“Just leave.”

It’s the statement that many survivors of intimate partner violence hear over and over again. But living together, marriage, children, and shared finances are often huge reasons that people in abusive relationships stay. It also requires lots of time and flexibility to meet with a lawyer, attend court, look for a new place to live, getting emotional support through counselling on top of working or going to school, looking after children (if there are any), house work and so on.

Impacted by the inheritance of debt and forced bankruptcies, even after leaving an abusive partner, many survivors struggle to eat, find a safe place to live, achieve goals, support their children and rebuild their lives.

In addition to physical and emotional abuse, almost all survivors also experience economic abuse in the relationship. Economic abuse usually means that when they leave, they leave with no money. BWSS has written extensively on economic abuse including information and resources on empowerment strategies. But more systemic supports need to be available.

So what can be done to alleviate this?

Recently, New Zealand passed legislation granting 10 days of paid leave to survivors of intimate partner violence, making New Zealand the second country in the world (the other is the Philippines) to have nationally mandated paid leave for survivors of intimate partner violence.

In Canada, only two provinces, Manitoba and Ontario offer paid time off for employees who experience intimate partner violence. In March of 2016, Manitoba was the first province in Canada to provide paid leave. Specifically, survivors will get five paid days (to be taken in one stretch or intermittently, when needed), five unpaid days and an additional 17-week unpaid period, if they need to flee and find a new place to live. Ontario followed Manitoba, providing employees with 10 full days of intimate partner violence or sexual violence leave every year and 15 weeks unpaid leave. In June of this year, New Brunswick also announced its plans to provide 5 days of paid leave.

One control tactic used by abusive partners is disrupting their partners’ professional life: harassing them on the job or interfering with child-care plans so they can’t get to work. Estimates of survivors of intimate partner violence being bothered in some way by their abuser at work (eg. harassing phone calls) range from 36% to 75% and most survivors of intimate partner violence report that violence negatively affects their work performance [1]. It also affects their ability to get to work, through physical restraint for example or physical and emotional violence that requires them to take time off and ultimately has led to job loss for 27% of survivors in Canada [2].

For many survivors in crisis, having a job can be a lifeline. This is why a survivor’s job is incredibly important because it is essential to their ability to create a new life. But, intimate partner violence is a hard thing to bring up with an employer, particularly if the victim feels they could lose their job at any time. Many employers believe that violence in intimate relationships is an individual issue and is none of their business. 90% of domestic violence incidents will be disclosed to a co-worker (Ontario Safety Association 2009.) As a result many survivors feel like the violence they’re experiencing is somehow their own fault. Policies like the ones passed in Manitoba and Ontario send a message to survivors that “we care about you, believe you and it’s not your fault”.

BWSS is pleased to share that we will be working with the Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU) of B.C. on September 5 and 6, 2018. The workshops are for experienced stewards who want to know how to identify  intimate partner violence and how to support those HEU members who are experiencing violence.

Resources

What is Economic Abuse?

BWSS Economic Empowerment Strategies for Women

Economic abuse is a tactic of control

Economic Abuse and Violence against Women – How Battered Women’s Support Services Takes Action

References

[1] Swanberg JE, Logan T, Macke C. Intimate partner violence, employment, and the workplace. Trauma Violence Abuse. 2005;6:286–312. [PubMed]

[2] Logan TK, Shannon L, Cole J, et al. Partner stalking and implications for women’s employment. J Interpers Violence. 2007;22:268–291.

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