NCJW campaign eyes importance of financial security in combating domestic violence

Marlene Hammerman


When we think of solutions to the problem of domestic violence, we often think of addressing a woman’s immediate needs in order to keep her safe-shelters, hot- lines, and orders of protection. We don’t often think of what can be done long term to eradicate domestic violence-changing the dynamic of one of the major factors in domestic violence – women’s financial security. That is why the National Council of Jewish Women has created a campaign around the intersection of domestic violence and women’s financial security – Higher Ground.

Although we know that each year 1.3 million women will experience abuse in an intimate relationship, and that over our lifetime, one in four American women will experience abuse, we don’t often relate these numbers to money. However, the following statistics illustrate that there is a strong connection:

• While domestic violence is a factor in approximately 6 percent of all U.S. households, 20 to 30 percent of women receiving welfare are current victims of domestic violence.

• Intimate partner violence affects people regardless of income. However, people with lower annual income are at a three-times higher risk of intimate partner violence than people with higher annual income.

• A woman who leaves her abusive partner faces a 50 percent chance that her standard of living will drop below the poverty line.

• Women in the US lose nearly 8 million days of paid work each year because of domestic violence.

Higher Ground works to connect the dots between domestic violence and financial security, and works to end domestic violence by improving the economic status of women. Rooted, in the understanding that economic security is critical to women’s safety, Higher Ground educates and mobilizes advocates, community-members, and decision makers to promote progressive policy solutions that champion women’s economic security.

As an advocacy and education campaign, Higher Ground realizes that, while emergency interventions that shelters, hotlines, and other service programs provide are essential for women in crisis, more must be done to create systemic change, because no woman should have to choose between personal safety and economic stability for herself and her children.

With the launch of Higher Ground in 2010 at NCJW’s Washington Institute, NCJW sections from all around the country were informed about several pieces of legislation that impact women’s financial security and lobbied on these issues on Capitol Hill.

One of those bills, the Paycheck Fairness Act, aims to further economic equality in the workplace by strengthening our nation’s laws against wage discrimination (women still only make 78 cents for every dollar a man makes doing the same work). Another, the Healthy Families Act, would create a basic workplace standard of paid sick days-days that could be used by survivors of domestic violence to get an order of protection or meet with her attorney.

This bill would also help part-time workers (often women) so they would not have to choose between their health or the health of their children and their job security.

Neither of these bills has passed in Congress, but NCJW will continue to advocate for their passage, as well as to advocate for other pieces of legislation that advance women’s financial security, such as:

• Making work pay by raising the minimum wage, promoting equal pay, and encouraging family-friendly workplace policies;

• Creating pathways out of poverty for women and girls by investing in education and job training, and

• Shoring up our nation’s safety net so that women and families in crisis receive the services they need to cover and rebuild.

The St. Louis Section has already begun its Higher Ground campaign, by bringing together leaders in the domestic violence and financial literacy communities. Led by NCJW Higher Ground chair, Marilyn Ratkin, this committee is working to educate the St. Louis community on the intersection between domestic violence and women’s economic security and to increase our number of advocates for public policy changes at the local, state, and national level. You can sign up to be part of NCJW’s domestic violence campaign at

Higher Ground, by targeting one of the root causes of the problem of domestic violence, works to create systemic and meaningful change; change that will help end domestic violence and make shelters, hot-lines, and orders of protection less needed. NCJW’s hope is that every step a woman takes to become more financially secure, she will be safer and on higher ground.

For more information, contact the NCJW office at 314-993-5181.

Local Commentary

Marlene Hammerman is NCJW National Chair, Higher Ground Campaign.