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‘me too.’ and FreeFrom Release First COVID-19 Report Examining Disproportionate Social and Economic Impacts on Black and Brown Survivors of Sexual Violence

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 17, 2020

Press Inquiries: Sara Spain,

‘me too.’ and FreeFrom Release First COVID-19 Report Examining Disproportionate Social and Economic Impacts on Black and Brown Survivors of Sexual Violence

Study Highlights the Pandemic’s Long-Term Effects on the Safety and Well-Being of Survivors of Color, Recommends Seven Policy Actions to Curb Harmful Consequences

NEW YORK – Today, The ‘me too.’ Movement in partnership with FreeFrom released a comprehensive report examining the disproportionate social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on women of color who are also survivors of sexual and/or intimate partner violence. The study explores the short and long-term effects of the pandemic through the lens of racial inequities and offers seven specific action items that will help protect the safety, social, and economic well-being of survivors of color as the pandemic progresses and once the country is on a post-pandemic path to recovery.

Pre-pandemic, survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence already faced a range of social disadvantages related to financial well-being and the ability to recover from violence. Housing insecurity, medical care affordability, and economic insecurity posed significant structural burdens for survivors and for their healing journeys, especially for Black and Brown women. The study delves into the pandemic’s long-term effects to help shape policy discussions and community responses in ways that address the issues and systemic inequities that most impact the livelihood and well-being of survivors of color and that keeps them in unsafe situations.

“When it comes to issues such as safe and affordable housing, mental health support, and economic insecurity, survivors of sexual violence are most at risk, with Black and Brown survivors experiencing a ‘collision of crises’ that were already detrimental to communities of color,” said Tarana Burke, ‘me too.’ Founder and Executive Director. “COVID-19 has placed a spotlight on the ways in which our social and economic safety net catches some while allowing those who are most vulnerable to fall through the cracks.”

“As health and policy leaders continue to work on a vaccine and solutions to stop the spread, we hope this study encourages them to prioritize the immediate steps needed to keep those of us who don’t have the resources to recover as quickly as others on our feet. Survivors cannot wait. A one-time, $1,200 check will never be enough,” said Dani Ayers, ‘me too.’ Chief Executive Officer.

“COVID-19 has illuminated the severe lack of infrastructure that we have in the U.S. to support survivors’ long-term safety,” said Sonya Passi, Founder & CEO of FreeFrom. We need an ecosystem that includes every pillar of our society coming together to play their part in supporting a survivors’ recovery – state and federal legislatures, banks and credit card companies, employers, health insurance companies, and others. If we don’t use this moment to transform our approach, COVID-19 will come and go and survivors will still be trapped.”

Identifying the Economic Impact of COVID-19 on Survivors of Color was born from a survey and study conducted by lead researcher Elena Ruíz, Ph.D., Yanet Ruvalcaba, M.S., and Nora Berenstain, Ph.D. and a report they compiled with Steph Fluegeman, MPH

Key findings of the report include:

  • Survivors of color who are essential workers experienced high economic insecurity during COVID-19 at twice the rate of white survivors.
  • 83.9% of essential workers of color report experiencing food insecurity during COVID-19 vs. 57.4% of white essential workers.
  • 78.7% of essential workers of color report experiencing housing insecurity during COVID-19 vs. 56.9% of white essential workers.
  • The average amount of financial resources that Black and Brown women survivors had sole access to was nearly six times less than that of white women survivors ($1,612 vs. $9,288).
  • 8 out of 10 essential workers of color are facing housing insecurity, compared to 6 out of 10 white essential workers.
  • Survivors who experienced landlord sexual coercion were 39% more likely to experience food and housing insecurity than those who did not.
  • A higher proportion of women survivors of color who experienced financial abuse reported that their financial situation would likely cause them to stop or change their education, or other training programs (75%)  when compared to the proportion of  their white women counterparts  (54%).
  • The proportion of Black and Brown women survivors who were unable to  pay multiple bills due to COVID-19 was more than twice that of survivors who were white women or non-Black and  Brown women of color.

Research findings are based on a survey of 737 individuals over the age of 18, who also identified as survivors of sexual violence and/or intimate partner violence, conducted between July 23, 2020 and July 27, 2020. The full report can be downloaded here.

“COVID-19 has further exacerbated persistent inequalities in America and for people of color, especially survivors of intimate partner violence. The impacts of the pandemic have only put them in greater danger, “ says Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA), who helped introduce the Bringing an End to Harassment by Enhancing Accountability and Rejecting Discrimination (The BE HEARD Act) in the Workplace Act in 2019.  “These devastating numbers give us a clear roadmap: we must close the inequity gaps that prevent all survivors from being safe and secure, both physically and economically, and we must change our culture to stop harassment and abuse.”

“This report makes clear we are facing a pandemic of economic and physical insecurity among survivors, particularly survivors of color,” said Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Co-Chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus. “As Republican dysfunction and callous disregard stifle relief efforts, survivors are struggling to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. Those with fewer financial resources are tragically reporting a higher likelihood of returning to an abusive partner, likely out of necessity. We can’t sugarcoat what this means: women’s lives are under dire threat because our government is abdicating its responsibility to provide necessary resources for domestic violence shelters, nutrition assistance, child care, housing, and unemployment compensation. It’s not only a policy catastrophe but also a moral failure, and survivors are paying the price.”