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The Economics of Abuse

CarolAnn Peterson


Economics is seldom thought of when talking about domestic violence.  However, economics not only affects the victim of violence but also the economy of the neighborhood, community, and nation, especially considering that “23.6% of women and 11.5% of men reported at least one-lifetime episode of intimate-partner violence”. (1) Domestic violence affects women’s employment in a substantial way. 

Some statistics regarding the financial impact of abuse:

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the financial impact of domestic violence ranges from individual to societal. In fact, they say the lifetime economic cost associated with medical services, lost productivity from paid work, criminal justice, and other costs, was $3.6 trillion. The cost of domestic violence over a victim’s lifetime was $103,767 for women and $23,414 for men. (2)

  • The health-related costs of rape, physical assault, stalking, and homicide by intimate partners exceed $5.8 billion each year. Of this total, nearly $4.1billion is for direct medical and mental health care services and productivity losses account for nearly $1.8 billion, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (3)

  • IPV victims lose a total of nearly 8.0 million days of paid work; the equivalent of 32,000 full-time jobs and nearly 5.6 million days of household productivity as a result of the violence. (4)


Compared with women who have not experienced DV, women who report DV victimization also report more days arriving late to work, more absenteeism from work, more psychological and physical health problems that may reduce their productivity, and greater difficulty maintaining employment over time.


Some of the tactics batterers use regarding finances are:

  • Stealing money from victims who work

  • Stealing stimulus checks

  • Forcing victims to justify spending – even for everyday items such as groceries, necessities for children, and medication

  • Maxing out credit cards

  • Failing to pay bills

  • Interrupting a victim’s employment or getting the victim fired from their job

Any time a victim is unable to be or become self-sufficient makes them more dependent on the abuser.  Research has shown that 21-60% of victims lose their jobs due to abuse. (5)

In order for victims to become self-sufficient, the ability to have job skills/training, the ability to keep a job, and to control their funds become a paramount issue that all of society should become invested in.  A victim/survivor’s success benefits everyone.



  1. Employers Against Domestic Violence. (n.d.). Why is domestic abuse a workplace issue?


  1.  Germano, M. (2019 October 17). Domestic violence has a financial impact too.


  1.  Centers for Disease Control. (2003). Cost of intimate partner violence against women in the United States, 2003.


  1.  Ibid (p. 1).

  2.  National Domestic Violence Hotline. (2015). Facts about domestic violence and economic abuse: Did you know? (para 2).


Batterers and Batterer Intervention Programs

CarolAnn Peterson




Much research is devoted to adult victims and children of abuse.  Such research is necessary so we can decide where to focus funding and programs.  However, issues are not resolved simply by looking at one side of an issue.  It is important to consider the toll abuse places on batterers along with what assistance they need to heal.  Ellen Pence (one of the pioneers of the domestic violence movement; see Pioneers and Trailblazers blog post) was one to realize that in order to eradicate domestic abuse, we also needed to take care of the abusers.


Many people wonder if there is a profile of batterers.  One of the foremost researchers in this area is Edward Gondolf.  His research has indicated that “one size” does not fit all…for abusers or batterer intervention programs (White & Gondolf, 2000).¹ The overriding question becomes – do batterer programs work?  The most imperative issue for victims and society is holding abusers accountable for their actions.  At the same time, most victims truly love their abusers, what they want is for the abuse to stop. However, in order for abuse to stop, batterers need programs that not assist them in changing their behavior and holding them accountable but abusers must want to change.


The issue of whether batterer intervention programs are effective has been debated for decades.  However, it’s important to have a history of these programs before discussing their effectiveness.


One of the first programs created was Emerge.  Established in 1977 in Boston, MA, this program came about at the request of women who were working with victims in Boston shelters. The program was created by a group of 10 men, many of whom knew and/or were friends with the shelter workers.


Another program that began around the same time as Emerge was RAVEN.  Established in St. Louis, MO in 1979, RAVEN was also begun by men who knew or were related to shelter workers in the area.


Other programs began popping up shortly thereafter: Amend in Denver, CO, Manalive in Marin County, CA, and Oakland (CA) Men’s Project.  These were groundbreaking programs.  However, one noteworthy program is the Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs (DAIP).

DAIP was the brainchild of Ellen Pence and Michael Paymar.  Along with their colleagues, they interviewed 200 victims of abuse, and through those interviews began to piece together a pattern of abuse.  This led to the creation of the Power & Control Wheel.  No one who works in the field of domestic abuse can do their work without understanding this valuable tool.

DAIP went one step further and established standards.  All 50 states and 17 countries utilize the Duluth method for batterer programs.²


The standards that most programs utilize are 26-52 weeks, 2 hours a week, with only 3 excused absences. It is estimated that over 95% of abusers are court-mandated. Abusers must keep a log of their actions during the week, watch videos and log what actions in the video they have done, and are taught to pay attention to their reactions when discussions escalate and begin to become altercations.  Study notwithstanding, there still remains the question – are batterer intervention programs (BIPs) effective?


The effectiveness of BIPs has long been controversial.  One of the major issues has been consistent methodology, measurements, and the ability to keep track of abusers for more than 1-2 years after the program (to measure recidivism).  Therefore, there is no clear answer.  Some of the criticisms are lack of empirical data (feminist-psychosocial treatment and cognitive behavioral therapy), lack of motivation on the part of the batterers (due to most being court-mandated), and the lack of inclusion to look at the influence of culture and religion on actions of abusers.

With this being said, the profiles on the types of personalities have had interesting results.  White and Gondolf’s work³ has produced the following:

Low Dysfunction:

  • Narcissistic/non-conforming style: 32%

  • Avoidant/depressive style: 21%

  • Atypical: 3%

  • Moderate Dysfunction:

  • Antisocial disorder: 11%

  • Narcissistic disorder: 7%

  • Atypical: 11%

  • Severe Dysfunction:

  • Paranoid disorder: 9%

  • Borderline personality disorder: 4%

  • Atypical: 2%

As with any research, it is imperative to read the whole report,  however, this report clearly indicates that most abusers do have a mental health disorder.  It has also been demonstrated that the majority of violence is not an issue of drugs and alcohol.  The majority of recovering abusers (as they call themselves) indicate that they knew what they did every time they did and they chose to be violent.


Batterer intervention programs may not be perfect and need updating, it is all we have at the present time.  And batterers, despite their behavior, are still deserving of respect.  It’s their behavior that society wants to stop.


1. White, R. J. & Gondolf, E. W. (2000). Implications of personality profiles for batterer treatment. Journal of Interpersonal Violence 15(5).
2. Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs. (n.d.). About.
3. White, R. J. & Gondolf, E. W. (2000). Implications of personality profiles for batterer treat. Journal of Interpersonal Aggression 15(5).


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