percent of corporate security and safety directors at companies nationwide rank domestic violence as a high security concern.[15] Already, 25 States and the District of Columbia have laws that explicitly provide unemployment insurance to domestic violence victims in certain circumstances; however, these laws vary in the extent to which they effectively address the special circumstances of victims of domestic violence and very few of the laws explicitly cover victims of sexual assault or stalking.[16]

Five States provide victims of domestic or sexual violence with leave from work to go to court, to the doctor, or to take other steps to address the violence in their lives, and several other States provide time off to victims of crimes, which can include victims of domestic and sexual violence, to attend court proceedings. However, many States have no employment-protected leave provisions that allow victims of domestic or sexual violence to take the time off they need to address the violence. [17] Domestic violence victims and third parties who help them have been subjected to discriminatory practices by health, life, disability, and property and casualty insurers and employers who self-insure employee benefits who have denied or canceled coverage, rejected claims, and raised rates based on domestic violence.

Although some State legislatures have tried to address these problems, the scope of protection afforded by the laws adopted varies from State to State, with many failing to address the problem comprehensively. Moreover, Federal law prevents States from protecting the almost 40 percent of employees whose employers self-insure employee benefits.

Sources: Listed below in the footnote section. Photo credit: Microsoft Clip Art

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1. EVAN STARK & ANNE FLITCRAFT, WOMEN AT RISK: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND WOMEN’S HEALTH xvii, 10, 202 (1996).

2. JODY RAPHAEL & RICHARD M. TOLMAN, TRAPPED IN POVERTY, TRAPPED BY ABUSE: NEW EVIDENCE DOCUMENTING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND WELFARE (1997).

3. U.S. GEN. ACCT. OFFICE, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PREVALENCE AND IMPLICATIONS FOR EMPLOYMENT AMONG WELFARE RECIPIENTS 19 (Nov. 1998).

4. Costs of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in the United States, Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2003.

5. U.S. GEN. ACCT. OFFICE, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PREVALENCE AND IMPLICATIONS FOR EMPLOYMENT AMONG WELFARE RECIPIENTS 19 (NOV. 1998).

6. DETIS T. DUHART, U.S. DEP’T OF JUSTICE, VIOLENCE IN THE WORKFORCE, 1993-1999 2 (DECEMBER 2001).

7. GREG WARCHOL, U.S. DEP’T OF JUSTICE, WORKPLACE VIOLENCE, 1992-96 2 (July 1998).

8. DETIS T. DUHART, U.S. DEP’T OF JUSTICE, VIOLENCE IN THE WORKFORCE, 1993-1999 2 (DECEMBER 2001).

9. GREG WARCHOL, U.S. DEP’T OF JUSTICE, WORKPLACE VIOLENCE, 1992-96 4 (July 1998).

10. E. Ellis, B. Atkeson and K. Calhoun, An Assessment of the Long Term Reaction to Rape, 50 J. ABNORMAL PSYCHOLOGY No. 3, 264 (1981).

11. Costs of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in the United States, Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2003.

12. PATRICIA T JADEN & NANCY THOENNES, NAT’L INST. OF JUST. & CTRS. FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION, STALKING IN AMERICA: FINDINGS FROM THE NATIONAL VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN SURVEY 11 (April 1998). PATRICIA TJADEN & NANCY THOENNES, NAT’L INST. OF JUST. & CTRS. FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION, STALKING IN AMERICA: FINDINGS FROM THE NATIONAL VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN SURVEY 11 (April 1998).

13. Joan Zorza, Women Battering: High Costs and the State of the Law, CLEARINGHOUSE REV., Vol. 28, No. 4, 383, 385 (1994); National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Costs of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in the United States, Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2003.; “Intimate Violence Costs Billions,” ABC News, 4/29/2003.

14. Joan Zorza, Women Battering: High Costs and the State of the Law, LEARINGHOUSE REV., Vol. 28, No. 4, 383, 385 (1994).

15. JOSEPH A. KINNEY, NAT’L SAFE WORKPLACE INST., DOMESTIC VIOLENCE MOVES INTO WORKPLACE (1994).

16. NOW LEGAL DEFENSE AND EDUCATION FUND, VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN FACT SHEETS ON STATE LAWS: UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE, ( at http://www.nowldef.org/html/issues/vio/laws-ui.shtml (April 1, 2003 (states include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming); State Net 2003 Bill Tracking HI S.B. 931 (Hawaii Governor signed law on 5/19/2003); State Net 2003 Bill Tracking MT S.B. 180 (Montana Governor signed provision on 4/14/2003 to make law permanent); StateNet 2003 Bill Tracking IL H.B. 3486 (passed both Houses 6/1/03) ) (Please note: Legal Momentum is the new name of NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund. The new link to the fact sheet is http://www.legalmomentum.org/issues/vio/ui.pdf)

17. NOW LEGAL DEFENSE AND EDUCATION FUND, VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN FACT SHEETS ON STATE LAWS: UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE, ( at http://www.nowldef.org/html/issues/vio/laws-ui.shtml (April 1, 2003 (states include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming).

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