The Intersection of Poverty and Domestic Violence

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The Intersection of Poverty and Domestic Violence


By Lecia Imbery
Senior Policy Writer, Coalition on Human Needs

Lecia Imbery
Lecia Imbery

We know that poverty disproportionately affects women and single moms. In 2013, nearly 16 percent of women and nearly 40 percent of families with children headed by a woman lived in poverty, higher than their male counterparts. We know that women who are poor are more likely to suffer from health problems and are more likely to be survivors of domestic violence. We also know that children who grow up poor are more likely to suffer from health issues, developmental delays, behavioral problems, lower academic achievement, and unemployment in adulthood. If we fail to address poverty, particularly amongst women and children, we only perpetuate the cycle of poverty, inequality, and domestic violence.

But there are actions we can take as a nation to protect the well-being of women and children and end the cycle. Low-income women are often trapped in abusive situations by a lack of financial resources; raising the minimum wage and the tipped minimum wage would benefit millions of low-wage workers, the majority of whom are women. Some paid sick days initiatives would give survivors of violence the critical time off they need to seek medical care after an assault, find new shelter, or obtain legal protections without the fear of losing their jobs. However, many states have banned cities and municipalities from passing paid leave laws. We must fight these bans and expand paid leave options for survivors. Unemployment insurance can also be a resource to help survivors who had to quit their jobs because of domestic violence. As of 2012, 32 states had such provisions. This protection needs to be expanded to all states.

The Affordable Care Act means that women who had stayed with an abusive husband in part because of health insurance she had through his employer will now have options to obtain insurance on their own. Extending funding for Children’s Health Insurance Program will ensure the millions of children and pregnant women will continue to have coverage that would be otherwise unaffordable.

Domestic violence is a main cause of homelessness for women and families, either when women are forced to flee a relationship or when they are evicted from their homes because of the abuse perpetrated against them. This is even truer for poor women due to a lack of safe and affordable housing options and housing assistance, as well as discrimination against survivors. The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) expanded important housing protections for survivors of domestic violence. However, municipalities across the country still have “nuisance” laws on the books that punish survivors for calling the police by threatening them with eviction. These laws must be stopped, and we must continue to fight for funding for low-income housing assistance, which has been cut dramatically over the years.

Only when we put policies into place that address the issues at the intersection of poverty and domestic violence will we begin to truly break the cruel cycle too many women face.

Lecia Imbery is the Senior Policy Writer for the Coalition on Human Needs (CHN). She contributes regularly to CHN’s blog, Voices for Human Needs, and the Human Needs Report, CHN’s newsletter on national policy issues affecting low-income and vulnerable populations.  

YWCA Week Without ViolenceThis post is part of the YWCA Week Without Violence™ 2014 Blog Carnival. We invite you to join the dialogue! Post your comment below, share your story and follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #workagainstviolence.