According to the National Institute of Justice, the recent economic hardship and recession has yet another negative effect on people: domestic violence against women.
Worst hit are lower-income neighborhoods, a 2004 Department of Justice research report titled, “Concentrated Disadvantage, Economic Distress, and Violence Against Women in Intimate Relationships,” showed. Only 4.3 percent of intimate partner violence occurred in higher-income neighborhoods versus the 8.6 percent in underprivileged communities.
Bonnie Yegidis, professor and director of the University of South Florida’s School of Social Work, specializes in studying family violence. Yegidis said that a major stressor for couples and families is finding work during a recession.
“People get hopeless and eventually give up,” Yegidis said.
Over the past decade, additional studies about domestic violence have shown:
- Many instances of domestic violence go unreported—only one-fifth of all rapes, one-fourth of physical assaults and one-half of stalking against women were reported.
- Some women may feel that financial security is more important than leaving an abusive relationship.
- 25 percent of the surveyed women had experienced “pervasive intimate partner violence” one year prior to the study.
- Approximately 1.5 million women are either raped or physically assaulted each year in the United States.
According to Yegidis, so many cases of domestic abuse go unreported because family violence happens within the privacy of homes.
“Family violence is different than violence on the street,” Yegidis said. “It’s secretive. It happens at home because the aggressors can get away with it. Victims of family violence don’t report it because they are ashamed or embarrassed.”
Along with fear, financial strain may lead women to stay in destructive relationships.
“People are concerned with the repercussions,” Yegidis said. “They’re afraid [the aggressor] will do it worse next time by taking it out on the kids or killing the cat.”
Victoria Grimes, a 20-year-old woman juggling school and a taking care of her baby, said that the abusive relationship she had with the father of her child went on for far too long.
“He was living in a fantasy world,” said Grimes. “He wasn’t paying the bills and he was spending money on things he didn’t even need, rather than supporting us. It was hard. I got to the point where I knew I couldn’t be with him anymore.”
Repercussions of violence sometimes make it harder for those affected to get the resources needed. Some services are offered for individuals in abusive relationships, such as domestic violence shelters.
The Dawn Center is a shelter for women and children seeking to escape abusive situations. The shelter provides an outreach program, one-on-one and group support sessions and individual safety planning. It also has legal advocates in the court house and prevention programming aimed at reaching children and teenagers.
Michelle Rio, an administrator for the shelter, has seen an increase in capacity during the past few months.
“The Dawn Center has 40 beds,” Rio said. “We had 42 people in the shelter last month.”
Rio also said that “sometimes there is no rhyme or reason for violence, but the economy adds additional stressors to people’s lives.”