Domestic violence affects individuals from all backgrounds, genders and socioeconomic statuses.
For many, however, domestic violence intersects with poverty, homelessness and job instability that significantly limits victim's abilities to escape abuse.
In Philadelphia, lack of affordable housing, widespread poverty and high rates of community violence result in insurmountable obstacles for adults seeking long-term and sustainable safe living situations. Individuals experiencing domestic violence are also more likely to experience under- or unemployment due to the cycle of power and control implicated in domestic violence dynamics.
The impact of domestic violence, which may include physical, emotional and financial abuse, significantly limits a victim’s potential earning power. In one study assessing barriers to employment resulting from domestic violence, 85% of victims reported that their abuser kept them from sleeping; one-third reported that their abuser withheld transportation at the last minute; and one-third were beaten to the point that they could not work.
Although domestic violence impacts individuals from all backgrounds, the need for domestic violence services in Philadelphia, the poorest major city in the country, is particularly pronounced. Poverty disproportionately impacts minorities, single mothers and children — compared with a citywide poverty rate of 27%, 31% of African Americans, 41% of Hispanics, half of single mothers, and one in three children live in poverty. Abused individuals in poverty experience the greatest difficulty in gathering the resources to seek safety.
With limited financial resources, victims are forced to navigate difficult choices, particularly if they have children. Often, the only alternative to abuse is homelessness. On an average night, 250 homeless individuals in Philadelphia self-report as victims of domestic violence.
Victims of domestic violence face elevated risk of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, which in turn harm quality of life and ability to carry out everyday activities. Children are also impacted significantly by domestic violence. Infants, for example, may have disrupted sleeping and eating patterns and may not develop healthy attachments to their parents. Toddlers may exhibit excessive fearfulness, difficulty paying attention, stomachaches, nightmares, and bed-wetting. As they grow up, children are more likely to struggle with depression and posttraumatic stress disorder, and as adolescents, they are more likely to become victims or perpetrators of dating violence. Early trauma-informed intervention for children is crucial to prevent the cycle of abuse.
Due to fear, isolation and stigma, victims may only come into contact with city systems and domestic violence service providers once violence has reached a crisis point — when interventions are costliest and least effective. Early intervention and prevention, in addition to emergency measures, make up a critical component of the continuum of services that Women Against Abuse offers.
Women Against Abuse operates the only emergency shelter in Philadelphia for domestic violence. WAA’s shelter operates at near 100% occupancy throughout the year. As a result, Philadelphia Domestic Violence Hotline counselors are frequently forced to turn victims away due to lack of beds.
As reported in a City Paper article (“Trend of Disbelief” by Holly Otterbein), WAA’s emergency shelter reported alarming increases in the number of requests turned away in recent years.
Counselors survey capacity and ensure to the best of their ability that all requests for shelter are accommodated. When the shelter is full, counselors work with shelters throughout the city to help victims find safety.
In fiscal year 2011, 9,515 individuals called the Philadelphia Domestic Violence Hotline for assistance with domestic violence issues.
In 2011, 108,525 calls were made to the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) for domestic violence – more than 300 calls per day. 6,256 domestic violence-related arrests were made.
Philadelphia has a lower number of domestic violence shelter beds in proportion to its population compared to nearby cities.
In the past six years, there have been an average of 28 homicides each year in Philadelphia.
To address the jump in domestic violence homicides in 2009, WAA collaborated with Women's Law Project, the Philadelphia Police Department and key community partners to ensure that high-risk victims of domestic violence receive follow-up support after a critical incident. Read more about this initiative here.
In 2008, 11,082 petitions for Protection From Abuse Orders were filed.