Costs of Violence Against Women and Children
the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre
Studies conducted in other countries indicate that the direct and indirect costs of violence against women and children on victim/survivors as well as the community at large are wide-ranging and extremely high in comparison to the costs involved in running preventative programs and crisis counselling services such as that of FWCC.
The costs of undisclosed violence on the women themselves covers a broad spectrum ranging from the death of the victim to murder of the abuser. Studies undertaken in several countries indicate that there is a strong correlation between domestic violence and homicide. Victims/survivors of violence may suffer from severe injuries and/or psychological damage. "A life-cycle perspective also reveals that violence experienced in one phase can have long-term effects that predispose the victim to severe secondary health risks such as suicide, depression and substance abuse". In cases of domestic violence, women have less bargaining power with regards to their sex life and so are more likely to have regular pregnancies and less control over family planning choices. Pregnant women in violent relationships risk having miscarriages and may face serious reproductive health problems. Apart from the physical injury and emotional trauma, survivors of sexual assault face the risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). The possibility of unwanted pregnancy in these cases is also substantial. Some children who observe domestic violence may incorporate violence into their own behaviour, thereby continuing the cycle of violence.
Women who are victims/survivors of violence bear the costs of seeking medical treatment as well as a loss of income or employment due to having to take time off work because of the violence. This leads to loss to employers and decreased productivity caused by absenteeism, and poor performances in the workplace by both the abusers and victims/survivors of violence.
Child sexual abuse remains a problem that is rarely talked about or reported in the Pacific region. Children who are sexually abused generally live with fear, guilt, loneliness and confusion. They often find it difficult to trust or believe people or form good relationships, They suffer from low self-esteem and are emotionally and physically damaged. Children who have been abused and adult survivors of child sexual abuse generally display a wide range of psychological problems that impact on their productivity in work or school environments leading to a loss of earning potential, and emotional problems that continue a long time after they have grown up.
There are many costs born by the community once violence against women and children become reported. The public sector bears the cost of health care which includes doctors, community and welfare workers and hospital costs such as surgery, x-rays, and dental costs. A considerable amount of police time is spent investigating crimes of violence against women and children. Sexual Offences Units are also set up and staffed to deal with cases involving the sexual assault of women and children. Special training is required for personnel in these Units.
Although a vast number of reported cases do not end up in court, once it does, law enforcement costs include the costs of processing restraining orders and the court process itself. The public sector bears the cost in cases where Legal Aid or a Public Legal Advisor is needed by the victim/survivor. In cases where domestic violence has led to the breakdown of a relationship the legal process often extends to maintenance and access cases being heard in the courts. Costs are also accrued if cases are appealed and go to higher courts. Women who leave relationships because of domestic violence bear the costs of relocating and setting up new lives for themselves and their children.
In cases where child sexual abuse cases are reported, Social Welfare Departments bear the cost of investigating these cases, providing counselling for the children, and removing children from danger and placing them in Homes for children. These Homes require staff and expenses to keep them running.
Violence is an obstacle to women’s participation in development projects and the workforce. It diverts women from pursuing their goals and denies developing countries the full talents of their female citizens. "Family control and violence encourage some of the best educated women to leave their countries, contributing to the brain drain and the loss of highly skilled women who could contribute to the development process."
Violence against women and children comes with many costs to victims/survivors, the public sector and the community. According to a study conducted in New Zealand, in 1994, the annual cost of family (domestic) violence in New Zealand is at least $1.2 billion. In a similar study conducted in New South Wales, Australia, in 1991, it was estimated that at least $800 million is either paid directly by victims or lost to them and those dependent on them annually. Just over $400 million was counted as direct costs to the government, $70 million of which was spent by court and legal systems and through child welfare and family support programs. These costs does not include costs to employers of absenteeism, poor concentration and loss of production capacity, which was estimated at $320 million.
The costs outlined above far outweigh the costs of crisis counselling and preventative measures built into projects such as that of the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre and other violence against women programs and services in the Pacific region.