My research proposal is in the area of domestic violence with a particular focus on economic violence. There is a broad general understanding of what physical abuse is; however, economic abuse and its perception are still under-recognized and under-discussed in society and in academia. One camp of scholars has developed assessment tools covering four forms of domestic violence with minimal attention to economic abuse confined to two-three questions, whilst on the other hand, another camp has recently offered specialized instruments to measure economic abuse in particular. However, there is a lack of knowledge about economic abuse among a general sampling of women who have not (yet) reported abusive relationships to social services or police. Estimating the real extent of economic abuse in the general population, and the possibility of retroactively correlating later-reported forms of violence with incidences of economic abuse earlier in the relationship may lead to exposure and understanding of hidden forms of domestic violence. In my research I aim to investigate economic abuse amongst women who might be already engaged in coercive relationship but may not yet assesses it as such, as well as to outline abusive economically behavior within non-coercive partnerships. This research project intervenes the field of knowledge on domestic violence by bringing tolight a new perspective on economic abuse phenomenon.
Introduction: background of the research, identify its significance and a clear statement of the research question
Domestic violence is a widespread phenomenon, and economic violence is one of the facets of domestic violence. In order to tackle economic violence effectively, it is essential to understand what it is (and what it is not), what causes it, and what motivates perpetrators to enact economic abuse patterns.
According to the survey conducted by the UNFPA in 2014 in the Republic of Belarus 31.6% of women reported being battered by their intimate partner, 35.6% of women were abused economically, while 18.4% and 76.8% suffered from sexual and psychological violence, respectively. However, the same survey showed that economic abuse is under-recognized as a phenomenon in and of itself, and indicators of its manifestation are recognized poorly by both male and female respondents, compared to other forms of domestic violence. This result is confirmed by the online survey on domestic violence awareness conducted by the UNFPA on August 2017, with only 35% and 26% women and men (respectively) considering refusal to give a spouse money for personal spending to be economic abuse. Such a situation leads to underreporting of cases of economic abuse to the police and social workers engaged in supporting victims of domestic violence.
However, the impact of economic abuse has long-term effects such as deteriorating woman’s socioeconomic well-being, making a woman more vulnerable to violence and dependent on a perpetrator that makes her separation more challenging (Raphael, 1999). As a unique form of abuse due to lack of spatial component and that it aims at creating economic dependency (Stylianou, 2013), economic abuse needs to be analyzed from various perspectives further.
Therefore, my research questions are:
Does the use of the economic abuse tactics predict physical violence in controlling relationship?
Does the use of the economic abuse tactics predict physical violence in non-controlling relationship?
Can economic violence exist outside of physical violence in controlling relationship?
Can economic violence exist outside of physical violence in non-controlling relationship?
The results of this research can be used to create a Belarusian legal framework for both policy makers and law enforcement to assess risks of economic violence, to measure the prevalence of this phenomenon, and to operationalize programs aimed to empower women.
The bulk of our knowledge about economic abuse comes from surveys that initially aimed at collecting information about physical and psychological violence. Recently, more studies on economic abuse, its correlations, and consequences have been appearing.
Economic abuse is behavior that controls a victim’s “ability to acquire, use, and maintain resources, thus threatening her economic security and potential for self-sufficiency” and includes the following forms: economic control, economic exploitation (Adams, Sullivan, Bybee, & Greeson, 2008), and employment sabotage as offered by Postmus with colleagues in 2012.
Eeconomic abuse has been generally measured through a small handful questions included in broader general surveys of domestic violence. To measure economic abuse in particlar, various instruments were gradually developed, including the Domestic Violence-Related Financial Issues Scale (Weaver et al., 2009), which was the first scale to incorporate a subscale measuring economic abuse experiences with 5 questions. A precursor to that, the Work/School Abuse Scale (W/SAS) by Riger at al. (2000) measured how abusers interfere with women attending school and working.
Adams et al (2008) developed the Scale of Economic Abuse (SEA), the first comprehensive 28-question tool to measure economic abuse, and also to establish correlation between the level of economic abuse and future economic difficulties experienced by DV survivors. The SEA includes questions on economic control and economic exploitation, and has a reliability coefficient of .93.
In order to distinguish the uniqueness of economic abuse from other forms of non-physical abuse Stylianou et al (2013), using confirmatory factor analysis, proved economic abuse being unique form of abuse, and also found moderate correlation between economic abuse and physical, psychological, and sexual abuse.
