Women's Economic Empowerment Vital for Ending Domestic Abuse

Picture of stacked pennies. Text reads "Finances are the greatest deterrent for a woman leaving an abusive relationship"Domestic violence can be very complicated especially when there are children involved. It’s been shown over and over again that finances are the the greatest deterrent for a woman leaving an abusive relationship. The Ontario government, along with numerous other organizations, is working to change this.

In September 2016, the Ontario government released numerous mandate letters, include a Mandate Letter for the Women’s Directorate. Guided by the plan to build Ontario up for everyone, the letter focuses on women’s economic empowerment. There’s also a strong emphasis on protecting women from domestic violence.

This mandate letter is a great step in helping to make a positive difference in people’s lives and will support women who need it most, including those in abusive relationships. The government wants to continue to forge partnerships with educators, communities, businesses and not-for-profits to encourage this economic growth for women.

The Mandate letter always outlines some of the key projects the government has achieved, including:

  • Developing and launching an action plan to stop sexual violence and harassment. The action plan, called It’s Never Okay, includes education campaigns, training for crown attorneys who prosecute sexual assaults, training for front-line workers, and the introduction and passage of the 2015 Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act.
  • Developing and launching Walking Together: Ontario’s Long-Term Strategy to End Violence Against Indigenous Women. The initiative provides training for Crown Attorneys and police as well as public awareness campaigns.
  • Announcing new gender diversity targets to give more women the opportunity to reach top leadership positions. As well, partnering with the Minister of Labour to create a Gender Wage Gap Steering Committee to make recommendations for a strategy aimed at closing the gender wage gap.
  • Expanding access to training and skills development programs for women in low-income and at-risk situations.

The Mandate also focuses strongly on initiatives that will aim to protect women from violence and harassment. These include:

  • Implementing the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan
  • Creating an updated domestic violence action plan with the Attorney General, Minister of Community and Social Services, and the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services.
  • Implementing the Walking Together initiative.
  • Leading the implementation of Ontario’s Strategy to End Human Trafficking, including assisting survivors by providing better access to services.

The Ontario government is calling for communities to continue offering community-based services as well as employment training for women who have experienced domestic violence.

Releasing this mandate letter, along with the others, puts more accountability on the government as well as the public in working to combat domestic violence against women and help better support those who are most in need. It also increases the public’s awareness.

Woman looking out window.Knowing the need for more knowledge and greater action in this area is what stirred researchers at Western University to conduct the first survey in Canada on domestic violence (DV) in the workplace. In partnership with the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), the survey reached over 8,400 participants. Over one third reported having experienced domestic violence from a partner, and 35% of participants believed a co-worker was either currently experiencing or had previously experienced domestic violence.

Image of stressed woman with hands on her temples. Text reads 38% of those with a DV experience indicated it impacted their ability to work and 8.5% admitted having lost their jobs because of it 38% of those with a DV experience indicated it impacted their ability to work and 8.5% admitted having lost their jobs because of it. It’s not surprising then that three-quarters of all the respondents feel that safety policies and paid leave would go a long way in reducing the impact of domestic violence in the workplace.

This study helps point to the immediate need for paid leave for all victims of domestic violence, as well as better supports and safety plans in the workplace. Educating managers, supervisors and workers can also help combat the problem by being made aware of all the support and tools available to protect and help victims.

Financial hardship or economic needs are often the biggest barrier when it comes to women seeking help for and leaving an abusive relationship. Providing women with better options for economic support will go a long way in helping victims of domestic violence. Financial security from employment can allow women to escape abusive relationships and provide a safe home for themselves as well as any children involved.