Why domestic violence survivors can't just "get a job"

BESS class

When survivors of domestic violence leave an abusive relationship, often one of the most challenging things to rebuild is their economic future. Re-entering or seeking employment for the first time after an abusive relationship can be a huge hurdle. There are many barriers to seeking employment for women rebuilding their lives after domestic violence. 

While there are many different challenges experienced by individual women, some of the common barriers include:

Little or no work history

Many abusers exert control over their partners by controlling where they go, who they see, and their access to income. Women who were not allowed to work or work consistently while in their abusive relationship can lose years of work experience or have gaps on their resumes. They may have had to leave a job with little notice or explanation when they fled their abuser, which makes it difficult to find a reference.

Lack of Canadian work experience

Women who are newcomers to Canada might not have Canadian work experience if they were unable to work while in their abusive relationship. They thus have that barrier to cross in addition to just finding a job.

Low self-esteem

For women who have spent years living in fear in their own homes, quite often their self-confidence  has been eroded. For potential employers unfamiliar with the situation, this apparent lack of confidence may be a deterrent from deciding to hire a candidate who is otherwise well-qualified.

Scheduling challenges

Unfortunately, not all employers support women attempting to break away from a violent situation or recover from an assault. There are many scheduling considerations for a woman rebuilding her life after violence. For example, survivors may need to attend court hearings, or meet with counselors and lawyers. Employers don’t always guarantee women’s job security during this difficult process. 

Because of the many barriers facing women who have experienced domestic violence, Interval House developed the Building Economic Self Sufficiency (BESS) program nearly 20 years ago. BESS is a successful program that helps women regain the tools needed to achieve economic self-sufficiency after leaving an abusive relationship.

Our BESS program provides women with the tools to rebuild, reinvent and transform their lives by facilitating access to education, training, financial and housing assistance, and other practical solutions. BESS is part of our holistic approach to healing – we give women customized training and skills so that they gain confidence and independence. You can read more about our innovative BESS program here. http://www.intervalhouse.ca/our-holistic-approach/community-program/bess For more information, you can email bess@intervalhouse.ca or call us at 416-924-1411 Ext. 235.