By Rachel Motley
When folks discuss the race-gender wage gap, they not only often leave out women of color, immigrants, and LGBTQ individuals-- they fail to address how economic equality impacts violence against women. The race-gender wage gap creates relational power inequities that disproportionately impact women and create cycles violence. Constitutional equity has the power to rectify these systems in law, thus allow for women to live free from emotional and physical violence.
Coercive control is a form of domestic violence that uses intimidation, isolation, and sexual, economic, or legal oppression-- giving one partner the ability to manipulate and control the daily operations of another. For women, economic coercion is heightened by the race-gender wage gap. If women make less money than their male counterparts, they are unable to leave abusive situations because they cannot shoulder the economic burden. This fact is heightened by the cost of court fees, civil protection orders, and divorce-- at times making legal separation and protection economically inaccessible.
While working for a domestic violence legal clinic, survivors shared with me their stories, whether through powerful and vulnerable conversations or legal documentation. Through interacting with one survivor at the clinic, I came to understand the financial barriers to seeking divorce and protective orders; though she wanted to leave her abusive partner, she did not have the funds to do so. This reframed how I package the gender-race wage gap, placing the issue not only in the fight for economic equity, but also the process to eliminate violence against women.
My Vision For Equality is to create systems in which women can live free from violence and have access to resources needed to make their own choices. The ERA has the power to strengthen state domestic violence statutes to include coercive control, while also providing cause to reframe labor laws that advocate for equitable wages.
Rachel Motley is a Fellow with the National Organization for Women and a recent graduate of the University of Cincinnati.