From Domestic Violence to Sustainable Employment

Article excerpt

Introduction

Domestic violence is acknowledged as a significant issue within Australia. Current figures suggest that almost a quarter (23%) of women who have been married or in a de facto relationship will report intimate partner violence each year, while further studies suggest that almost half of all Australian women will experience violence in their lifetime (ABS 1996). While acknowledging the cost to the individual, there has also been a small body of research which is beginning to recognise the consequential costs to governments, whose expenditures are enlarged by responding to the consequences of such violence. The impact of the global financial crisis has meant that governments have had to find savings in their expenditures and have begun to examine the costs of domestic and family violence to the community as a whole.

Much of the current research on domestic violence continues to focus on its causes and consequences, particularly short-term crisis intervention including provision of accommodation, welfare assistance and other emergency support and advocacy services (Costello et al. 2005, 254). This paper moves from such a concentration on immediate needs to exploring a more extended framework by which attention is given to the importance of long-term planning in areas such as job search and career development. Such a scaffold will not only offer individuals an opportunity for long-term independence, but also provides governments with a measure by which overall expenditure can be reduced as more people enter the workforce. In so doing, this project responds to the challenge identified in the work of Phillips (2006) that there is a need for a more long-term integrated approach to the issue of domestic violence in Australia.

First, this paper places the issue of the costs of domestic violence in both an Australian and international context. Second, it examines the impact of domestic violence on individuals, and third it explores the work of Bandura (1989) and Gianakos (1999) to understand career orientation. Finally, by drawing on these concepts builds a framework which provides a pathway for domestic violence victims to attain sustainable employment and independence.

Costs of domestic violence

In Australia, domestic violence has been defined as:

   '... an abuse of power perpetrated mainly (but not only) by men
   against women both in a relationship and after separation. It
   occurs when one partner attempts physically or psychologically to
   dominate and control the other'. (Partnerships Against Domestic
   Violence 2000, 2).

Whilst this definition is not gender specific it is recognised that in the large majority of cases the offender is male and the victim is female (Partnerships Against Domestic Violence 2001, 7). Throughout this paper the term domestic violence refers to abuse by men, directed at women, within intimate partner relationships.

Australia was one of the first countries to attempt to calculate the economic costs of domestic violence with studies in the mid 1980s. In an overview of these studies, Laing (2001, 10) points out that it is only the direct costs which can be quantified and that no study had monetised the "debilitating and terrifying impacts of domestic violence on the lives of women and children." An indication of the magnitude of the problem in Australia is found in the work of Access Economics (2004). They estimate the total annual cost of domestic violence in Australia in 2002-03 (the last time such figures were available) to be $8.1 billion (Access Economics 2004, VII). Pain, suffering and premature mortality accounted for $3.5 billion and $2.5 billion was consumed by lost household economies of scale. The enormity of the cost to individuals is reflected not only in their pain, but also the fact that they bore the financial burden of approximately $4 billion themselves. A further $1.2 billion was expended by governments in providing crisis support. …

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