Commentary: I-1433’s leave policies would aid victims of domestic violence

By Traci Underwood

When a victim of domestic violence is trying to escape from an abusive partner, the last decision she should have to make is whether to get herself or her kids to safety or lose a paycheck.

But for too many Washington women, not having access to paid time off can mean the difference between staying in a dangerous situation or having the time they need to get out from under an abuser’s control.

Initiative 1433 will allow more than 1 million Washington workers to earn paid sick and safe leave and raise the state minimum wage to $13.50 over four years. That’s why I’m voting “Yes” on I-1433 this November, and I hope you do, too.

The reality is that 1 in 3 women experience intimate partner violence at some point in their lives. Barriers to getting safe and stable are varied, but many survivors report that they stay in abusive situations out of economic necessity or financial dependence.

Paid sick and safe leave offers domestic violence survivors a lifeline to care for themselves and their families, find a secure living situation, seek medical attention and even go to court — without losing a paycheck.

As someone who has worked with survivors of domestic violence for 15 years, this story is all too familiar. A waitress without paid safe leave who chooses to go to court for her protection order hearing sacrifices a day’s pay. If her abuser does not show up and they push the hearing out two more weeks, that means that she must again decide between the protection order or being able to pay her bills that month.

And making sure domestic violence survivors can take a day or two off of work when they’re getting out of an abusive situation makes everyone else safer, too. Consider that 78 percent of women’s fatalities in the workplace are at the hands of their abuser. What if they had the opportunity to take steps to keep themselves and their kids safe without losing wages or job security? Initiative 1433 can help.

Both components of Initiative 1433 will help create more financial security for domestic violence survivors, a critical component of helping someone get out of an abusive situation. By raising the minimum wage to $13.50 over four years, Initiative 1433 would put $600 more in the pockets of a minimum wage worker — 6 in 10 of whom are women. When survivors have access to more money, they have more options and a greater ability to make choices that keep them safe. Abusers often seek to control their partners through financial means. Raising the minimum wage and allowing survivors to take paid time off is a critical step to helping Washington women.

No mother should have to worry about showing up for her shift on time when she’s afraid and needs to find a safe place for her and her kids to go.

Supporting survivors keeps our workplaces, our families and our communities safer. Vote “Yes” on Initiative 1433 in November.

Traci Underwood is the economic justice coordinator for the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

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