Beyond Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Promoting Safety through Economic Security

Beyond Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Promoting Safety through Economic Security

Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) has provided an opportunity for dialogue about abuse and threats to the safety and wellbeing of our neighbors, friends, and family. This dialogue must continue past the month of October.

As DVAM comes to an end, it is critical to look forward at ways we can continue to support survivors of domestic violence. Economic supports are one of the greatest unmet needs among survivors receiving domestic violence services. Survivors’ economic needs often drive them to stay with abusers longer, leading to increased abuse, injuries, and even fatalities.

The financial effects of intimate partner violence (IPV) are significant and often devastating:

  • On average, IPV stalking victims lose 10 days of paid work, IPV rape victims lose 8.1 days, and IPV physical assault victims lose 7.2 days of work.
  • Total annual health care costs for physically abused women are 42 percent higher than for nonabused women.
  • On average, women lose between $312 and $1,018 in earnings during the year after petitioning for a Protection from Abuse (PFA) civil restraining order.

The economic costs of intimate partner violence are compounded by the economic inequalities faced by specific populations, increasing vulnerability and limiting opportunities to seek safety and justice. For instance:

  • Women of color face a significant wage gap, with Black women earning 63 cents and Hispanic women earning 54 cents for every dollar earned by White men.
  • Women over the age of 65 are more likely than their male counterparts to live in poverty (11.3 percent, compared with 7.4 percent for men), and have nearly $20,000 less in annual total income than their male counterparts.
  • Rural women earn only 79 percent of what women living in urban areas make, and often have limited access to resources such as medical care, legal services, and shelters.

By screening for economic abuse and assessing economic needs, service providers can help address barriers to safety by directing survivors to appropriate services and community resources. Discussing finances in safety planning can also help prevent further economic abuse.

Rebuilding economic security can help pave the way to recovery for survivors. Partnering with workforce development programs or offering career support services can help survivors acquire the skills necessary to obtain quality employment and build economic security. With only 37 percent of domestic violence programs offering legal aid, survivors would also benefit from more in-house legal services or partnerships with discounted or free legal assistance as well as education about their rights regarding housing, employment, and education. In addition, providing survivors with information about Crime Victim Compensation (CVC) and economic relief in the justice system will help support their future economic recovery.

Domestic and sexual violence programs, the civil and criminal justice systems, and communities play distinct and important roles in supporting survivors’ independence and recovery from the costs of abuse, and these groups must recognize and respond to the economic barriers and costs survivors face. For more recommendations on how policymakers and communities can promote economic security among survivors of domestic violence, visit IWPR’s Economic Security for Survivors Project.

Paid Sick and Safe Days

Paid Sick and Safe Days

Survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking often need time off from work to seek medical care, obtain a protection order, and find shelter or safe housing to protect themselves and their children from harm. Once safe from immediate threats, survivors may need additional time off to work with victim advocates or participate in the justice system. Analysis of data from the National Violence Against Women Survey found that victims of intimate partner violence who were stalked lost an average of 10.1 days of paid work per year, those who were raped lost an average of 8.1 days per year, and those who experienced physical violence lost 7.2 days per year. Taking time off is often necessary to achieve safety, yet it can have a significant impact on survivors’ economic security. Paid sick and safe laws allow survivors to seek critical services when needed without having to jeopardize their ability to pay bills or their employment.

San Francisco was the first city to adopt a policy in 2007. Since then eight states and more than 30 counties and cities have enacted paid sick and safe leave policies. While individual statutes vary, these paid leave laws generally allow eligible employees to accrue time off that can be used to recover from an illness or take care of a sick family member without the loss of income or risk of losing their job. Many statutes include safe leave provisions for domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking victims to take paid time off to help ensure their safety and well-being. Approved activities may include seeking medical attention for injuries or counseling, obtaining victim and/or legal services, relocating oneself and one’s family, and participating in investigations or court proceedings related to abuse.

Protections for survivors vary by state with some including paid leave for domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking (Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington) while others only cover domestic and sexual violence (Connecticut) or domestic violence (Massachusetts). Of counties and cities with paid sick and safe leave ordinances, San Diego, San Francisco, Emeryville, and Los Angeles, CA; Chicago/Cook County, IL; Montgomery County, MD; Philadelphia, PA; New Brunswick, NJ; Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN; and Seattle and Spokane, WA, have coverage for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. While Berkeley and Oakland, CA; New Jersey City, Newark, Irvington, Passaic, East Orange, Paterson, Trenton, Montclair, Bloomfield, Elizabeth, Plainfield, and Morristown, NJ; and New York City, have paid sick leave policies they do not include safe time coverage for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

Coverage also often depends on the size of the employer and occupation, and accrual of paid sick hours often begins at the start of employment. When eligible, employers generally require a certain period of employment prior to accessing paid leave. For survivors protected by these laws, paid leave may mean the difference between risking their income and employement to be safe and maintaining economic independence so that they may be free from abuse in future.

