During Recession, Domestic Violence on the Rise

President Obama announces suite of initiatives to mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

By Julianne Hing Oct 28, 2010

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and on Wednesday President Obama hosted an event at the White House with Vice President Joe Biden to launch a set of new initiatives for domestic violence survivors.

"Nobody in America should live in fear because they are unsafe in their own home–no adult, no child," Obama said. "And no one who is the victim of abuse should ever feel that they have no way to get out. We need to make sure every victim of domestic violence knows that they are not alone; that there are resources available to them in their moment of greatest need."

As Daisy Hernandez wrote for ColorLines earlier this year, the recession has played a big role in rising rates of domestic violence. What’s going on outside the home often exacerbates what’s already happening behind closed doors. The economy and intimate partner violence are often related:

The woman had given birth to the couple’s first child and her partner’s family gave him $300 to help with groceries. But her partner, who received the cash, lied and said it was only $100, only enough to buy milk, eggs, juice and a Swiffer mop. The new mom was left to dip into what money she had to provide groceries for the family of three. Money had become one more weapon for the abuser.

Advocates call it "economic abuse" and it’s part of the rise in domestic violence that they report happening nationwide in this recession. The last data available on the issue is a 2004 report by the National Institute of Justice, an agency of the Department of Justice, which found that when unemployment rates go up among men so does violence against women. This is of particular significance for Black and Latino communities where unemployment rates are in the double digits.

Obama said his administration was going to create a national advisory committee addressing violence against women that will be overseen by Attorney General Eric Holder. He also announced a suite of programs in different departments to meet the needs of domestic violence survivors, including giving people greater legal protections and protecting domestic violence survivors from being denied or kicked out of housing because they’d been abused.

Obama also said the Department of Justice was looking into making sure that restraining orders were successfully implemented and enforced, and that his administration was going to connect DV survivors with jobs and services and other tools so they could win "financial independence" to build new lives.

The White House event coincided with the launch of a new report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, an affiliation of grassroots groups that work on issues of violence against and within queer communities, that showed that intimate partner violence is on the rise and that the economic crisis has severely affected service providers’ ability to support LGBT domestic violence survivors. There was no mention of queer folks’ experience with domestic violence at the White House event, but LGBT people are nearly twice as likely to experience domestic violence as people in hetero relationships.

NCAVP also found that reported incidents of LGBT domestic violence have become increasingly deadly and that people under 30 make up nearly 40 percent of those who report cases of intimate partner violence. And NCAVP reported that alongside this rise in domestic violence, people have reported an increase in police misconduct or negligence when it came to responding to domestic violence calls.