Women’s experience of COVID-19 economic insecurity linked to domestic violence, study finds

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It reinforced calls to improve women’s economic security by including strategies that “address harmful attitudes that support gender norms and dismantle the systems that enable these problematic attitudes.”

Last year, researchers from the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) surveyed 10,000 women aged 18 and over about their experiences of violence in their most recent intimate relationship before and during the first 12 months of the pandemic. .

They were also asked about economic security, including financial stress and associated economic hardship, such as being unable to pay bills, going without medical care or skipping meals.

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The survey found that experiences of economic insecurity were common among women during this time, and this was linked to an increased likelihood of experiencing intimate partner violence.

“What the report shows is that these two things are very strongly related to each other,” AIC’s Anthony Morgan told SBS News.

“A woman who experienced some form of economic insecurity was much more likely to experience spousal abuse. And a particular concern is first-time abuse.”

The survey found that economic strains associated with the pandemic were linked to both the onset and escalation of domestic violence. Higher levels of financial stress were related to first-time violence, while economic hardship was associated with both first-time and repeat violence.

This adds to a growing body of Australian and overseas research showing that the economic consequences of the pandemic “have been associated with an increased likelihood of first-time violence…and an increase in the frequency or severity of violence. among people in abusive relationships,” the report said.

“I think so [concern around first-time violence] perhaps shows the unintended but I think expected consequences of some of the important public health measures that have been introduced,” Morgan said.

“We think this provides pretty strong evidence of an impact on intimate partner violence, and really adds to the body of evidence from Australia and now overseas as well.

“But I think it also draws attention to the role of some of these dimensions of economic insecurity as potential contributing factors.”

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The survey also found that economic disparity within relationships was associated with intimate partner violence, such as women being the main earners or working while their partner was not.

“We found that when the woman interviewed was the primary income earner, she was significantly more likely to experience all forms of violence for the first time,” Morgan said.

“It really shines a light on not only the role of economic insecurity, but also harmful attitudes and the potential role of gender norms around who should be making money in a relationship and what implications that might have on violence. “

“Not just an economical solution”

The report says the research has reinforced the need to focus on women’s economic security to improve their security – both during the pandemic and beyond.

But it says programs focused solely on improving women’s economic status may not mitigate the risk of violence in all circumstances.

“Efforts to improve women’s economic security must therefore be supported by strategies to challenge these harmful attitudes and dismantle the systems that enable them,” the report says.

“It is of great concern that women’s experiences of economic insecurity are linked to an increased risk of also experiencing intimate partner violence, regardless of the economic disparity within the relationship,” the director said. General of ANROWS, Padma Raman.

“It is essential that responses to improve women’s economic security are supported by strategies that address harmful attitudes that support gender norms and dismantle the systems that enable these problematic attitudes.”

Mr Morgan agreed and said ‘we can’t just assume this is a cost-effective solution’.

“There are different parts of the solution that I think need to be considered,” he said.

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The report also calls for financial support to be tailored and accessible to women who live with intersecting disadvantages, such as care commitments or disability, and must be developed in consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to ensure they are culturally appropriate.

“We know this adds to a huge body of evidence that shows us that experiences of violence are not equally shared across all sections of the community,” Morgan said.

He said the research provides “compelling” evidence of the urgency with which the country must respond to these issues.

“I think it demonstrates the intensity of this problem which has been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it really demonstrates the urgency with which action needs to be taken, including under the next National Plan.”

Women’s Safety Minister Anne Ruston said the government had published its draft National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-23, which places a strong emphasis on the women’s recovery from violence, including economic security.

She said the research would play a key role in determining the policy and practical initiatives that would flow from it.

“As part of the Morrison government’s record $1.1 billion investment in women’s safety in Budget 2021-22, we have created the new Violence Escape Payment that provides victim-survivors leaving an abusive relationship up to $5,000 in financial assistance to establish a violence-free home,” Ms. Ruston said.

“We understand that financial hardship can be a barrier to leaving violent relationships and the new Abuse Escape Payment aims to provide direct financial support to victim-survivors when they make the incredibly courageous decision to leave any form of domestic violence, including physical, coercive, controlling and financial abuse.

ANROWS is an initiative of Australia’s National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children 2010-2022. It was created by the federal government to apply evidence to policy and practice to address violence against women and their children.

If you or someone you know is affected by family and domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.

Readers looking for help can contact Lifeline’s Crisis Helpline on 13 11 14, visit lifeline.org.au or find an Aboriginal medical service here. Resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth can be found at Headspace: Yarn Safe.

The Men’s Referral Service provides advice for men on domestic violence and can be contacted on 1300 766 491.

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