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Following Janay Palmer's defense of her abusive relationship with Baltimore Ravens' running back Ray Rice, the Twitterverse engaged in an enlightening conversation with the hashtag: #whyistayed. The conversation featured countless stories of women who stayed in their abusive relationships and, more importantly, the reasons why they stayed. Overall, the discussion helped to shed light on why victims of domestic violence felt they could not leave an abusive environment.

Hotel Workers Domestic Violence

V-Day Board Member Kerry Washington noticed a recurring theme in this conversation that has been underestimated as a reason victims of abuse remain in toxic environments. Financial dependence on an abuser is an all-too-common reason that victims return to physical, mental, psychological, emotional, or spiritual abuse. This kind of abuse - financial abuse - when perpetrated in the home or by an intimate partner is a form of domestic violence. It's not only morally wrong - it's also illegal. In a new PSA that features Washington talking about financial abuse, she says, "Taking away access to cash, destroying credit, jeopardizing jobs -- financial abuse leaves invisible bruises that can take decades to heal."

The overwhelming number of the lowest paid workers in this industry - housekeepers - are women, who also are the overwhelming number of domestic violence victims.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence says, "For victims in all socioeconomic brackets, financial education is essential to breaking the cycle of violence." NCADV also finds that violence in the workplace plays a role in ending domestic violence. In 2012, the Society for Human Resource Management conducted a survey showing 36% of organizations report workplace violence. Another 2010 report from the United States Department of Labor showed a 13% increase in workplace homicides involving women. Despite these tragic reports, victims of domestic violence rely on a steady job with a decent wage as a key part of their escape plan. Because securing a job is often the key to a victim's plan for survival, it is essential that the survivor's working environment not repeat the cycle of abuse they are looking to leave at home.

The LA Times reports, "Thousands of L.A. hotel workers earn less than $15.37 an hour, with wages averaging around $9 for housekeepers, $11 for clerks and $12 for bellhops..." The overwhelming number of the lowest paid workers in this industry - housekeepers - are women, who also are the overwhelming number of domestic violence victims. In addition to holding the majority of the lowest paying hotel industry jobs, women also face the potential of sexual assault and harassment - hardly the kind of environment that would help someone establish the security needed to escape an abusive home.

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This week, the Los Angeles City Council will consider a proposal to raise the minimum wage for hotel workers to $15.37 an hour. This wage increase could not only save women's lives but also benefit the service industry as a whole. Evidence consistently shows the negative impact of domestic violence, as well as violence in the workplace, not only on the victim but also on the business itself. NCADV, by way of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reports that "the annual cost of lost productivity due to domestic violence equals $727.8 million."

The One Billion Rising campaign supports the initiative to raise the minimum wage for Los Angeles hotel workers. Financial security is a key component to ending violence against women and girls. And it makes economic sense, saving businesses from lost productivity costs. We call on the Los Angeles City Council to approve this proposal and be the reason women in Los Angeles will say: #whyileft.


Lindsay Horvath
Global Coordinator, One Billion Rising