Utne Blogs > Politics

Domestic Abuse and the Global Financial Crisis

Reporter Nick Turse is one of a small number of journalists making the connection between the global financial crisis and domestic abuse. Here he is in a piece published over at Tom Dispatch:

Even in good times, life for poor working women can be an obstacle-filled struggle to get by. In bad times, it can be hell. Now, throw domestic violence into the mix and the hardships grow exponentially.

"Clients are coming in more severely battered with more serious injuries," reports Catherine Shugrue dos Santos of Sanctuary for Families, New York State's largest nonprofit organization exclusively dedicated to dealing with domestic violence victims and their children. "This leads us to believe that the intensity of the violence may be escalating. It also means that people may be waiting until the violence has escalated before they leave."

"Difficult financial times do not cause domestic violence," says Brian Namey from the National Network to End Domestic Violence. "But they can exacerbate it."

"When there are tough financial times," Namey notes, "couples can be under greater pressure, have higher stress levels." In fact, a 2004 study by the National Institute of Justice reported that women whose male partners experienced two or more periods of unemployment over five years were three times more likely to be abused.

He reaches a bit deeper and discovers a phenomenon victim advocates call "economic abuse":

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."

Jen is one of an increasing number of women caught between violence in the home and the violence of being moneyless, powerless, and alone in the world. One way in which economic abuse occurs, as Shugrue dos Santos explains, is when "as part of the power and control dynamic, the batterer tries to exert control over the finances of the family. We talk to many women, and even if they're the primary bread-winners in the family, they end up turning that money over to the batterer who either doesn't give them money or gives them an allowance."

Source: Tom Dispatch