It can take women 20 years to escape an abusive relationship at a personal cost of 113,475 euro, new research has found.
The report from Safe Ireland and NUI Galway assesses that the national cost of domestic violence to survivors is an estimated 56 billion euro over a 20.5-year journey.
The new report is the first to assess the indicative economic and social costs of domestic violence to women survivors in Ireland.
Assessing the social and economic cost of domestic violence was undertaken for Safe Ireland by researchers Dr Nata Duvvury and Dr Caroline Forde, of NUI Galway’s Centre for Global Women’s Studies.
It is based on in-depth interviews with 50 women.
The costs were tracked over three distinct phases including the abusive relationship phase, lasting on average 15 years; the sanctuary and interim phase, lasting on average 1.5 years; and the relocation and recovery phase, spanning on average four years.
Mary McDermott, chief executive of Safe Ireland, said that the report highlights the complex relationship between poverty, social exclusion and domestic violence.
“The relationship between poverty and domestic violence/coercive control is complex and circular, acting as both a cause and effect of poverty,” she said.
“When women are in, leave, or are recovering from an abusive relationship, they will face an increasing and real threat of poverty, especially where financial control has been a core element of their abuse.
“However, it is also the case that many women do not leave abusive relationships because of the threat of poverty and stigma. This hidden domestic violence/coercive control poverty trap needs close scrutiny and further research.”
The cost of domestic violence and coercive control both for individuals and families, as well as for the national economy, is substantialDr Caroline Forde
Lost income and productivity emerged as the single major cost for women, equivalent to an average of 205,511 euro for those women who experienced income loss over the three phases.
Health costs were the most widely reported.
In addition, women faced significant service bills such as legal costs, debt, damage or loss of property often caused by the perpetrator, as well as critical challenges with regard to housing and relocation in particular.
A number of women became homeless as a result of domestic violence.
The report also highlighted the prevalence and cost of ongoing or separation abuse, in particular the impact of ongoing financial abuse in terms of unpaid child maintenance or the use of child maintenance payments to exert control.
Dr Forde said that the findings confirm international evidence that domestic violence and coercive control is a “costly, pervasive social problem”.
“The cost of domestic violence and coercive control both for individuals and families, as well as for the national economy, is substantial,” Dr Forde said.
“Direct costs include expenses for services to treat and support abused women, their children and to bring perpetrators to justice.
“The indirect costs include lost employment and productivity which greatly undermines women’s capabilities.”
She highlighted that twice as many women in the sample were unemployed at the time of interview than were at the beginning of the abusive relationship.
Most had been driven into unemployment because of illness, injury and trauma due to domestic violence, or because the perpetrator prevented them from working, thus stalling their careers.
Research from the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), released last week, has estimated that the cost of gender-based violence across the EU is 366 billion euro a year.
Violence against women makes up 79% of the cost, amounting to 289 billion euro.