With the budget cuts and the economic downturn, much funding for programs and services for women has been severely cut, such as battered women’s shelters, rape crisis centers, and advocacy organizations for survivors of domestic/sexual violence. These programs and services are deemed unnecessary, irrelevant or not as important, which is completely untrue because as the economy falters, the rates of domestic abuse/violence increase which is why we need these services more than ever.
Why is this so? There is a strong link between the economic stability of a couple, household or community and the intimate violence that occurs. According to a September 2004 study done by the National Institute of Justice, couples experiencing “extensive financial strain” had three times the domestic violence rate of others. Moreover, women in low-income neighborhoods are “substantially more likely” to be repeatedly abused by male partners.
Men have been harder hit than women by the economic downturn because “male-dominated industries like construction or transportation are bearing the brunt of the job losses.” In our society, men are supposed to be the breadwinners, which may make them tie their identities to their paid occupations. So when they are laid off they may experience a loss of a sense of power and control, and may feel a need to reassert their power and control over another, usually their partner or children.
This isn’t to say that all men who lose their jobs will become abusers, but in homes where domestic violence already occurs, the sinking economy increases frequency and violence of the abuse. Abusers use the economic downturn as a means of control over their victims.
The failing economy also makes it difficult for women to escape abusive relationships, especially if they are financially dependent on their partner’s income. Women who leave their abusive partners may end up homeless, which is more devastating now especially since families are struggling to keep their homes, pay all their bills and hold onto their jobs.
Therefore, for those people who just wonder “why doesn’t she just leave him?” It’s not that simple. It never is. Especially not now, given the economic situation.