Restraining Order Often Costly for Women

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FRIDAY, March 13, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Asking a judge for a restraining order against an abusive partner can lead to lower earnings for women, a new study suggests.

University of Pittsburgh researchers studied the earnings of nearly 4,000 women in Allegheny County, Penn., between January 1995 and December 2000. Those who sought a restraining order lost between $312 and $1,018 in earnings in the year after seeking the order, the investigators found.

The researchers also found that the women did not recover those financial losses later, according to the study in the journal American Sociological Review.

"Our study convincingly shows that women's petitioning for a [restraining order] does not come with either short- or long-term increases in earnings growth," Melanie Hughes, an associate professor of sociology, said in a journal news release.

"We cannot offer women a restraining order as a tool to stop abuse and then walk away. We need to offer women other forms of support, especially economic ones, during this unstable time," she added.

Study co-author Lisa Brush, a professor of sociology, said the study demonstrates the inadequacy of the three mechanisms -- work, welfare, and protective orders -- that women are expected to use to escape from abusive relationships.

"Sometimes, a woman can't afford to 'just leave.' Sometimes, a protective order is just a piece of paper," Brush added. "Sometimes, abusers sabotage women's employment, run up their bills, or take their paychecks. And sometimes, the turmoil of abuse and the petitioning process causes not just a short-term shock but a decline in earnings that takes years to make up."

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about domestic violence.