One of the most common reasons that domestic violence victims do not leave their situation is financial hopelessness. Many victims depend on their abusive partner financially, or do not have the funds necessary to pursue legal action against their abuser. Without the law’s protection, often victims feel that leaving an abusive situation would actually be less safe, potentially angering the partner and having no legal record of abuse to dissuade the perpetrator from continuing the abusive behavior.
A report released by the Institute for Policy Integrity has proposed that offering free legal representation for domestic violence victims could not only save lives and empower victims, but have incredible social and economic effects as well. Indeed, it focuses predominantly on the economic benefits of helping victims of abuse in this way, while reinforcing our moral obligation to help by reminding us that safety from domestic violence is a “fundamental human right.”
The report overviews the many economic blows state already endures when domestic violence occurs and effectively emphasizes how many costs can be cut down by replacing them with the smaller cost of providing free lawyers to victims. The report states that 550,000 domestic violence related injuries require medical attention per year and of those over 145,000 require hospitalization. Not only does this influx of medical needs result in financial blows for the individual, it also results in over 8 million days of missed work per year, effecting the economic status of many businesses and families. According to the report, this has roughly the equivalent effect of 32,000 unfilled full-time jobs. The effect of this on the community economy is devastating. For these reasons, from an exclusively legal perspective, the Institute makes the case that helping domestic violence survivors is economically necessary.
Providing the alternative option of legal assistance has been proven to help domestic violence victims leave their situation and pursue protective orders. Although protective orders are not a perfect avenue to protection from an abuser, most victims have reported feeling safer with a protective order in place. 98% of women surveyed say that having a protective order helped them regain control of their lives.
There are also many resources in place that help victims improve their financial situation to reduce their feeling of financial dependency on abusive partners, which allows many victims to not only leave their abusive relationships, but to remain away. The only barrier in many cases is the escape itself which, with the help of a lawyer, can be accomplished much more effectively.