07 March 2015

WIC helps people escape DV situations, and here's how.

Hello Again, Dear Readers

Thanks for dropping in.

Today I wanted to talk about WIC (Women, Infants, and Children), a program which helps get needed nutrition and medical referrals to low-income women and the children they care for.  In essence, it's an extension of the US food stamp system (called SNAP).

WIC is a program that falls under a lot of fire from Fiscal Conservatives, who see it as a handout and a defacto incentive for pregnancies that the woman can't take care of. While this may seem harsh, many of these conservatives want greater accountability for the father of the child, but there's no clear consensus on how to get that to happen.  That demand for accountability misses a key element in our modern world, which is that more and more women are entering the workforce and being the primary breadwinner, so greater male accountability doesn't necessarily mean greater earning potential.  AND... then there's the emotional component, what if the woman decided that particular person wasn't a good long-term partner?  Then we'd be forcing people into unhealthy relationships – and I don't think anyone would advocate for that.  

And that brings us to a hidden benefits of programs like WIC: these programs helps women with children to escape abusive relationships.  

That might sound like a far-fetched claim.  It certainly did to me at first, but after six months of working with the local SA/DV hotline and shelter in the Palouse (ATVP), I can tell you that it's the honest truth.  After an abuser has seduced/charmed their partner, the next job is to isolate that person.  Isolation has a lot of components, but one of the most effective ways to isolate a person is to limit their access to money.  Without money, one cannot access most transit (even most bus systems have a fare), one cannot get their own food, one cannot buy toothpaste, toilet paper, pay rent, etc.  Basically limiting money is the easiest way to completely lock a person down.

During any escape plan, there is a LOT of safety planning and forethought that goes into getting away.  The person needs to collect the documents for them and their children (IDs, birth certificates, Social Security Cards, etc.), plan on an opening where they know they'll have time to escape, determine how to keep themselves and their children safe after leaving (70% of DV homicides occur AFTER the abused partner has left), and figure out how they'll survive on their own (shelter, food, employment, etc.).

Which brings us to how WIC helps women and children to escape abusive partnerships: it's a lot easier to leave a batterer if you know that you won't starve to death.  Abuse is bad, but ultimately survival wins.  If a mother knows that she'll be able to feed her children, then she's much more likely to be able to escape a destructive relationship and go on to make a better life for herself and her children.

And that's yet another reason why programs like WIC are so important.

Thanks for reading.
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