Italy: a survey on economic violence against women

Within the project Conto su di me (I count on me), funded by the Italian Equal Opportunities Department, a survey on economic violence was carried out with the aim to increase the knowledge about the characteristics and the incidence of a type of violence particularly hard to recognize such as economic violence.The survey involved 245 women supported by 8 Women Centres in the areas of Padova, Venezia, Treviso e Belluno.

The women who participated in the survey

Overall about two thirds of the women who participated in the survey are aged between 35 and 54; more than 60% of them have a medium-high level of education and 60% say they are employed, although mostly part-time, and, in more than 20% of the cases, in occasional and/or precarious work. Almost 90% have children. The data show that more than 60% of women are homeowners; however, in half of the cases, a mortgage weighs on the house. Overall more than 60% of the women who participated in the survey say they are to some extent (33,6% partial and 27,7% total) economically independent. 61,2% of women who do not enjoy economic independence declare to be economically dependent on their partner. The figures show that most women believe their income is not sufficient: actually, 45,9% believe their income is insufficient and 12,4% even non-existent.

What is economic violence

Economic violence refers to several situations directed to control, damage and subject someone economically and financially. In most cases, this form of violence consists of a set of strategies which prevent the woman from deciding and/or acting independently and freely according to her desires and life choices. In many cases economic violence coexists with other forms of violence (physical, psychological and sexual) and it often constitutes a concrete obstacle for women who decide to leave a violent relationship and to go their own way.

The incidence of economic violence

Nearly 70% of the 245 women involved in the survey said that they were or had been experiencing economic violence; whereas as many as 13,1% proved to be undecided and opted for the answer “I don’t know”. Data show that the most common examples of economic violence are: not letting the woman know about family income (9,6%), not letting her go grocery shopping (7,1%) or use the credit card (6,6%), to receive money from the partner – not always enough money - for the daily or weekly shopping for the family (6,8%) or to receive from the partner a sort of monthly pocket money on which she is supposed to give a minute-by-minute account (6,5%).

The level of awareness about economic violence

It can be hard for a woman to recognize or admit that she has experienced or is experiencing economic violence. On one hand, its forms reflect the patriarchal pattern of the management of the household; on the other hand, specific economic and financial knowledge is required in order to recognize this particular kind of violence. This is clearly shown by the data: as many as 60,5% of women who answered “No” to the question “Do you believe you are suffering economic violence?” also say they actually experienced at least one of the situations which fit with it. And women who answered “I don’t know” represent 87,5%. The survey shows a lack of awareness about the economic violence experienced as a whole, even though the level of awareness tends to increase with the age of the women and their financial and economic independence.

The intensity of violence

The survey reveals that a significant number of women are not just unaware that they suffer economic violence but they experience it in a particularly intense way. Forms of economic violence characterized by deprivation or control (ex. not having access to a shared bank account and/or to a credit card) tend to have a higher intensity among women in difficult socio economic conditions. Women of medium-high socio economic status, on the contrary, suffer more from violence characterized by a coercive element (ex. to be forced to go into debt, to act as figurehead or to sign documents “in trust” in favour of their partner).

A cross-cutting phenomenon

Economic violence may affect women of any age and social status. However, the data show that socio-economic groups of higher level seem to be more likely to recognize it and, above all, to have more tools to find a way out of an abusive relationship.


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