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Commemorating Women’s History Month, Equal Pay Day, and the Importance of Economic Justice for Survivors

March 29, 2022

A message from Deborah J. Vagins, National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) President and CEO:

March has been an incredibly busy month here at NNEDV. From celebrating the long-awaited reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), to publishing our 16th Annual Domestic Violence Counts Report, to commemorating Women’s History Month and several awareness days for issues that impact domestic violence survivors—including National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, International Women’s Day, Equal Pay Day, and the International Transgender Day of Visibility—our team has been working hard and showing up for our member coalitions and the local programs, advocates, and survivors they serve.

Earlier this month, we also hosted our fifth annual (and second virtual) Economic Justice Summit. Under the theme “Financial Wellbeing: Taking Care of Ourselves and Our Communities,” the virtual conference brought together more than 250 advocates, state and territorial domestic violence coalition staff, national experts, and allies to examine the systems that inform economic justice work; share concrete and innovative tools; identify emerging issues—including national and local policy solutions—and strengthen partnerships between the movement to end domestic violence and the anti‐poverty movement.

I was honored to present an opening keynote at the EJ Summit, as well as participate in a panel about paid leave and pay inequity analysis, especially in the context of domestic violence and financial abuse. Increasing survivors’ economic stability to help them move from short-term safety to long-term security and economically sustainable, independent lives has long been at the forefront of NNEDV’s work. The intersection of our nation’s multiple crises—COVID-19, ongoing racial injustice, and our broken economic infrastructure—has deeply impacted survivors. Our economic justice work could not be more important than it is now.

As the pandemic has drawn on, not surprisingly, we have seen how its ripple effect continues to exacerbate existing racial and gender-based inequities in our culture. According to the Center for American Progress, Black women and Latinas have been especially likely to be in front-line jobs responding to the crisis, while having less economic stability because they disproportionately work in some of the hardest-impacted sectors.

We also know that moms are dropping out of the workforce at high rates because of the lack of support and childcare. Job losses can force survivors to be even more financially dependent on their abusers—as well as threaten to worsen gender wage gaps when women regain employment. Pay gaps contribute to wealth gaps, and those follow women throughout their lifetime.

According to the American Association of University Women, on average, a woman working full-time in the United States earns 83 cents for every dollar that a non-Hispanic white man earns. This past March 15 was Equal Pay Day—representing how far into 2022 the average woman has to work to make the same as a man in did in 12 months in 2021. These wage gaps are much wider for Women of Color, women with disabilities, immigrant women, older women, and other women experiencing marginalization. There’s much more work to be done to ensure everyone can work safely and be paid fairly—including survivors of domestic violence, who often struggle financially to support themselves after leaving an abusive partner.

There are many pieces of critical federal legislation that would address these and other economic justice problems, which NNEDV continues to work on with our partner organizations, including the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Healthy Families Act, and the Raise the Wage Act, among others. Unfortunately, progress has been slow, despite the overwhelming need for reform and workplace protections that have only been laid bare during the pandemic.

Even so, I am tremendously proud of the strides we have made in economic justice work during this month and throughout the year. Since joining the organization, my vision has been to expand and enhance our capacity to address domestic violence and economic justice; to knit together our economic justice programmatic and policy work in a more robust way; and to deepen the financial empowerment and economic justice resources available to domestic violence survivors, which will ultimately enhance survivors’ long-term safety and economic security.

We invite you to join our listserv so you can stay informed and get involved. You can also take action on important legislation and learn more about our economic justice and financial empowerment work, including:

  • Subscribing to The Resolve, our policy-focused newsletter, so you’re among the first to know when we need your voice on Capitol Hill;
  • Learning about our Economic Justice project, founded to respond to, address, and prevent financial abuse;
  • Reading more about our Independence Project, which helps survivors improve their credit scores through micro-lending; and
  • Checking out the Moving Ahead Curriculum, in partnership with The Allstate Foundation, which strengthens advocates’ financial capabilities to better assist survivors moving from short-term safety to long-term security.

We know there is a lot of work ahead, and I know our team—and coalitions, programs, and advocates—are more than ready. As we look toward Financial Literacy Month in April, we’re excited to keep these conversations at the front of the national agenda.