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Women of Colour’s Experiences of Male Violence and Poverty

By Dani Plumari
July 4, 2020

72% of women who stay in our transition house are women of colour and Indigenous women. 78% of them live in poverty and 18% of them work in low paid jobs.

While Black women represent only 1.2% of all women in greater Vancouver, they make up more than 5% of the women calling our crisis line and 8% of the women living in our transition house.

While Indigenous women represent only 2.5% of all women in greater Vancouver, they make up more than 20% of the women calling our crisis line seeking safe shelter from an abusive male partner.

Statistics Canada shows that Indigenous women and women of colour are over represented among women experiencing income instability. While it’s important to highlight that men don’t discriminate when they choose to hurt women, they purposefully target those who are more vulnerable, often poor women, indigenous women, and women of colour.

In the first session of the training group for women preparing to volunteer with us on our crisis line, we ask: Why is it important for women to be financially independent?

Women need to have the autonomy to make real decisions, at the time she wants to. We’re talking about women deciding to leave abusive partners, knowing she will be able to provide shelter and food for her children, and be able to make this transition the least impactful as she possibly can. We’re talking about women deciding to leave jobs where their boss is sexually harassing them, knowing that she still has some money to pay next month’s bills until she finds a new and safe job. We’re also talking about women not having to self-represent in court when the legal aid hours run out, while their ex-partners can afford lawyers for as long as they need to.

Over the course of 46 years, our collective has responded to 46,889 women seeking our support in their escape of male violence. For many of those women, money—or rather, their lack of—was a factor, a tool used by their male partner to have access to them, to coerce them, to keep them trapped in abusive relationships, and to keep abusing them through the system build by white men, for men.

“We observe too that women who are trapped by extremes of age, by marriage, by disability or illness, by poverty and racism are more vulnerable to men who would abuse. They have fewer escape routes, fewer protectors, fewer safeguards, few routes to justice. So these women are chosen for that sexist abuse.” 

Lee Lakeman, Notes for an address to The People’s Tribunal on Commercial Sexual Exploitation, 2011

Men’s violence against women is used to control women; this violence can contribute to, and sustain women’s economic insecurity.

With a Guaranteed Livable Income, women would not have to be economically dependent on men. It would increase women’s ability to resist exploitation and abuse from bosses, co-workers, landlords, pimps, and battering husbands. Women could care for their children without the threat of economic insecurity. Women would also be in a better position to negotiate with their male partners and family members to take on their share of the responsibilities of care and domestic work. Women could more meaningfully engage in community organizing and public life. With economic security, more women could be in a position to offer leadership in society, and this would advance women’s equality.

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