On Wednesday, Turning Point hosted a press conference for domestic violence survivors, researchers and community activists, hoping to make people aware of its economic impact and the need for earned sick leave for survivors and victims of domestic violence.                                
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Most people are aware of the physical abuse associated with domestic violence.

On Wednesday, Turning Point hosted a press conference for domestic violence survivors, researchers and community activists, hoping to make people aware of its economic impact and the need for earned sick leave for survivors and victims of domestic violence.

“When we think about domestic violence against women — it is the black eye and busted lip that comes to mind — but my research has shown economic abuse is just as common in abusive relationships,” said Dr. Adrienne Adams, a researcher and assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University.

Adams said her research was prompted by her own experience of having worked at a women’s shelter and seeing for herself the financial fallout of domestic violence, things like women being denied access to money or being told they could rely on their abusers for childcare only to find out minutes before leaving for work that they were on their own.

Victims of domestic violence miss nearly 8 million days of paid work –- the equivalent of more than 32,000 full-time jobs. Between 25 and 50 percent of domestic violence victims reported getting laid off, at least in part, due to domestic violence. These were two of the statistics Adams shared with the group gathered at Turning Point in Mount Clemens, which provides shelter and programs to victims/survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

It’s also the reasoning behind a new law being addressed by Michigan legislators.

The bill known as the “Paid Sick Leave Act,” would require employers to provide paid sick leave to certain employees; to specify the conditions for accruing and using paid sick leave; to prohibit retaliation against an employee for requesting, exercising, or enforcing rights granted in this act; to prescribe powers and duties of certain state departments, agencies, and officers; to provide for promulgation of rules; and to provide remedies and sanctions.

“Getting back on your feet after surviving from domestic violence takes time – more time than most of us can imagine. Every week, we see survivors who are unable to fully access their rights in our criminal justice system because they are simply unable to take the time off work that it takes to exercise their rights,” said Carmen Wargel, chair of the Macomb Community Domestic Violence Council. “It is past time for our elected leaders to ensure that survivors have a full range of opportunity for a peaceful life.”

Adams concurred.

“Paid sick leave is a critical resource for domestic violence survivors because their financial well-being and safety are inextricably linked,” said Adams, who will be providing testimony in Lansing to support the new law. “Having earned sick leave helps give survivors the financial stability they need to seek safety and continue working to support themselves and their families.”

Just ask Kalyn Risker, who was among the domestic violence survivors in attendance. She suffered through several years of economic abuse similar to the examples given by Adams including missing a lot of work due to daycare problems created by her abusive boyfriend. He would promise to watch their daughter and never show up. He also liked to hide her keys causing her to be late for work. In 1998, when his abuse escalated to assault, Risker suffered a shattered bone under her left eye. Since she was not working at the time she was able to travel to the hospital for treatments and surgeries – she was not allowed to stay overnight as she had no health insurance and set the wheels of justice in motion with regards to charges against her boyfriend. However, once she was working again could not afford any time off.

“Had I been able to attend later on during the trial I think he would have gotten more time (than 5 years-probation),” said Risker, who went on to create Sisters Acquiring Financial Empowerment (SAFE), an organization that promotes economic independence by assisting survivors of domestic violence through specialized training focused on gaining or building the skills needed to renter the workforce or obtain higher paying positions and manage their finances through a network of shelters and domestic violence agencies.

“Earned sick leave would provide victims and survivors of domestic violence with guaranteed paid time off when they need it most,” said Risker. “With access to earned sick leave, survivors could create a better life for themselves and their families. It’s time for our representative to get this type of law on the books.”