For more information on these statutes and sick and safe leave campaigns, visit A Better Balance, Family Values@Work, or the National Partnership for Women and Families.

Back to School? How Experiencing Violence Affects Educational Attainment

Back to School? How Experiencing Violence Affects Educational Attainment

By Lande Watson

As college students across the country head back to campus for the fall semester, some of their peers may not be among them. A new IWPR fact sheet on the economic cost of intimate partner violence (IPV), sexual assault, and stalking highlights the effect of such violence on the educational attainment of survivors. College-aged women are particularly vulnerable—women ages 18 to 24 experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault.

Students who experience IPV and sexual violence often suffer significant physical and psychological trauma, and many do not return to college as a result. Moreover, the likelihood of running into their abuser or rapist on campus, whether in class or even in their residence, can make campus an unsafe and hostile environment for survivors, particularly if colleges do not provide ample support and accommodations.

The economic effects of violence experienced by college students can also be far-reaching. Survivors may face out-of-pocket medical costs, diminished credit, and job instability. Experiencing sexual assault also makes it less likely for survivors to finish college, which may lead to a lifetime of economic disadvantage.

IWPR has reviewed key studies that illustrate how physical and psychological trauma from violence as efforts to economically sabotage victim impedes educational attainment. Survivors complete fewer years of education than students who did not experience violence, are more likely to skip school, and often drop classes or move residence to avoid their assailant. A few findings from these studies include:

  • One survey of single mothers, a growing population of college students, found that women who experienced IPV during adolescence obtained, on average, 0.5 fewer years of education than those who did not experience violence.
  • Data from the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed that students who experienced dating and sexual violence were more likely to skip school due to safety concerns than their peers.
  • One analysis of seven waves of data collected between 1976 and 1987 from the National Youth Survey (NYS) of adolescents 11–17 years old showed that having experienced victimization as an adolescent was associated with a decline in effort put into schoolwork and poorer academic performance, even when controlling for income and other factors. While this analysis focuses on adolescents, poor academic performance in middle school and high school may affect survivors’ ability to find academic success in higher education.
  • The Campus Sexual Assault Study, a web-based survey from over 6,800 undergraduate students on the prevalence and nature of sexual assault on college campuses, found that in response to sexual violence, victims often avoided or tried to avoid the assailant, dropped a class, moved their residence, or sought counseling.

Further, out-of-pocket health costs associated with sexual assault or rape can be burdensome for survivors, potentially straining their ability to afford other expenses, such as college tuition. For instance, one study found the average medical cost of rape within the first 30 days following treatment to be $6,737—$948 of which was paid by the victim. In addition to these short-term costs, the lifetime financial cost of rape is significant for survivors, estimated by one study to be $122,461, on average, per victim.

As a new wave of schools fall under federal Title IX investigation for their handling of sexual assault and sexual harassment, university administrators should assess how they can support survivors on campus as they work to continue and complete their education. There are many ways to support survivors on campus: schools can help survivors by connecting them to supportive services—such as financial aid, child care, mental health support, and transportation assistance—that may assist victims in seeking justice, completing their education, and achieving greater economic mobility. Teachers, faculty, college administrators, and other educational personnel should receive training on domestic violence and its economic impact on students’ lives. The Office on Civil Rights at the Department of Education has also recommended that all schools proactively consider remedies for responding to sexual harassment and domestic or dating violence, such as providing counseling services, medical services, and arranging for the complainant to retake a course without penalty.

Colleges can take these steps so that survivors—who otherwise might not return to class this month because they are dealing with the effects of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and stalking—can come back to school and complete their education.

The Financial Cost of Rape

The Financial Cost of Rape

By Sarah Gonzalez Bocinski and Malore Dusenbery

Sexual violence continues to be an epidemic in the United States: one in five women (19.3 percent) and 1.7 percent of men have been raped in their lifetime, and approximately 43.9 percent of women, and 23.4 percent of men will experience other forms of sexual violence. The effects of sexual victimization on survivors are significant and long-lasting. Physical and psychological trauma can diminish quality of life, and survivors incur significant economic costs in the immediate aftermath of an assault and across their lifespan. Direct costs may include short and long-term physical or mental health care, damaged property, and fees associated with the justice system. Sexual violence can also lead to long-term mental health issues, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression or anxiety, and risky coping behaviors, such as smoking, drug or alcohol use, or unsafe sex. These consequences of the violence can make it difficult for survivors to complete their education and maintain employment.

