Women Under Financial Stress Faced Abuse During Pandemic, Researchers Find

Not only has a “shadow” wave of violence against women emerged during the coronavirus pandemic, but women who experienced financial hardship as a result of the pandemic were also more likely to be abused by their partners, according to a study released on Monday by Australian researchers.

The survey of 10,000 women age 18 and older was conducted between February and April 2021 by Australia’s National Research Organization for Women’s Safety, a research and policy group. It asked the women about their experiences during the first 12 months of the pandemic.

It found that those with high levels of financial stress were “much more likely” to have experienced physical violence, as well as emotional abuse, for the first time in their relationships, compared with those who were economically secure. The researchers also found that violence was more likely in relationships where there was financial disparity.

“Within intimate relationships where the partners have similar levels of earning power, or the woman is the primary breadwinner, some abusers may be using sexual violence as a way of exerting control over their partner,” Rick Brown, the deputy director of the Australian Institute of Criminology, which collaborated on the study, said in a statement.

More than 40 percent of the women surveyed said they were “anxious about their financial situation,” while more than 30 percent had been temporarily laid off, lost their job, had to reduce their hours or take a pay cut, according to the report.

Australia has imposed some of the harshest pandemic measures in the world, with international borders closed and major cities locked down for several months. Researchers described those measures as creating a pressure-cooker situation that has helped contribute to violence against women.

“This finding,” they said in the report, “is consistent with research which suggests women have been more negatively impacted by the pandemic than men.”

A report published last year by U.N. Women, a United Nations organization dedicated to gender equality, found that the pandemic had made women feel more vulnerable to abuse, sexual harassment and violence, which was in turn harming their mental health and emotional well-being.

Forty-five percent of women surveyed in 13 countries reported that they or a woman they knew had experienced some form of violence since the start of the pandemic, and the women who said this were 1.3 times more likely than the others surveyed to report greater mental and emotional stress. The countries surveyed were Albania, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Colombia, Ivory Coast, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Nigeria, Paraguay, Thailand and Ukraine.

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