Manager of Advocacy Initatives, Jewish Women International
Imagine, for a moment, that you have to flee your home. Imagine that you have to rebuild your life from scratch – find a home, a job, care for your children. Now imagine that you have to do this without cash in your pocket, or without a paycheck, or a credit card, or a bank account. It sounds impossible. Yet this is what victims of financial abuse are facing when they leave their abusers. It is vital that we recognize the deep connections between economic security and freedom from domestic violence, and that our public policies support every victim in escaping a violent relationship, rebuilding her life, and establishing a safe and healthy future for herself and her children.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and National Work and Family Month. This connection highlights a crucial fact: domestic violence victims and survivors are part of the population of working families that we seek to support. Victims and survivors are also mothers and fathers, caregivers for elderly parents, depended-upon community members. Our efforts to improve workplace policy must acknowledge and support the needs of victims and survivors of domestic violence, including policies that strengthen women’s economic security.
Economic security is the foundation of a woman’s ability to live free from violence. Unfortunately, many abusive relationships include financial abuse, in which an abuser uses forced financial dependence as a form a control. Abusers may use many tactics of financial abuse, including control of the victim’s wages, running up debt on credit cards in the victim’s name, and harassing the victim or preventing her from going to work until she loses her job.
Paid sick days enable a parent to care for a sick child, and also give a victim time to seek medical care, mental health care, and other support services without risking her job. Pregnancy non-discrimination laws protect a woman’s job while she grows her family, and also help a victim earn money and maintain stability during a potentially dangerous time in her relationship. Paid family leave gives parents time to bond with their new child, and also gives a victim time to plan for the safety of herself and her baby. Equal pay and minimum wage laws ensure that women are fairly compensated for their hard work, and support a woman’s economic security and financial independence. Victims and survivors of domestic violence are part of our national community of working families, and they need policies that support them as survivors, as employees, and as parents.
To #EndDVNow, we must come together in support of the victims and survivors in our communities, to promote policies that strengthen women’s financial security, and to teach the next generation that economic empowerment is a fundamental component of women’s safety, equality, and achievement.
Ilana Flemming is the Manager of Advocacy Initiatives at Jewish Women International, where she leads the organization’s policy advocacy on issues including domestic and sexual violence, economic security, and reproductive rights. In addition to advocating for women and girls on Capitol Hill, JWI also provides educational and training programs on healthy relationships, sexual assault prevention, and economic empowerment. JWI’s financial literacy programs support a woman at every stage of her life – from opening her first bank account, to negotiating her first salary, to preparing for her retirement. Since its founding in 1897, JWI has worked to ensure that all women and girls thrive in healthy relationships, control their financial futures, and realize the full potential of their personal strength. Connect with JWI at jwi.org and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
YWCA’s Week Without Violence is an annual campaign that takes place nationally and communities across the country to end violence in all of its forms and wherever it occurs. As the largest network of domestic service providers in the United States, YWCA is focusing our efforts on ending domestic violence – NOW. Everyday YWCA addresses the root causes and immediate needs associated with domestic violence. As we mark our 20th annual Week Without Violence, we invite you to join us. To learn more visit www.ywca.org/wwv and join the conversation with #EndDVNow.