Everyone is talking about it: Does Economic Stress Cause Domestic Violence?
In January 2010 in Spencer, MA a man facing a foreclosure auction took his own life after shooting and killing his sick wife and their horse, setting fire to their home, and torching his pickup truck.
Advocates voice concerns that vast numbers of women are remaining in abusive relationships out of fear they could not support themselves and their children in the current economic climate.
Studies also show that social support networks may influence DV perpetration and victimization. Women DV survivors typically turn to family and friends for emotional and tangible support, such as temporary housing. The current economic recession may limit the ability of concerned family members and friends to assist DV survivors, resulting in increased strain on battered women’s and homeless shelters and the potential for more DV survivors and their children to experience homelessness. Economic Stress and Domestic Violence by Claire M. Renzetti with contributions from Vivian M. Larkin (September 2009).
In her article posted November 9, 2010, on the link between domestic violence and economic stress Deborah Debare, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, with whom I had the pleasure of working with when I spoke at their conference in October 2009 said, “We know from experience here in Rhode Island that the numbers of victims of domestic violence are reaching record levels in 2010. And exacerbating the situation is that many of these victims are experiencing multiple challenges in their efforts to get safe, as they have fewer financial resources and more complex social/emotional problems caused in part by the economic stress in their lives.”
An interesting slat to this issue is the confessions of offenders in court mandated domestic violence classes. I have been attending as an observer for over a year now. I attend men’s classes and women’s classes. I’m seeing a lot of varied demographics and family dynamics.
When a person attends their first class they are asked to tell the facilitator (and the group at large) what occurred in the event that led to police arrest and appearance before a judge. Later in during the weeks they attend classes they may also do a “thought report” where they walk through step by step every nuance of the fight.
What I’ve seen are countless instances where the fight brewed over someone coming home hours late, a teenage girl spilling nail polish on a carpet and ignoring the mess while she goes out with friends; leaving her frustrated parents to clean up, or married men’s girlfriends sending gift to the couple’s children.
In other words, I hear a whole host of stories of hurt, frustration, betrayal and irrational thinking. But among them, never a story where the fight brewed over finances.
These offenders are all people who were arrested during a fight where someone was hit, kicked, slapped or possessions where broken. In these instances all the offenders are misdemeanors.
I recently spoke with Amilia Duchon-Voyles, Executive Director of S.W.A.N Domestic Violence Shelter who said, “There are a lot of money issues. No access to money is a key issue for women. “ Amilia went on to retell stories she hears from women in her shelter; such as fights breaking out over money when the abuser wants it to fulfill his drug addiction, or she’s now taking control over the money because she’s now the wage earner if he lost his job. In some cases the woman is trying to create boundaries and he’s resisting them. In other words, Amilia is hearing a lot of the same things at her shelter as I am in the offender groups.
My research of incarcerated offenders, including the experience of working with Tracy Stombres in writing our book Serrated, has shown the same; it’s fights over sometimes the most common and routine issues in a relationship that go completely out of control that result in violence.
My opinion is this: this stress full economic time is not causing more violence. But it’s preventing victims from getting out and severely limiting resources. Anything you can do to help by donating a few dollars or gently used clothes and household goods – or even an hour listening to someone, will mean more to those that need it than you’ll ever know.
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