Program examines economic toll of domestic violence
Public Relations - Published: February 21, 2014
While domestic violence is often discussed in terms of the physical toll of lost lives and injured victims, a program on the Delaware campus recently focused on the tragedy’s economic costs.

The evening, presented by the student-run Widener Journal of Law, Economics and Race, provided two hours of discussion on “Domestic Violence in the Law.” The event happened in the Ruby R. Vale Moot Courtroom, with an interactive video hookup to the Harrisburg campus. The journal is published jointly by the school’s two law campuses.

“I’ve had many victims scream at me, or scream at a police officer, ‘Who’s going to pay the mortgage? Where are we going to live?’” Assistant District Attorney Michelle Frei of the Chester County, Pa. District Attorney’s Office said of challenges that an abuser’s arrest can create for a victim. “We’re not God and we can’t solve all the problems, but it’s very real, and very difficult.”

The cost of intimate partner violence exceeds $5.8 billion a year, with $4.1 billion in direct medical care and mental health treatment, said Delaware Deputy Attorney General Patricia Dailey Lewis ‘85, a family law adjunct professor on the Delaware campus. Unemployment and the national recession add to victims’ troubles, Dailey said. Women whose intimate partners experienced two or more job losses over three years are three times more likely to be domestic violence victims.

“This cuts across all socio-economic levels of our society,” she said.

Housing was a major focus of the evening, with speaker Emily Werth, a fellow with the National Women’s Law Center, discussing municipal ordinances and “crime-free” lease requirements that can further victimize victims, by authorizing landlords to evict tenants from homes where crimes have been committed or police have been summoned a certain number of times.

“Victims of domestic violence end up being evicted from their homes because of a crime that happened against them by an abuser,” Werth said.

Those trying to find new, safe homes can also be stymied, said speaker Elizabeth Marx of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, a 2010 graduate of the Harrisburg campus. Landlords fear property damage and if they see a history of domestic violence in a person’s background they may hesitate to rent a property. Half of homeless women and children have said domestic violence was the catalyst for their homelessness, she said.

The Widener Journal of Law Economics and Race provides a forum, entirely online, for in-depth analysis and academic discourse on issues involving the intersection of the law, race and economics. To read more visit the journal’s website at blogs.law.widener.edu/wjler.