Faculty Post: Please stop telling her to leave.

by Margo Lindauer, Visiting Clinical Professor and Director of the Domestic Violence Institute

Is there a way to provide economic support to a victim of violence fleeing a battering partner? I believe that the answer is yes, though we do not do it now.

Economic dependence is a critical factor in violence prevention. For many victims of domestic violence, the economic entanglement with an abusive partner is too strong to sever contact without alternative economic support.

A victim of domestic violence who shares a home with her battering partner or is no longer safe in her own home may want to flee. But for many victims of domestic violence, domestic violence emergency shelters are simply not a feasible option.  Shelter space is extremely limited, often geographically inaccessible. Many shelters require victims to sever contact with their community, leave their jobs and change their children’s’ schools. For others, homeless shelters may be an option. However, a fleeing victim has no choice as to location of said shelter or type of living space that a homeless shelter may provide. Further, homeless shelters are not secure or focused on victims of domestic violence.

Housing aside, how is a victim (and frequently a victim and her children) to survive without the financial support of her batterer? Frequently, economic dependence is a part of the abuse, another way for a batterer to exert power and control in the relationship.  Many batterers interfere with their victims’ work schedules or do not let their victims work at all.  Often, batterers take out loans under their victims’ names or otherwise use their victims’ credits for their own benefit. For a victim in this situation, fleeing violence means becoming penniless if it is even a possibility.

What if there was a way to create some economic safety net for victims? What then? Would more people leave a dangerous or unhealthy relationship? My hypothesis is yes- but how do we create it? How do we as a society create a social safety net where one does not exist?

I am currently writing an article that asks and seeks to answer some of these questions. I evaluate existing forms of monetary and supplemental support such as social security, food stamps, unemployment assistance, work-readiness programs, crowd sourcing, foundations, purveyors of credit and others to evaluate how these systems could provide emergency economic support for victims.

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