Current Economic Hardship Affects Domestic Abuse Victims

Intimate partner violence is more likely to occur when couples experience financial stress. In a study by the National Institute for Justice, when men experienced one period of unemployment, the rate for domestic abuse rose to 7.5 percent, and when men experienced two or more periods of unemployment, the rate for abuse rose to 12.3 percent (, December 2008).

HELP of Door County, Inc. is seeing a dramatic increased need in services provided. Statewide, numbers served are up with two primary concerns sited. On November 19, 2008, Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WCADV) solicited input from domestic abuse agencies in Wisconsin regarding implications of the current economic climate on domestic abuse programs.

The first primary concern expressed by Wisconsin programs indicated that domestic abuse programs are in dire need of emergency financial assistance to help victims transition to safety. Emergency needs include safe shelter, food or car repairs.

According to Patti Seger, WCADV Executive Director, “It is these small things that make the difference between safety and returning to violence.”

The second primary concern is the state deficit. It is critical that domestic abuse programs cannot withstand a cut in funding at the state level. Most domestic abuse agencies are already providing services beyond capacity.

The stories heard across the state mirror those heard here in Door County. Agencies are seeing a dramatic increase in domestic abuse families utilizing food pantries, requesting gas cards and housing assistance. In this stressed economy, some who have left an abusive situation have returned. They fear the inability to make it on their own, the inability to pay monthly bills, and the loss of their home. Those who are employed worry about lay offs. Those seeking employment see businesses closing and few new job listings. Even volunteers are leaving to obtain paid positions.

Statistical third quarter totals have already exceeded the 2007 year. The number of calls to the 24-hour HELPline has increased, as has the crisis level. HELP’s budget for emergency shelter, food and rent are expended. In addition, HELP filled 398 requests for personal care items in 2008.

Economic recovery will not come immediately, further job loss and business closings will equate to an increase in domestic abuse. HELP anticipates an even larger volume of requests for services in 2009.

If you or someone you know is affected by domestic abuse, please call HELP at 800.91.HELP.1 or 920.743.8818.

This article is brought to you in part by the Door County Coordinated Community Response (CCR) To Domestic Violence Team.