Ensuring Domestic Violence Survivors’ Safety – Center for American Progress

Today, women are still more likely than men to work in jobs with lower wages16 and fewer benefits,17 and many of these jobs have been deemed essential during this pandemic. But more often than not, these jobs fail to offer the additional economic support, such as hazard or premium pay, that workers deserve and may need during an emergency situation.18 Furthermore, women overall have less wealth than men, with the wealth gap being much larger for women of color.19 Wealth and savings are critical for survivors seeking independence and safety: One study found that 75 percent of women in DV shelters reported that they had stayed with an abuser longer due to financial concerns, and in the midst of a historic recession with record unemployment, it is likely that this finding tracks closely with the current reality.20 This is all further exacerbated by pandemic-related challenges such as increased loss in housing and a breakdown in social services, which can force women to remain with abusers or drain their savings to procure housing and other needed resources.21

During this pandemic, Latinas and Black women have both faced some of the highest levels of as well as spikes in unemployment of any racial groups.22 Between February and July 2020, unemployment rates for Latinas and Black women jumped from 4.9 percent to 14 percent and 4.8 percent to 13.5 percent, respectively, compared with unemployment rates for white women during the same period, which rose from 2.8 percent to 9.8 percent.23 At the same time, Latinas and Black women are more likely to be the family breadwinner.24 As a consequence, the economic stressors of COVID-19 risk worsening the abusive environments and relationships that may have existed for survivors even before the pandemic. Unemployment among breadwinners may lead to not only short-term financial strife, including the inability to pay rent and put food on the table, but also devastating long-term financial consequences for these women and their families, such as going into debt and remaining in abusive households. These economic challenges are also faced by other survivor groups, including LGBTQ people and people with disabilities, in part due to wage gaps, unemployment rates, and poverty rates influenced by the unique negative effects of bias and intersectional discrimination on the basis of gender identity, sexual orientation, disability status, and other factors.25 Thus, access to programs such as unemployment insurance is an essential safety net for all workers but particularly for survivors, whose lack of financial resources could be immediately life-threatening.

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