STATE COLLEGE Poor economic conditions are making tough decisions harder for domestic violence victims in Centre County.
In 2008, 30 percent of women who sought shelter at the Centre County Womens Resource Center went back to their abusers homes because they couldnt find anyplace else affordable to live. Thats a 10 percent increase from 2007.
The Womens Resource Center has seen funding cuts, both from the federal and state government, in the past year.
And research shows that abusers tend to have more opportunity and more motivation to abuse in this economic climate.
For the victim, her options become much fewer when the economy is really bad because its even harder for a victim to get a job, to keep a job or to have options if she wants to leave the abuse, said Corey Cook, director of education and outreach for the Womens Resource Center. Affordable housing scarce
Women feeling forced to return to their abusers because of their financial situation isnt a new problem. But in the past year, demand for affordable housing has risen, and many women who have outlasted their 30-day maximum stay in the emergency shelter face no other option except homelessness, said Jean Collins, the centers director of transitional housing.
Only 15 percent of the 151 women who went to the Womens Resource Centers emergency shelter in 2008 were able to find affordable housing. Thirty percent of women who came into the shelter went back to abusive situations in order to avoid homelessness, Collins said.
One huge tactic that abusers use is limiting the victims access to finances, and if she cant find a job, shell have even less economic power than she would have anyway. So lets say she does manage to find a job that can make ends meet, and an apartment she can afford, but she doesnt have health care. What if the kids get sick?
If she goes back to the abuser, hes got a great job with solid benefits, and the kids need to be insured, Cook said. And so she doesnt have options.
Collins said she has seen more women who, if they arent getting laid off, are having their work hours cut back. Without that, theres going to be no way to provide for basic needs for yourself and your kids, she said. I anticipate the situation for women fleeing domestic violence is going to get harder. Power and control
Financial problems lead to abusive behavior, Cook said. Losing a job or house wont make someone abusive, but being unemployed gives people who are already abusive more opportunities to abuse.
And when the abusers lose financial power or control over their job or income, Cook said, a lot of times they will increase the domestic violence because they want to gain that feeling of power back.
They are using abusive tactics and battering because it helps them to feel power and control, she said. And thats what they want and feel that they deserve.
Then there is the help problem.
Hard economic times have meant a strain on victim services as well, Cook said.
The Womens Resource Center is facing cuts in funding from the state and federal government that almost always mean a cutback in education and outreach.
So weve got more domestic violence and worse domestic violence, less options for victims and then places like the Womens Resource Center funding being cut, Cook said. And thats been a huge issue over the last year.
Sara Ganim can be reached at 231-4616.쇓