How Austerity And Further Job Losses Are Effecting The Rates Of And Severity Of Domestic Violence
Happy belated international women's day!
This is an article to mark international women's day 2012. The austerity that is being forced on the Irish people so that the banks can be bailed out is causing harm to every aspect of society. This article does not suggest that hard times are an excuse or cause of domestic violence but that austerity is worsening the situation for women trapped in abusive relationships and is taking away services that are life saving to them.
How austerity and further job losses are affecting the rates of and severity of domestic violence.
Though the economic downturn should not be seen as the reason for domestic violence, it occurs in good economic times and bad, certain consequences of the failed economy can facilitate and can be seen to have escalated the abuse that women face. It also puts women at more risk of financial abuse and women who are trapped in an abusive situation may be less likely to escape due to the risk of poverty. The austerity that the government has unjustly imposed on the Irish people has seen cuts to vital support services that are there to support the victims of domestic violence. Due to the increase in court appearances relating to child maintenance and property issues mean that separation cases are taking longer for the courts to process, meaning that it is taking longer for women to break away from abusive situations.
Due to increases in job losses, early retirement and redundancy, men who are abusive are at home more which may lead to the abuse becoming more frequent. The financial strain on families and couples can escalate stress, leading to the worsening of a situation. An abusive situation that existed before the recession and now has a mortgage and is weighed down by debt is much worse off than it was before. All of this stress can lead to the abuse of alcohol and other substances which can worsen the severity and increase the occurrence of the abuse. In 2010, callers to woman’s aid disclosed over 13,575 incidents of physical, emotional, financial and sexual abuse. Many of these callers disclosed that they are trapped in these situations and are made more vulnerable to the abuse due to the financial crisis.
Relationships in which women are abused financially have always existed and are on the increase since the start of financial crisis. The economic situation can be used as an excuse by the abuser to legitimise financial abuse. This includes women being forced to pay the abuser’s debt, Women’s belongings being sold without their consent, women’s benefits being put in the abusers name, women having to account for every penny they spend and the abuser withholding maintenance they are legally obliged to pay. Women who are trapped in abusive relationships are less likely to escape because of the risk of poverty if they leave. They are afraid of losing their homes and the effect of poverty on their children.
Because of the government’s cuts to the welfare state, the support services which are vital to women who are trying to escape an abusive situation have either been put under a lot of strain or have been done away with altogether. For example, current cuts in welfare support budgets mean that community welfare officers are becoming more rigid in order to manage their decreased budget. COPE has provided a refuge and outreach service for thousands of women in the form of Waterside house, a refuge for victims of domestic abuse in Galway. In 2010, 150 women and their children sought refuge here but twice as many had to be turned away due to limited capacity. COPE has called for increased funding to increase their capacity from six family rooms to seven, to provide a play area for children and a dining area. For this modest upgrade, funding of at least 100,000 is needed but this will not been forthcoming as there has been cuts to its budget since then. More recently it has become clear that austerity has worsened abusive relationships. Within the last year, there has been an increase of 40% in calls to waterside house.
Financial difficulties are never an excuse for abuse. Relationships that were loving and healthy before the financial crisis have remained loving and healthy after. The effects of austerity aggravate an already abusive relationship, may increase the chances of financial abuse and may escalate the violence. Because of austerity, services that could save the lives of women in these situations have been cut to near non existence.