Women of all economic classes experience violence in the home. The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence has just completed a literature review on the impact of the economic downturn on domestic violence and concluded: “Studies that have examined DV across social classes show a strong inverse relationship between financial status and a woman’s risk of DV victimization: as social class increases, the likelihood of domestic violence decreases.” The Pennsylvania Coalition has posted very useful materials on its webpage. These studies should guide public policy to both increase services to low-income domestic violence victims and create programs that promote economic independence for women.
These results are consistent with the experience of Legal Aid’s domestic violence and family law lawyers. We have not done a scientific analysis, but it is our clear impression that more women are seeking assistance to escape violence and that the dangerousness of the violence has, in many cases, increased.
This is another illustration of why poverty reduction is a women’s issue. Women are more likely to be poor than men and the highest rate of poverty is among families with just the mother in the home. Nearly one-in-three women headed households with no partner in the home live in poverty. This is three times the rate in the general population. Low-income mothers are vulnerable to intimate partner violence because of economic factors. Support from an abuser might be food, rent or clothes for their children. Thus, an important part of both violence and poverty reduction requires a focus on economic barriers uniquely effecting women.