Battering and Poverty
Susan James and Beth Harris
NOW THAT OPEN SEASON ON WELFARE MOTHERS HAS BEEN declared, this country's politicians have been busily proposing welfare restrictions. There's Bridefare, rewarding women who get married -- and punishing those who don't -- and the notorious Workfare, requiring recipients to work off their grants at menial jobs. Underlying these proposals is a presumption that women on welfare are lacking in moral fiber and initiative, and need a "kick in the pants" to get motivated to join the workforce.
Among these policymakers, there's been no mention of truly helpful modifications to the current welfare system. There's been no mention of a Safetyfare, or Freedomfare, to address the enormous risks and obstacles faced by financially strapped women who are experiencing domestic violence. In contrast to the immoral image projected by politicians, many of these women make quite courageous and moral decisions to protect themselves and their children under the economic umbrella of welfare. There's been little recognition of how vital public assistance can be for women trying to leave abusive relationships. Nor do policymakers seem to comprehend that living with a jealous, controlling partner often creates barriers for women trying to develop economic independence through employment.
For many women living in domestic terror in this country, current proposed changes in welfare allotments threaten to slam shut an already narrow door to freedom. Domestic violence is such an epidemic that the U.S. surgeon general in the 1980s declared domestic violence a major health threat for women. 1 Battering by a partner or ex-partner remains the single greatest cause of injury for women, 2 and accounts for nearly one-third of female homicide victims. 3
Many of us have witnessed, or experienced, the precarious