Women Employed Partners with Michael Reese to Launch Report on Economic Empowerment for Survivors of Domestic Violence

January 31st, 2022

This report seeks to better understand the barriers to economic independence for survivors of domestic violence.

CHICAGO –Today, Women Employed launched a new research report entitled, “Intersecting Barriers: Challenges to Economic Empowerment for Domestic Violence Survivors,” highlighting the barriers to economic independence for survivors of domestic violence in the Chicagoland area. Produced with support from the Michael Reese Health Trust, the 49-page report investigates the needs and gaps faced by survivors in the Chicago metropolitan area, leveraging the insights of workforce development professionals, domestic violence advocates, and survivors in recommending policy and practice solutions.

In 2020, during the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Illinois Domestic Violence Hotline witnessed a 16 percent increase in calls for help. This was due in part to an amplified lack of financial security faced by many women during the pandemic, causing them to return to their abusive partners. This is an even greater cause for concern for Black and Latina/x women who disproportionately face some of the greatest poverty gaps. As noted in the New England Journal of Medicine, “Economic independence is a critical factor in violence prevention. For many people who experience IPV [intimate partner violence], the financial entanglement with an abusive partner is too convoluted to sever without an alternative source of economic support. The pandemic has exacerbated financial entanglement by causing increased job loss and unemployment, particularly among women of color, immigrants, and workers without a college education”.

In the report, Women Employed used an exploratory mixed-methods study conducted in the Chicagoland area utilizing data from online surveys, focus groups, and interviews, with participants from three constituencies: almost 50 domestic violence survivors, domestic violence advocates from 9 organizations, and workforce development professionals from 14 organizations. The report emphasizes that solutions must be systemic and holistic, including a need for improved public policies and more effective and meaningful working relationships between domestic violence and workforce development organizations to better meet, understand, and advocate for the diverse needs of survivors. The report represents an action item within the City of Chicago’s Strategic Plan to Address Gender-Based Violence.

“Our partner organizations and the domestic violence survivors we spoke to provided rich insight into the barriers and possibilities in paving an economically viable path to safety and healing,” said Sharmili Majmudar, Executive Vice President of Policy and Organizational Impact at Women Employed. “As an organization committed to enabling more low-paid women to acquire better-quality jobs with family sustaining wages and financial independence, it is critical we take action to meet the needs of survivors. Within the group of low-paid women facing barriers to economic advancement, domestic violence survivors have been particularly hard hit, even prior to the pandemic.”

“Michael Reese supports the work of this report because of our longstanding interest in ensuring that domestic violence survivors can connect to safety and stability,” said Jennifer Rosenkranz, Director of Grant Programs at Michael Reese Health Trust.  “We are excited that this report provides actionable recommendations on policies, practices, and cross-sector collaborations that offer solutions to the many economic challenges faced by survivors.”

To download the full report, visit: Intersecting Barriers – Women Employed

To access a recording of the report launch webinar, which took place earlier today, contact Racquel Fullman at [email protected] or 312-319-2541.


Women Employed (WE) is an almost 50-year-old advocacy organization that pursues equity for women in the workforce by effecting policy change, expanding access to educational opportunities, and advocating for fair and inclusive workplaces so that all women, families, and communities can thrive. Our mission is to improve the economic status of women and remove barriers to economic equity, with the bold social goal of closing the wealth gap at the intersection of race and gender. For more information, visit womenemployed.org, or follow @WomenEmployed on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.


Racquel C. Fullman
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