While Australia has a national conversation on domestic violence, some of the harms of this violence remain in the shadows. The ways violence degrades women’s financial status and access to economic resources are particularly poorly recognised.
Our research provides evidence for what many domestic violence practitioners have observed for decades: violence and financial abuse contribute to extreme levels of financial hardship and risks of poverty.
These economic effects resonate throughout women’s lives and across generations. Governments, businesses, non-government organisations and others can do much more to prevent and tackle them.
Domestic violence is an economic harm
Using data from the Journeys Home survey, we examined low-income women’s experiences of violence, housing, work and financial wellbeing between 2012 and 2014.
Violence affects women across socioeconomic circumstances. But these women’s histories of social security receipt and housing stress made it especially difficult to rebound from the financial loss associated with partner violence. Australia’s social safety net is not doing nearly enough to mitigate the economic harms of violence.
Among the 765 women in the study, those subject to partner violence fared much worse on financial hardship measures than others. For example, the women exposed to violence were:
more likely to go without food due to lack of money;
more likely to have difficulty paying utilities bills; and
more likely to require material assistance from welfare agencies, which were often poorly equipped to respond.