Domestic violence and women’s economic security: Building Australia’s capacity for prevention and redress: Key findings and future directions

Monday, 24th October 2016

Domestic violence exacerbates economic inequality, as both economic abuse, and other tactics of violence, generate costs for women and contribute to financial instability and stress. Australia’s National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022 recognises the importance of economic wellbeing to the capacity of women and children to rebuild their lives following violence (Department of Social Services, 2014). Consistent with this recognition, and with Australia’s National Research Agenda to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children (ANROWS, 2014), this research was designed to support initiatives to improve women’s economic circumstances following violence. In particular, the research was designed to explore:

  • the impact of violence on women’s economic status;
  • the efficacy and limitations of existing approaches, policies and programs relating to women’s economic security; and
  • ways to more effectively build women’s economic security following violence.

This short summary paper provides an overview of the longer research report released in the ANROWS Horizons series (Cortis & Bullen, 2016). The work builds on the literature review contained in the ANROWS Landscapes paper “Building effective policies and services to promote women’s economic security following domestic violence: State of knowledge paper” (Cortis and Bullen, 2015). That paper discussed how economic abuse is a frequent tactic of violence. However, service systems are not well equipped to prevent, identify and respond to financial abuse or the other economic harms associated with violence. Financial issues, including the prospect of leaving property or assets behind, are a major factor in women’s decisions about leaving or staying in violent relationships. The economic difficulties arising from violence, including loss of wealth upon separation, reverberate through women’s lives and increase hardship in the long-term. 

We contribute new statistical analysis and qualitative evidence which shows that domestic violence contributes to alarming levels of financial stress, and services and systems are ill equipped to respond. Statistical analysis shows how violence is associated with economic stressors which affect women for a number of years. Interviews with stakeholders demonstrate widespread perceptions that although Australia has some highly effective initiatives in place, these operate on too small a scale to fully address the extent or range of women’s needs. Individual victims of violence, and the services that support them, unfairly bear the economic burden of violence.