We already know that violence against women—including rape, domestic violence, harassment and stalking—can have profound physical, psychological and emotional effects on survivors. A consequence of sexual assault that is less discussed is the economic effect of gender-based violence.
Of course, the primary reason to work to try to prevent and appropriately remedy violence against women is because women are people who deserve lives free of discrimination and gender-based violence.
However, at this moment in time–as the Trump administration chips away at women’s access to health services and in the wake of statements indicating a disregard for college rape survivors–it’s clear we must also discuss the economic cost of enabling violence. We explored this issue at length in our landmark publication, Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women.
New research from Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) reviews the economic consequences of violence against women including high medical expenses, lower wages from diminished educational attainment, lost wages from missed work and job loss, debt and poor credit, and costs associated with housing instability.
This research underscores the perspective that informs our work at the Women’s Law Project and in the Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health: women’s health, safety and economic security are deeply intertwined.
“In addition to the physical costs, the economic costs of violence continue long after abuse has ended, making survivors vulnerable to economic instability across the lifespan. We all have an interest in reducing violence against women and helping them cover the costs when it does occur, so survivors may fully recover and rebuild their lives,” said Director of IWPR’s Economic Security for Survivors Project Sarah Gonzalez Bocinski.
The IWPR fact sheet compiles research across four key areas of economic impact:
- IPV assault, rape, and psychological abuse increase health care utilization, resulting in high out-of-pocket costs and medical debt. For example, one survey in the Pacific Northwest found that health care costs for those experiencing abuse were 42 percent higher than the costs for non-abused women.
- Physical and psychological trauma and partner interference impede educational attainment. In addition to fewer years of higher education than those who did not experience violence, research also finds challenges to participating in and completing job training programs that can lead to better jobs with higher earnings.
- Physical, psychological, and economic abuse often lead to job instability. In addition to lost days of paid work, research has found that experiencing violence often leads to job loss.
- Debt and poor credit due to financial control and exploitation restricts access to safe housing and can lead to homelessness. Surveys of survivors have found that victims of IPV who seek to break free from an abusive relationship often face housing instability and homelessness due to high housing costs, economic insecurity, damaged credit, and/or a negative tenant history.
Download IWPR’s fact sheet as a PDF here.
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