The Cost of Leaving

Kaitlin Dryburgh-25th November 2022

Today marks the start of Scottish Women’s Aid new campaign to highlight the pressures that the current Cost of Living Crisis has on women and children experiencing domestic abuse. The Cost of Leaving campaign will be sixteen days of activism to end gender-based violence looking at the specific costs that women face right now to get themselves and their children into a safer place.

The cost of living crisis is a headline in some form everyday, be that the price of pasta increasing, new strikes planned or unaffordable energy bills for millions, this is also coupled with a squeeze on public spending. Most people are effected in some way or another, yet we need to remember that this hits the most vulnerable in our society the hardest. For many women already going through the hardest period of their lives the increase of costs means that if they are considering leaving an abusive partner this may leave them deciding between abuse, poverty or the possibility of making themselves homeless. Reducing wages, increasing childcare costs and an ever decreasing safety net has created a perfect storm in which abusers are able to have more control.

Unfortunately, this is right off the back of the Covid-19 pandemic which saw the movement of women suffering abuse further constrained and gave opportunity for abusers to entrap women. As a result of lockdowns many women and children died at the hands of their abusers, they had less contact with people outside their home, be that friends and family or professional services, further increasing the isolation. Abusers were able to exploit this isolation during the pandemic, and it is most likely that this cost of living crisis will give many the same opportunity.

Leaving a partner can be very complicated and overwhelming, especially if this means up-rooting children from their home, it is thought that it can take anything between five and seven times for a victim to permanently leave their abuser. There are many reasons why leaving an abuser can be a hard decision and why it may take several attempts to do so, more often than not being financially dependant on them is a major factor. By alleviating that stress Scotland could bridge the gap for many women who need emergency financial help before they are able to access Universal credit, make new employment arrangements if need be and be able to create a home for themselves and their children.

The Scottish Government knows what is needed but now need to act and implement those changes. As Scottish Women’s Aid notes the Scottish Government accepted a recommendation in the 2020 report “Improving Housing Outcomes for women and children experiencing domestic abuse” that the government should establish a fund that would provide financial support to women who need to make that initial move away from their abuser. In order for this to be as effective as possible Scottish Women’s Aid state this shouldn’t be means tested or be based on a person’s ability to access other public services, meaning that no women is stuck and dependant on their abuser due to their immigration status. So why hasn’t the Scottish Government done anything to get the ball moving on this fund, if the Covid-19 pandemic showed us anything it’s that for many women who are unable to get away from their abuser, it can be fatal. Right now that fund is needed more than ever to mitigate the rising costs of everything that surrounds us.

However, that’s not all that the Government and the relevant authorities could be doing to help domestic abuse victims, the need for women and children in many cases to leave their homes could be avoided if new policies were properly implemented. The Domestic Abuse Protection (Scotland) Act 2021 provided the police and the courts with the power to remove abusers from their homes, as well as giving social landlords better controls to change names on tenancies so that women are given the right to stay in their homes. Unfortunately, as of yet despite the effort from some involved Scottish Women’s Aid are yet to see this properly executed so women can fully take advantage of this life altering policy. The choice of being homeless or living with an abuser should never have to be placed on anyone, being able to stay in your own home is so important. That’s why it is crucial that the Scottish Government make good on the Domestic Abuse Protection Act and start to input the infrastructure to make this successful.

Leaving an abusive relationship is a dangerous time period, and for some staying in the family home is not a safe option. The protection available to women after they leave also has to be paramount to the approach of keeping victims of domestic violence safe. It was reported last year that every month in Scotland a women is killed by an abusive partner or ex-partner, quite often these would have been avoidable if some simple steps had been followed. For example, making women aware if their partner has a history of domestic violence, there are many women who may have made different decisions if they had been presented with all the facts. Or ensuring that women are made aware when an ex-partner is being released from prison, allowing them to alert their support network, install extra security or anything that provides extra safety, there would be many more women walking this earth if they had known their abuser was free.

This is no quick fix to stop abuse altogether unfortunately, but unlike some issues we face right now the government and relevant agencies know exactly how to make the world a safer place for domestic abuse victims.

By showing your support for Scottish Women’s Aid campaign #TheCostofLeaving we can provide financial support to allow women to be abuse free at a time where the cost of leaving is so high.

1 thought on “The Cost of Leaving”

  1. Ian Davidson

    In East Renfrewshire, local women’s aid have submitted a £5k bid under Participatory Budgetting for cost of living help. Competing with another 23 projects. Only three can go forward. Terrible way to fund wa; I can recall urban aid funding being used in 80s; when that ran out, patchy funding ever since.

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