Battered women seeking refuge at a shelter in Clearwater, Fl., historically have stayed an average of 25 or 26 days. These days, it’s closer to 45 days, says the St. Petersburg Times. “It used to be that people would find jobs and get on their feet and find a place to live,” said director Christine Warwick. Now “we end up keeping people longer.” The bad economy is swamping Tampa Bay domestic violence shelters with victims of abuse. As the recession pushes more families out of work and into foreclosure, experts worry they are seeing more domestic violence. Said one shelter presdent: “Because domestic battery is about power and control, when you’re standing on a shrinking iceberg of what you can control, some people might tend to lash out.” While financial stress may play a role, “Abusers are abusers before this,” Warwick said. “Plenty of people lose their jobs and don’t abuse their spouses.”
Still, violence can escalate when abusers lose jobs and spend more time at home around their victims. Victims who lose jobs might be blamed – and attacked – as a result. Conversely, if victims take on more work to support the family, their abusers might suspect they are having affairs. If a family is losing its home anyway, then victims might decide then to leave an abusive relationship. Once in a shelter, it’s harder to leave because affordable housing and jobs are scarce. A local shelter run by Community Action Stops Abuse has 30 beds. These days it’s housing 35 or 36 women and children.