Intimate partner violence, or “IPV,” is defined by the World Health Organization (2012) as “any behaviour within an intimate relationship that causes physical, psychological or sexual harm to those in the relationship”(p. 1). Numerous pieces have been written on the lasting effects this kind of abuse can have on a person - especially emotionally, psychologically, and physically - but one effect that is explored far less frequently is the effect on a survivor’s economic independence and their ability to find, or keep, a job, both while currently living in an abusive home and after leaving. During our time at Liberty Lane thus far, we have been exploring these effects and the barriers that exist for IPV survivors seeking employment, and we have compiled our findings for you below!
First of all, survivors of IPV may have been unable to maintain employment while suffering abuse, or they may have worked as homemakers; therefore, they may lack the necessary education or work experience required to obtain many positions (Keim, Strauser & Olguin, 2009). Employment empowers women through maintaining financial security and stability, increasing self-esteem and feelings of safety, and facilitating motivation and a sense of purpose in their lives (Keim, Strauser & Olguin, 2009). Economic self-sufficiency can be defined as being able to provide for oneself with little assistance (Interval House, 2016). Employability refers to being physically, emotionally, intellectually and psychology ready and able to be employed and having the skills to obtain and maintain employment and life stability (Interval House, 2016).
There are a wide variety of barriers to employment that female survivors of IPV experience, which include the following: lack of housing, psycho-emotional issues, lack of documentation or personal identification, lack of food and clothing, a lack of child care or experiencing child-related issues and more (Interval House, 2016). Each woman experiences barriers uniquely, and when multiple barriers exist, they can exacerbate each other (Interval House, 2016). Conversely, confronting one barrier can alleviate others (Interval House, 2016). Barriers to employment impact women differently; this can depend on personal circumstances including age, education level, socioeconomic status, and geographic location (Interval House, 2016). Barriers can occur systemically through political trends or influence and institutional policy (Interval House, 2016). Barriers to employment and employability can be also be psychosocial including things like low self-esteem and experiences of stress (Interval House, 2016).
For survivors who are able to work, on-the job harassment by abusive partners, workplace time reduction, and job loss are all consequences in which women suffering from IPV face while working (Showalter, 2016). These are identified as non-physical violence which includes, mental, emotional, financial abuse, as well as stalking (Showalter, 2016). Non-physical violence acts as a disruption to women in the workplace causing them to not perform to their full capacity. As Showalter (2016) writes, “In one study of women who experienced domestic violence, 61,4% of employed women were harassed on the phone at work and 39.2% were harassed in person” (p. 40). Another study by Tolman and Wang (2005) found that women who are victims of domestic violence “missed 137 hours of work per year or a 10% reduction in hours compared with women who have not experienced domestic violence” (Showalter, 2016, p.44). This is while keeping in mind that many of these women work low-wage jobs. Job loss and unemployment is another non-physical violent consequence experienced by IPV survivors (Showalter, 2016). In a study by Shepard and Pence (1988), it was found that 24% of female victims of domestic violence reported using their job due to the abuse they were suffering from (Showalter, 2016).
Survivors of IPV may also experience mental health issues like anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (Keim, Strauser & Olguin, 2009). This can also play a role in limiting a survivor’s ability to find or maintain employment. A study by Adams et al. (2013) explored how IPV’s detrimental effects on a survivor’s mental health can impact their job stability. The study found that intimate partner violence “had a significant detrimental impact on women’s job stability for up to 3 years after the abuse had ended” (Adams et al., 2013, p. 605). Depression in particular was found to negatively impact a survivor’s job stability, suggesting a need for survivors to have better access to mental health supports, as well as a need “to investigate the dynamic, reciprocal relationship between job stability and mental health for IPV survivors” (Adams et al., 2013, p. 606).
Overall, survivors of IPV experience many barriers to both finding and maintaining employment. It is important to for employers and and supporters keep these concerns in mind when working or speaking with survivors as IPV is a prominent problem that is often overlooked!
By Lacie Hardy, Ally Loiselle, and Kathleen Chiasson
Links to Articles:
Adams, A. E., Bybee, D., Tolman, R. M., Sullivan, C. M., & Kennedy, A. C. (2013). Does job stability mediate the relationship between intimate partner violence and mental health among low-income women? American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 83(4), 600-608. DOI: 10.1111/ajop.12053
(See below for PDF.)
