As the economy worsens, job seekers are growing more frustrated with their inability to find decent work. This crisis is even more acute for a certain sector of society, victims of domestic violence. Second Chance Employment Services was founded specifically to help these women find good jobs, even in a bad economy.
According to a survey of studies conducted by the United States General Accounting Office (GAO), "the effects of domestic violence on a woman's job performance can make it difficult for some battered women to maintain their employment or to advance in their jobs."
The largest study ever conducted on economic security and domestic violence, entitled, Voices of Survival, The Economic Impacts of Domestic Violence: A Blueprint for Action, noted that "An independent source of income is the single most significant indicator that a woman will be able to permanently leave an abuser."
It was from my frustration with the lack of employment services for battered women that I decided to found Second Chance Employment Services in 2002. I saw the résumés of too many women with gaps in their employment history get ignored by hiring professionals. I witnessed too many women coming out of domestic violence shelters return to their abusers because they couldn't find a job that would support themselves and their children.
Despite the daunting facts about abuse victims and their inability to find and maintain good jobs, Second Chance Employment Services has spent the past nine years overcoming the obstacles these women face. To date, we have secured over 700 career-track jobs with health benefits for victims of domestic violence, with salaries ranging from $32,000 to $98,000 per year.
But Second Chance, the nation's only no-fee employment placement agency dedicated to victims of domestic violence, still faces an uphill battle.
According to a NOW Legal Defense Fund report, "Studies show that 24 to 52 percent of surveyed battered women had lost their jobs -- at least in part -- because of domestic violence." Further, the report finds that "Batterers sabotage women's ability to work in other ways by failing to provide promised child care or transportation, stealing car keys or money, hiding clothing, or inflicting visible injuries."
As a career woman myself, a human resources professional to be exact, I've seen first hand what studies like these only report in dry figures. I've personally witnessed women losing their jobs because of domestic abuse, and I've watched them in their struggles to find new work. The challenges faced by these women are bad enough in a good economy, but in a bad economy, they're seemingly impossible to overcome.
The current economy has caused an increase in abuse, making the work of Second Chance even more crucial. In 2009, the Associated Press reported the number of abuse and neglect cases rose 23% in Fairfax County, Va.; 29% in Montgomery County, Md.; and 18% in the District of Columbia. The Washington Post reported, "Counselors across Northern Virginia said they have seen many of their clients, mostly women, return to their partners' home faster than usual because they have been unable to support themselves... In some cases, the women return to the shelter within the month because they were abused again."
Second Chance was created to fill a much needed gap in victim's services -- finding victims an independent source of income so they can permanently escape abuse -- and it has been recognized time and again for the creative work we do. Second Chance was even given the prestigious Award for Innovation in Victims Services by the United Stated Department of Justice.
With the economy still dragging, and jobless numbers increasing, Second Chance provides a much needed service for the least vulnerable of all job-seekers, victims of domestic violence.
Even as we ourselves face a tightening budget and watch countless non-profits close their doors for a lack of funding, we'll continue to keep our doors open, so we can open the doors to meaningful employment for the women we serve.
If you would like to find information about Second Chance Employment Services go to our website www.scesnet.org or contact at 1-888-331-7451.