reports of domestic violence have risen sharply

(WOMENSENEWS)–The economic crisis is not only causing a rise in the unemployment rates, it is also causing a rise in domestic violence incidents.

Seventy-five percent of domestic violence shelters in the United States reported an increase in women seeking help since September and 73 percent of these shelters attribute this rise to financial issues. The April report, which surveyed 600 domestic violence shelters across the country, was released by the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation, based in Dallas, Texas. The Foundation is dedicated to ending women’s cancers and domestic violence around the world.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline measured an increase in calls of 21 percent during the third quarter of 2008, as reported in a press release by the organization.

A Volatile Mix

In response, the hotline, which is based in Austin, Texas, conducted a survey of 7,678 callers. The survey consisted of two questions: "Has there been a change in your household financial situation in the last year?" to which 54 percentRita Smith of National Coalition Against Domestic Violence answered yes; and "Do you believe the abuse behavior has increased in the past year?" to which 64 percent answered yes (based on a study released January 29).

"The increase in requests for services is connected to the economic crisis in a number of ways," said Rita Smith, executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, based in Denver. "Most importantly, domestic violence is a crime of access. Since a significant number of people have lost their jobs in the last six months that means more people are at home together for long periods of time. Money has always been an issue that causes stress between couples and in families.


In addition to that factor, the abuse and violence are already part of the control tactics that batterers use, and this makes the mix extremely volatile."

Economic Abuse a Factor

Domestic violence is not only a response to household financial stress, it’s also a major contributor to it.

When abuse takes a financial form it can cause more long-term harm than physical or sexual abuse, says Smith.

"Economic abuse is one of the more effective ways that abusers control their victims. They will either control all the money in the family, making her account for every dime she spends and giving her the allowance he believes she needs. Even if she works, she has to show him the pay stubs and he controls all the money," she said.

Another way that economic abuse can play out, says Smith, is when the abuser puts everything they own in the victim’s name. At first that may seem great, she says, but if the woman leaves he will stop paying all the bills and ruin her financially. He can prevent her from getting credit, a new home and sometimes other work due to problems with all the defaults on her credit history.

Kayla Hutzler, a journalism major at Manhattan College, is an editorial intern with Women’s eNews.

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