A new report by Australia's National Research Organisation for Women's Safety (ANROWS) shows "clear evidence" that pandemic-related economic stressors correlate to an onset and escalation of domestic violence, with women experiencing financial hardship three times more likely to be sexually or physically abused by their partners. 

The critical research, which surveyed 10,000 women, is the most comprehensive in Australia to date. 

ANROWS CEO Padma Raman said the findings on the "shadow pandemic" of violence against women reinforce the desperate need for policymakers to prioritise women's economic security and financial support amid COVID-19 and beyond.

Those with intersecting disadvantages, like women living with disabilities, must likewise be given the utmost consideration.

"It is most concerning that women’s experiences of economic insecurity were linked with an increased chance of also experiencing intimate partner violence, regardless of economic disparity within the relationship,” Raman said in a media release. “It is vital that responses to improve women’s economic security are supported by strategies which address harmful attitudes supporting gender norms and dismantle systems that enable these problematic attitudes.”

The report reveals 1 in 3 women surveyed had been laid off, lost their job or had to take a pay cut and reduce their hours in the last 12 months, while 25% of respondents revealed their partners had lost work. 

Ninety-five per cent of those included in the report had a male significant other.

Women whose partners lost jobs were twice as likely to experience first-time violence against those whose partners maintained their employment. In addition, those in already abusive relationships whose partners lost work were 4.5 times more likely to face escalating violence.

Female breadwinners, meanwhile, "were significantly more likely" than those who were not the key income earner to experience physical violence, sexual violence and emotionally abusive violence, at a rate of 1.7, 1.6 and 1.5, respectively. 

A separate report from 2020 revealed 42% of Australian men do not think punching a partner is a form of domestic violence. 

Minister for Women's Safety Anne Ruston promised the draft National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children — currently in its final feedback stage — would lay out clear plans for addressing and preventing gender-based violence, with a critical focus on economic security. 

"Under the Morrison Government's record $1.1 billion investment in women's safety at the 2021-22 Budget, we established the new Escaping Violence Payment, which provides victim-survivors leaving a violent relationship up to $5,000 in financial assistance to establish a home free from violence," Ruston said. "We understand that financial hardship can be a barrier to leaving violent relationships, and the new payment aims to provide direct financial support to victim-survivors when they make the incredibly brave decision to leave any form of intimate partner violence."

The draft plan’s feedback period is open for all until Feb. 14.


Demand Equity

Australian Women Facing COVID-19 Economic Hardship 3 Times More Likely to Endure Partner Abuse

By Madeleine Keck