The Hidden Costs of Domestic Violence

We hear much about the very real tragic emotional and physical price of domestic violence. Families are torn apart. Bodies and emotions battered. There is, however, also a dollar value to domestic violence, prices both the perpetrator and the victims must pay. Dr. Ramani Durvasula estimates the price of domestic violence at about $6 billion annually. Here are just some of the ways that domestic violence costs.

Inability to work and the perpetuation of the cycle of poverty. Durvasula notes that a woman who has had to deal with domestic violence may not be able to keep her job, may have to flee her home to hide from the perpetrator. Her injuries may keep her from being able to work or may take any money for treatment that she does have. Because of this, Durvasula says, a woman’s children could well get caught in this same cycle of poverty and perpetuate it.

“To an extent, poverty and domestic violence fuel one another,” says Brandon Esposito, CEO of Urban Darling and former attorney for victims of domestic violence. While domestic violence can occur in any tax bracket, “These reductions in income (due to domestic violence) have a more devastating effect on the poor than any other socioeconomic group,” Esposito says. “If a poor family’s income is reduced from $20,000 to $15,000, the effects are catastrophic as compared to a family earning $90,000 sees its income reduced to $85,000. For them (the poor), it may mean less food for their children, the inability to seek more-gainful employment due to fuel and time costs, or the overworking of their children to the detriment of educational attainment (all of which perpetuate the cycle of poverty).” In turn, says Blaney, this “tends to perpetuate and feed other generational challenges (poverty, substance abuse, incarceration, etc.).” Which, of course, can continue the cycle of domestic violence.

Future Economic Stability for Families. Frank Blaney, who directs fatherhood programs for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, says, “While it is very true that domestic violence is a crime that cuts across all socio-economic and ethnic populations, when (it) takes place in low income communities, the impact may be even more harmful.” The whole family’s income may be affected due to one or more members of the family being incarcerated. Job opportunities for those who have been in jail can be scarce. “While this would be difficult for any family, for those in the poverty level it can literally mean the difference between barely surviving and falling through the cracks of the system.”

Community Costs. “The economic toll of domestic violence is not limited to the victims and their families,” says Blaney, who is also a former chair of the Violence Prevention Coalition of Los Angeles’ steering committee. “Domestic Violence is one of the primary risk factors for future involvement in gangs. Many youth leave one dysfunctional family to find refuge in another adopted dysfunctional ‘family,’ the local gang,” says Blaney. This translates, says Blaney, into community costs for dealing with these gang issues: “law enforcement, incarceration, prosecution and court cost, etc. ad infinitum, the impact far exceeds the individual incidents.”

From the perpetuation of a cycle of poverty and the future financial stability of a family to the community costs associated with domestic violence, there are more and more reasons to overcome domestic violence.

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About Drema Drudge

Drema Drudge received her MFA in Creative Writing at Spalding University and has had her fiction most recently published in The Louisville Review, Mused, ATG, Mother Earth News, and Penumbra. She is a frequent contributor to the popular Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Drema is married to musician Barry Drudge. They have two grown children, Mia and Zack. Feel free to visit Drema's website where she explores her passion for writing about art at dremadrudge.com.

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