Survivors of domestic and family violence –the majority of whom are women –experience a range of poor economic outcomes as a consequence of the violence they have survived. Some of these negative outcomes include: reduced access to savings and assets; a reduction in feelings of financial confidence; lower levels of workforce and educational participation; and damage to credit records. This impact is particularly prevalent for women where economic abuse was also part of the pattern of violence. This lack of financial resources makes leaving a violent relationship challenging for survivors. Financial insecurity is also a reason some women return to violent relationships.
While these links are becoming better understood, there is a lack of consistency about what the definition of economic security for survivors of domestic and family violence is. Broad economic analysis demonstrates the costs of domestic and family violence to the economy are great and that survivors bear proportionally more of these costs; however, there is no consistent index with which to measure the economic security for survivors of domestic and family violence. In the absence of this understanding it is more difficult to gauge the extent of the problem. It is also difficult to measure whether service and policy responses are dealing with the issue.
To this end, Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand with the support of the Con Irwin Sub-fund of the Victorian Women's Trust reviewed the literature about economic security and domestic and family violence. The review was conducted in order to develop a definition of economic security that reflected its individual and structural elements. From there, a range of potential indicators with which to measure the economic security for survivors were scoped. A measurement tool was also piloted with the support of the Australia Institute.
It is hoped that through this research, a larger scale, national study could be conducted to measure the full extent of this problem, and that the creation of an 'Economic Security for Survivors Index' could be developed on the basis of the proposed indicators in this report. This index could then be updated regularly to see whether progress has been made in dealing with the issue.
The research makes a series of recommendations for policy and practice to better respond to the economic insecurity of survivors. There are also a series of recommendations for furthering data collection and the creation of the index.