One in seven of all women in poverty (14%), which is one million women, have faced the most extensive violence and abuse. This is more than twice the rate for women not in poverty (6%), according to a report released today by Agenda, the alliance for women and girls at risk.
Agenda’s report, joining the dots, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, is the first to combine data on women’s experiences of poverty, mental health, life circumstances, and abuse and violence, to paint a picture of how different forms of inequality combine in the lives of women in poverty in England.
According to Agenda, being poor can make women and girls more vulnerable to perpetrators of abuse and prevent them from escaping abusive situations, while the impact of abuse can trap women in poverty.
The combination of experiencing extensive abuse alongside poverty creates a web of adversity in women’s lives. Of women who have experienced extensive abuse and poverty:
- A third (38%) had attempted suicide, compared with 4% of women in poverty who had not been abused.
- More than half (55%) had a common mental disorder such as anxiety or depression, compared with 17% of women in poverty who had not been abused
- One in five (21%) have been homeless, compared with 3% of women in poverty who had not been abused.
Joining the dots also found:
- Women in poverty are twice as likely as other women to experience almost every form of interpersonal violence and abuse covered in the study.
- The extent of abuse a woman experiences, as well as the form it takes, is strongly linked to poverty. Women in poverty are much more likely to have the most extensive experiences of abuse and to experience multiple types across their lives.
The charity is calling on the Government to prioritise the provision of support which improves the life chances of women facing this combined disadvantage.
Katharine Sacks-Jones, Director of Agenda, said:
“We’ve got to start joining the dots between poverty, violence, and disadvantage in women’s lives.
“Women are more likely to be poor, be abused and suffer mental health problems. The impacts of these are cumulative and often feed each other.
“Women in poverty have fewer resources and can find it harder to escape perpetrators of abuse, while experiencing abuse can contribute to women’s poverty.
“Without support, women and girls can move from crisis to crisis, so investing early on is vital to help women turn their lives around, which not only has a huge impact on them and their children but also comes with a saving to the public purse.
“We are calling on the Government to break the links between poverty and abuse by developing a cross-government approach to improving the life chances of women who face this combined burden.”
Agenda is recommending:
- A cross-government approach to improving the life chances of women who face the most extensive abuse, poverty and disadvantage.
- ‘Routine enquiry’ (asking women and girls whether they have experienced violence and abuse) becomes standard practice across a range of health and support services and is accompanied by comprehensive support for those who disclose past or present experiences of abuse.
- Central and local government ensure specialist services providing holistic support are adequately funded and properly commissioned.
For further information see http://weareagenda.org/one-million-women-in-poverty-have-experienced-extensive-violence-and-abuse/