While several studies have examined the economic impact of rape on victims and society, including through health care costs, productivity losses, and justice system costs, much of this research is dated. Two new studies explored the financial cost of rape to survivors. The first study, “The Monetary Cost of Sexual Assault to Privately Insured U.S. Women in 2013,” calculated victims’ out-of-pocket health costs within the first 30 days following initial treatment. The second study, “Lifetime Economic Burden of Rape Among U.S. Adults,” estimated health care utilization, lost productivity, and criminal justice costs incurred by rape victims.

Out-of-Pocket Health Costs

To determine the out-of-pocket costs associated with the treatment of sexual assault, the authors reviewed payment data from the Truven Analytics Health MarketScan database, associated with 1,355 female rape patients in the United States seeking medical attention in 2013. Of the 1,355 patients, 32 were admitted as inpatients, and paid an average of $788 for their stay. Those who were treated as outpatients paid an average of $316 for related care. Patients also incurred an average of $56 in prescription drug costs for antibiotics, HIV prevention, pain medication, anxiety medication, and emergency contraception. In total, the authors found the average medical cost of rape within the first 30 days following treatment to be $6,737 – 14 percent ($948) of which was paid by the victim.

In a previous study using data from the 1996 National Violence Against Women Survey and Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, researchers estimated that the mean cost of medical care for intimate partner rape victims who sustained injuries during their most recent victimization and received treatment was $2,084, or $3,191 in 2013 dollars, with victims paying 29.2 percent of the costs. Of those receiving mental health services, the mean cost was $978 ($1,497 in 2013 dollars), with victims paying 33.6 percent out-of-pocket. The combined out-of-pocket medical and mental health costs to victims was $1,435 in 2013 dollars.

Lifetime Costs

A recent study estimated the lifetime cost of rape per victim with new analysis of the 2011 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) in combination with administrative data from government and non-government agencies including the U.S. Department of Justice, emergency room departments, the International Federation of Health Plans, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System. The authors calculated total physical and mental health costs, productivity losses resulting from fewer hours worked or maintaining the household, criminal justice costs, and other costs such as property loss. They estimated that the average lifetime cost of rape is $122,461 per victim, with an economic burden for the population of close to $3.1 trillion over victims’ lifetimes, based on data indicating that an estimated 23 million U.S. women and two million men will experience rape.

Other researchers have also examined the cost of rape. Analysis of the monetary costs of crimes committed by homicide offenders in eight states found that the average cost to society per rape was $448,532, including criminal justice costs, cost of incarceration, time served, and lost productivity. The average lifetime victim costs were estimated to be $138,310 in 2008 dollars. Another study also measured costs to both victim and society by combining victim injury data, medical costs data, and jury awards. Using data from the 2006 National Crime Victimization Survey, medical unit costs from Corso et al., and Jury Verdict Research the authors estimated the total societal cost per rape was $240,776 in 2008 dollars.

Financial Recovery is Unlikely

Obtaining assistance through Crime Victims Compensation (CVC) and restitution can be challenging for rape survivors. Many of the eligibility requirements for CVC, such as reporting to police and cooperating with investigations, require survivors to engage in a system they may want to avoid. Approximately 60 percent of victims do not report to the police, for reasons such as fear of retaliation, or of not being helped. According to the National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards, eight percent of CVC funds go to victims of sexual assault. Even when victims do pursue criminal justice, restitution is often an unlikely prospect for them because of low conviction rates – less than one percent of perpetrators receive a felony conviction.


Referenced Studies:

Corso, P, J Mercy, T Simon, E Finkelstein, and T Miller. 2007. “Medical Costs and Productivity Losses Due to Interpersonal and Self-Directed Violence in the United States.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 32 (6): 474–482.e2.

DeLisi, Matt, Anna Kosloski, Molly Sween, Emily Hachmeister, Matt Moore, and Alan Drury. 2010. “Murder by Numbers: Monetary Costs Imposed by a Sample of Homicide Offenders.” Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology 21 (4): 501–13.

McCollister, Kathryn E., Michael T. French, and Hai Fang. 2010. “The Cost of Crime to Society: New Crime-Specific Estimates for Policy and Program Evaluation.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence 108 (1–2): 98–109.

National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Costs of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in the United States. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2003.

Peterson, Cora, Sarah DeGue, Curtis Florence, and Colby Lokey. 2017. “Lifetime Economic Burden of Rape Among U.S. Adults.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Jun; 52 (6): 691-701.

Tennessee, Ashley, Tamala Bradham, Brandi White, and Kit Simpson. 2017. “The Monetary Cost of Sexual Assault to Privately Insured US Women in 2013.” American Journal of Public Health 107, no. 6 (June 1, 2017): 983-988.


To view more of IWPR’s research, visit IWPR.org