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The hidden costs of domestic violence

admin | 2/15/2012, 7:30 a.m.

New bill to provide financial assistance to victims of intimate partner violence

The costs of domestic violence is usually measured in cuts, bruises, broken bones and even deaths that result from such abuse. Yet intimate partner violence can also result in millions of dollars in lost wages and lower productivity. According to a study by the National Center for Injury, Prevention and Control, abused women miss nearly 8 million days of paid work in a single year. However, a new bill under consideration by the Florida legislature may be able to help. If passed into law, the bill would allow people in abusive relationships who quit their jobs due to concerns about their safety to qualify for unemployment insurance if they provide reasonable documentation. Sisterhood of Survivors, a local non-profit organization for domestic violence victims, has been lobbying for the bills passage. One member, Reina Fernandez, explained that such assistance would have been helpful when her abusive ex-husband was harassing her while she worked at a Hialeah realty office 12 years ago. For months, her abuser visited her at work and even harassed her supervisor. There were a lot of death threats and you really never know when these abusers are going to go ahead and do what they say they are going to do, she said. I knew that even at some point that I would just have to leave. Eventually, the mother of three did leave her job and was forced to rely on food stamps to support her family until she found another position. If [domestic violence victims] have another option, we wouldnt have to stay and risk our lives or go and lose our income, Fernandez said. Currently, there is little financial assistance that Florida provides for such victims, according to attorney David Benjamin of the law firm, Benjamin and Melmer. Victims need more help, he said. A former prosecutor for the Miami-Dade County State Attorneys office, Benjamin was the chief prosecutor of the misdemeanor Domestic Violence Unit for two years. Usually, domestic violence victims are referred to the Victims Compensation Fund, which gives $1000 for relocation expenses for a misdemeanor crime. The domestic violence unemployment assistance bill was sponsored in the Senate, by Oscar Braynon II, a Miami Gardens Democrat. This bill, I believe, will save a life, Braynon explained. Im hopeful that it will pass before we end our [legislative] session in March. So far, 32 other states have passed similar legislation into law. By Kaila Heardkheard@miamitimesonline.com