“The achievement of a world free from poverty provides a path towards the achievement of peaceful and inclusive societies…” (United Nations, Concept Note)
Today, October 17th, is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Here at Interval House, we see survivors come from all walks of life with hopes of a future for themselves and their children that is not dictated and threatened by their abusers. Intimate partner violence doesn’t discriminate; it can affect people from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. However, in the campaign to end intimate partner violence, and violence against women, we cannot ignore the increased barriers that women, non-binary and transgender survivors of colour who are living in poverty face as they attempt to rebuild their lives and break the cycle of abuse. For intimate partner violence to be eradicated, we must address systemic poverty and a lack of accessible social services.
Municipal, provincial, and federal poverty strategies must be developed with input from the affected communities to address the specific needs of vulnerable sections of the population, such as Indigenous peoples, racialized communities, and survivors of intimate partner violence. In the Interval House Barriers Report our team researched and identified the barriers to employment and employability that abuse survivors can face. Two of the most significant barriers to economic stability and comfort are access to affordable housing and childcare.
These two barriers in particular can obstruct a survivor’s ability to gain and maintain secure employment and can perpetuate poverty for the whole family. At Interval House, our goal is to support our clients in overcoming their experiences with abuse and becoming empowered and self-sufficient in their futures. For a survivor living in poverty who lacks the means to keep a roof over her head or food on her children’s plates, remaining in, or going back to, an abusive relationship may feel like the only option. In that way, poverty can exacerbate the disparity of control and power that is fundamental to abusive relationships. This reality underscores the fact that access to subsidized housing and childcare can not only help bring a family out of poverty, it can also help end the cycle of abuse.
Right now, the average cost of a one bedroom rental in Toronto is a staggering $2,220. In December 2017, the median cost for infant care in Toronto was $1,758 a month. For many women who have bravely fled abusive relationships, this price tag is an impenetrable barrier keeping them below the poverty line and dependent on a social assistance program that itself is criticized for making it very difficult for people to become self-sufficient. A national affordable housing strategy that names housing as a human right and an affordable childcare strategy are the most effective ways the government can act to lessen the pressure on vulnerable individuals and populations. These supports could empower those who have lived through severe trauma to regain their independence and rebuild their lives.
It’s so important to acknowledge the connection between poverty and intergenerational family violence. By advocating for poverty reduction strategies and investing in social programs, we can foster peaceful societies, and communities where vulnerable populations are supported and the cycle of abuse is broken.