By Christine Murray, See the Triumph Co-Founder
Economic independence is a critical factor in helping people remain free from violence and abuse in their intimate relationships. Financial freedom helps survivors have options and frees them from remaining dependent on abusive partners. And yet, one of the major pathways to economic independence--a fulfilling, prosperous career--can become a major challenge for many survivors. This can stem from direct actions by their abusers, as well as indirect consequences of the abuse.
All this month, we’re highlighting the financial impacts of abuse on victims and survivors of intimate partner violence. As we’ve seen throughout the month, abuse takes a major toll on survivors’ economic well-being. Another major area in which abuse takes a financial toll is through its impacts on their job- and career-related functioning.
Through our See the Triumph research, we’ve heard from many survivors who shared with us the extensive job- and career-related challenges they faced, both during and after their abusive relationships. To illustrate some of these challenges, today we’ll share some of their experiences with you.
One of the main challenges that many survivors face is direct effects of their abusers’ actions on their work. As one survivor said, “He would constantly call my job.” We also heard of survivors being stalked at their workplaces and abusers working to damage victims’ professional reputations among their coworkers.
Another category of challenges that survivors may face relates to the impact of the emotional and cognitive toll of abuse on their job functioning. As one survivor said, “Anxiety makes it difficult to concentrate on my job.” Another said, “After the assault, the trauma and secondary trauma resulted in loss of my job that I had for 13 years.” Another survivor said, “I am still paying off court costs, and am unsure how I will survive next year without a regular full-time job, but my health (physical and mental) is suffering because of the demands of regular work.” One other statement reflecting this issue was, “My job and ability to do full time hours have been compromised. I have anxiety and panic attacks and flashbacks.”
Still other survivors struggle to find or keep work that has a schedule that can accommodate the time demands they face dealing with court dates and other appointments related to the abuse. A survivor told us that “many court dates require me to have a flexible job.” Another said, “I almost lost my job because of him. I missed work because of stress-related illnesses and numerous court appearances during work hours, not to mention the financial consequences.”
Other survivors find that the abuse impacted their self-confidence, when then carries over to their confidence in their abilities in the workplace. As one survivor shared with us, “The lack of confidence and trust in my abilities has impacted how I feel in terms of security with new jobs and opportunities.” Another said, “It was very difficult keeping a job. I wasn't secure in ability to perform job duties, and loud noises would trigger my anxiety.” Still another said, “I am exhausted, I lack confidence, and I don’t trust my abilities.”
Some survivors find that time away from work due to the relationship hindered their career, or they get caught in a cycle of of being unable to find work with a sufficient income, but also having an insufficient income to seek out more training. Consider the following statements from survivors in our research: “I have tried going through workforce development and vocational rehab, but because i already have 2 master's degrees I am ‘over-qualified,’ and meeting the demands of work or cash assistance programs only adds to control-induced stress;” and “I am currently unemployed and living in a motel. I can't find a job with sufficient income to make change, and I need to get some kind of training or schooling so I can make a decent income, but I can't afford school or qualify for student loan.”
And, unfortunately, some victims and survivors still face clear discrimination in the workplace. For example, one survivor told us, “I got fired from my job because my breakup was deemed unprofessional and a danger.”
If your career or the career of someone you know has been impacted by abuse, we encourage you to check out the Career Empowerment Curriculum from the Allstate Foundation: http://www.clicktoempower.org/financial-tools/career-empowerment-curriculum. This is a powerful tool for considering ways to move forward in rebuilding a fulfilling career that also promotes survivors’ financial well-being.
Unfortunately, there are many ways that abuse can impact survivors’ career paths in challenging ways. There is a need for more efforts at the community and societal levels to build resources to support survivors in rebuilding their careers following abuse. Although the challenges can be many, we also have heard from many survivors who shared with us how they moved forward into great careers that were economically rewarding and personally fulfilling. A great career is possible following abuse, and we urge survivors to be proactive in planning their next career moves with that hope in mind.