Interval House. (2016). Barriers to employability and employment for women survivors of intimate partner violence. Toronto, ON: Interval House.
Keim, J., Strauser, D.R., & Olguin, D.L. (2009). Enhancing employment outcomes for survivors of intimate partner violence: A developmental work personality perspective. Journal of Employment Counseling, 46(3), 136-144.
(See below for PDF.)
Pilkinton, M. (2010). TANF recipients’ barriers to employability: Substance abuse and domestic violence. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 20(8), 1011-1023. (See below for PDF.)
Showalter, K. (2016). Women’s employment and domestic violence: A review of the literature. Aggression and Violent Behavior(31), 37-47.
(See below for PDF.)
World Health Organization (2012). Understanding and addressing violence against women. World Health Organization. Retrieved on October 24, 2017 from http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/77432/1/WHO_RHR_12.36_eng.pdf
On an early morning in January, police flaggers in reflective vests blocked off what is usually very busy Fredericton street for the delivery and assembly of what would become Liberty Lane’s new home – Kenny House. Over the course of the day, the flatbed truck operator deftly reverses one Maple Leaf Home module at a time into the narrow space, manoeuvering it around trees and utility lines. A crane delicately lifts the modules off of the flatbed trucks and places them on the waiting foundation and then places the modules on top of each other. The modules are built at a plant in Fredericton and then, patiently, assembled like blocks on site until Liberty Lane’s new 10 unit home is complete.
Getting to this point of building a new home for Liberty Lane was challenging. For more than 24 years Liberty Lane has offered women and their children a place to live while they tried to escape an abusive situation. The Board of Directors had been discussing a new home for several years. The demand for Liberty Lane’s services has always been greater than what they could provide and they wanted to change locations to better serve the families who need help. Their original location was away from basic things like grocery stores, doctor’s offices, and community resources. It didn’t have good bus service and it didn’t have apartments big enough for larger families.
“Besides it’s actual creation in the early 1990s, Liberty Lane has never taken on a project of this magnitude,” says Executive Director Fiona Williams. “We have a wonderful board of directors but none of us had experience with a construction project. It was quite intimidating. We weren’t sure how we should proceed once we made the decision to move forward.”
Fortunately, Liberty Lane’s Kenny House fundraising Patron and part of the husband and wife team for whom Kenny House is named (Kenny House is named for Joan and Bob Kenny, a well-known Fredericton lawyer who passed away from ALS in 2015), had occasion to discuss some of the challenges with the project with highly regarded community leader Bill Jones, President of Maple Leaf Homes. Eager to get any kind of guidance for the building project, Joan asked Bill a series of questions.
The staff and Board Members had not known that Maple Leaf Homes could build multi-unit residential facilities, so after Joan’s discussion with Bill, Liberty Lane contacted Maple Leaf Homes sales manager, Jacques Roy. “I just wanted to talk to someone about what we could expect from the process,” said Fiona. “I didn’t realize that Maple Leaf homes could do a multilevel build on our tight building site.“ Maple Leaf Homes became one of the contractors who responded to our call for proposals.
There were a number of key considerations that lead to Maple Leaf Homes getting the contract: Price, a workable timeline and the quality of the project. “There was a bit of information gathering on both sides at the beginning,” says Roy. “But that’s not unusual.” Once Fiona and I had a chance to talk about what Maple Leaf Homes could provide and the Board of Directors approved our proposal, the process moved along at the usual pace.”
“It was nice having a local contact,” says Williams. “If I ever had a concern or question, Jacques or someone from Maple Leaf was there with an answer.”
“It’s relatively easy to make some modification to the units,” says Roy. “The engineering is factored in and we make the changes in CAD (computer assisted design) and then build the units to the new specs.” Once the designs were finalized, the construction process began in Maple Leaf’s manufacturing plant in Fredericton. Because everything is built indoors, poor weather is not a factor and the given timelines for Liberty Lane’s delivery was on schedule.
Once the units were placed, the “button up” process of sealing the exterior and installing the internal components began. This process took approximately 3 weeks.
“We are so pleased with how our new units turned out at our new location,” says Fiona. “We had an unveiling at the start of the summer and the units looked beautiful. They looked fresh. And that is exactly what they are going to mean for women and their families who come to us for help – a fresh start.”