Economic abuse differs from other forms of DV in that the perpetrator can engage in economic violence patterns even after ceasing physical, sexual, or psychological abuse (Corrie and McGuire 2013). For example, DV perpetrator can manipulate their victim by paying money for children’s care or dividing property in ways that may cause problems with housing.
However, while increasingly there is research on economic abuse as a unique category, the bulk of this research has been conducted by recruiting participants from DV shelters, social services and other service providers for DV victims. There is thus lack of research on whether prevalence of economic abuse can predict appearance of other types of abuse, because previous data has been collected from and about women who had already experienced physical and psychological abuse.
All previous literature on discovering economic abuse described this phenomenon by women who already have been receiving help by DV services providers. Since my main research goal lies in studying situations when economic abuse has not, or has not yet escalated into physical abuse, it is essential to conduct survey amongst general population. This framework informs my approach.
To build a robust research design, I draw on the following theoretical frameworks and concepts regarding how, when and under what circumstances economic abuse manifests itself based on the typology of domestic violence (Johnson, 1995, 2006, 2008 and Gottman et al. 2011). This will enable me to choose comprehensive and appropriate assessment tools and procedures.
I draw on feminist theory on my research because it argues that severe forms of economic abuse along with psychological, an abuser satisfies his patriarchal needs of masculinity (Dobash 1979 and Waker 1979) and therefore there is no need to extend physical abuse in order to set up coercion and control (Gorshkova, Shyrygina 2003 and Johnson 2008). Feminist theorists have found that economic abuse is a part of a larger system of power and control, and the Power and Control Wheel illustrates the main forms of control comprising Coercive Controlling Violence (Pence & Paymar, 1986; Stark, 2007). Abusers might use not all of tactics and nonphysical control tactics might be effective without battering and thus do not manifest in severe forms of physical violence (Johnson, Kelly 2008); however, this type of violence has tendency to escalate with time.
Also, I draw on the theory of intimate partners typology elaborated by Johnson (1995, 2006, 2008) suggesting that there is situational couple violence with non-controlling but violent partner. This type of violence does not arise from power and control dynamic but from conflict that has grown out of control (Johnson 1998 and Chodyreva 2002). Johnson depicts situational couple violence as it might de-escalate once conflict is resolved; however, it should not be under evaluated as it may have severe consequences for victims as well as coercive control violence. Psychological form of this type of violence has almost the same characteristics as in the framework of controlling relationship. Although national surveys on VAW depict cases of situational couple violence as argued by Johnson, manifestation of economic abuse is not discovered within situational couple violence and therefore in non-controlling relationship.
Although situational couple violence can be perpetrated by either gender (Johnson 1995 and Straus 2010), I will concentrate on collecting data by women in situations when they are regarded as victims or survivors of domestic violence, and men are perpetrators. This approach will allow conducting comparative analysis of two data collected from general population and from the agencies as the latter presented exclusively by women.
The quantitate data will be based on data to be collected during survey in February-March 2018 in Belarus in the framework of implementation of the UNFPA project on domestic violence. The data will be collected to measure core indicators on VAW identified by the Friends of the Chair of the UN Statistical Commission. The questionnaire will be country-specific, but will replicate the methodology of the WHO multi-country study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence prepared by Henrica Jansen. The age of women will range 18 until 64; women will be represented by all regions of Belarus with n=1500.
The qualitative data will be obtained by interviewing women who will be living at the two shelters. One of them is operated by the NGO and located in Minsk, the capital; and another one is operated by the FBO and located in regional town Lida. Data from the agencies is vital because it helps to adjust the SEA-28 to the national context as well as to explore economic abuse in violent controlling relationship. It is predicted that DV victims will not respond to general population survey due to fear of violence escalation and feeling of insecurity.
Also there will be a call to action to participate in an interview on the specialized internet portals that ensures high coverage of general population all over Belarus. In order to ensure consistency of sampling, women will be selected amongst those who have maternity leave with children aged between 1.5 and 3 years old, and also they might have situational stress due to possible temporary unemployment and possible male partner’s financial dependency.
Women will be interviewed on three separate occasions over 12 month period and a grounded theory research approach will be utilized. The questionnaire will be based on the Checklist of Controlling Behaviors, which is an 84-item instrument divided into 10 subscales assessing physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, economic abuse, intimidation, threats, minimizing and denying, blaming, isolation and male privilege (Lehmann et al., 2012). The subscale on economic violence includes only economic control, therefore it will be augmented with the sub-categories of economic exploitation and employment sabotage of the SEA-28.