The country's economic indicators may be falling, but incidents of domestic violence are rising.
Hotline calls, shelter visits, and domestic violence-related crimes are all up significantly, according to recent reports ranging from Wisconsin to Rhode Island. Domestic-violence shelters in each of Oklahoma's two largest cities, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, to list just one example, are fully occupied and having to turn women away.
Job loss and declines in income add even more strain on violent relationships. A study on recent domestic-violence homicides in Massachusetts found that “limited access to services for victims and unemployment for batterers” were key risk factors of abuse.
And women often feel trapped in abusive relationships during tough economic times. They're likely to feel they'd be unable to financially support themselves, according to Toni Troop, a spokeswoman for Jane Doe Inc., a coalition of organizations against domestic violence. Plus, if an abuser is out of work, "there is more opportunity [for him] to be present" at home, she says.
Karen Oehme, director of the Institute for Family Violence Studies at Florida State University, tells the Pensacola News Journal that it's "not uncommon for abusers to keep victims economically enslaved, seizing paychecks and denying all access to money. When that income shrinks during hard times, the victim becomes even easier to control."
At the same time, funding for domestic violence shelters and programs are a victim of the recession. This is true in Florida, where the Department of Children and Families' George Sheldon oversees the abuse hotline for the entire state. "Florida's domestic violence centers are over capacity and are faced with turning victims away," making the situation “the worst I've seen in years.”
"The economy is not causing domestic violence," says Dawn Reams, director of Bridges Domestic and Sexual Violence Support in Nashua, New Hampshire, "but it definitely influences it."