Thursday, March 10, 2011

Domestic Violence Costs Australia $13 Billion A Year

So -- what does domestic violence cost?

A new national report from Australia has put a figure on the economic cost of domestic violence and has found abusive relationships have a significant impact on a woman's financial security in that country.

Researchers, including Dr. Rachelle Braaf from the University of New South Wales, interviewed both victims of violence and service providers. Dr. Braaf says domestic abuse costs the Australian economy more than $13 billion a year.

"It is a huge cost to the Australian economy - not only in responding directly to domestic violence, but also to things like the impact on work and productivity, impact on the healthcare system, impact on the legal system and so on," she said.

The study also found domestic violence has a significant impact on a woman's financial security, both during and after the relationship. It found the decision to stay or leave an abusive relationship is, for many women, affected by financial factors.

The research shows money issues are usually either the trigger or the obstacle to leaving, with many women finding men in control of their finances or impeding their ability to work. Financial difficulties also impact on a woman's recovery from abuse, with ongoing legal issues, costly child care and dealing with debts incurred by their partners.

"What we were trying to do was to investigate whether financial issues were playing a bigger role than previously suspected in terms of women's safety and their ability to recover from the abuse, and the research has definitely shown that that is the case," Dr. Braaf said.

"Primarily we wanted people to understand that there is that strong link between domestic violence and women's financial outcomes."

The report recommends governments and financial institutions help fund special products such as low-interest loans for victims of domestic violence and that employers establish more supportive workplace arrangements.

Not only does this study show that domestic violence is not just a "private matter" impacting only the lives of those involved, but it shows the importance of programs like those within workplaces of CAEPV member companies.

It also shows the importance of programs like the Allstate Foundation's financial literacy program (I really encourage you to visit this site -- you'll be amazed at the curriculum they provide...and inspired by the videos!)  The Allstate Foundation supports survivors through resources targeted to build financial independence  -- and educates the public on how hard it is for people to leave an abusive relationship without economic resources.

For more information on the costs of domestic violence in terms of the workplace, productivity, healthcare, etc, visit the FACTS AND STATS section of the CAEPV website.

While I would never measure the cost of domestic violence in terms of dollars is important for us to understand that whether we know it or not, it impacts us all.  Perhaps seeing it in terms of dollars and cents will make it more real for some.

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