Living a life with dignity means having the freedom to make decisions about one’s own life. It’s society’s responsibility to promote and protect these human rights. For victims and survivors of sexual and domestic violence, their freedoms can be limited both by their current economic circumstances as well as by the abuse and its impact. We cannot address or hope to help victims and survivors achieve safety without also considering their individual economic needs and broader issues of economic justice.
Economic challenges ranging from credit, debt, and foreclosure to job security, housing costs, educational opportunities, property ownership, and medical expenses are often compounded for victims and survivors of sexual and domestic violence. Their financial situation might determine what kind of access they have to a variety of services and options. The abuse may have a financial impact such as when victims incur expenses if they decide to move out of their neighborhood, drop out of school or need to stop working.
In terms of sexual violence specifically, studies also show that living without housing, a stable income, employment, or steady education may increase a person’s risk for sexual victimization.
Domestic violence might involve finances being used as a tool of power and control such as when a batterer restricts a victim’s access to the family’s finances or controls the victim’s entire paycheck. This is often referred to as economic abuse. One study showed that economic abuse is not well understood or recognized:
- 74% of Americans personally know someone who is or has been abused.
- Approximately 6 out of 10 Americans strongly agree that the lack of money and a steady income is often a challenge faced by a survivor of domestic violence when leaving her/his abuser.
- Yet, 75% Americans also fail to connect domestic violence with economic abuse.
Poverty & Sexual Violence: Building Prevention and Intervention Responses: A Guide for Counselors and Advocates
Center for Survivor Agency and Justice: Consumer Rights for Domestic Violence Survivors Initiative