Pandemic Job Loss Could Put Domestic Violence Survivors In Danger, Advocates Fear

Mar 22, 2021

Advocates against domestic violence fear the financial impacts of the pandemic could make it more difficult for survivors to leave abusive relationships.
Credit Courtesy of Spokane Regional Domestic Violence Coalition

Many families have spent the last year isolated, struggling with unemployment and under intense stress. All of those are risk factors for domestic violence.

Current job data show that women were more likely to have lost their jobs during the pandemic then men. That puts women in abusive relationships in difficult, or sometimes dangerous situations.   

Morgan Colburn is the Director of Counseling, Advocacy and Outreach at YWCA Spokane.

“I definitely think because there’s a women’s recession going on, perpetrators can use these tactics to isolate, demean or control their partner.”

Colburn said this year, it could be even harder to address as women are isolated, without steady employment and reliable childcare.

“Now we have women with employment gaps on their records which makes it harder for them to get a job,” Colburn said. “Or that could become emotion abuse, with your partner berating you or demeaning you for having to lose your job because of the pandemic, and making you feel hopeless that you’ll find a new one.”

Finances are one of several ways perpetrators of violence isolate their partners says Annie Murphey, the Executive Director of Spokane Regional Domestic Violence Coalition.

She said this year the police and sheriff’s departments have also seen a spike in both assaults and murders, many of which were connected to domestic violence.

She noted that Spokane has one of the highest domestic violence rates in the state, with roughly one out of every three women and one out of every ten men in the county experiencing it.

She said there are ways both local, and state leaders can focus on helping survivors get out of unsafe situations. Those include ensuring affordable housing, especially rental units, are available.

Kelly Starr is the director of Public Affairs for the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence. She said during and after the pandemic, many will face an impossible choice, staying with an abusive partner or homelessness. 

“If people have been able to be independent of an abusive partner, we worry that this will make it harder to keep that independence,” she said. “One of the main reasons people stay with, or return to an abusive partner is because they simply don’t have the financial resources to be safe and stable without them.”

She said she worries about when the eviction moratorium expires. Governor Inslee recently extended it until the end of June, but many fear what could happen when it ends.

Starr said the coalition is following three programs that could provide relief: The Washington Working Families Tax Credit, a 15% increase in the Temporary Assistance for Working Families program and a state capitol investment in affordable housing.

“These are three things the things the legislature is considering and have the opportunity to provide that would put cash in the hands of those most vulnerable in our communities,” she said. “That can be a critical part in the safety net and a critical way to increase options for survivors and their kids to find safety and stability.”

The Washington State Working Families tax credit was passed in the state house and is now in the state senate.

If you, or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence consider contacting the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Both calling, or texting is available 24 hours a day. 800-799-7233 or 800-787-3224.