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Unpaid Leave for Domestic and Sexual Violence Survivors

January 26, 2021
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WRITTEN BY Dr. Jill Barnas

No protections currently exist for domestic and sexual assault survivors regarding leave from employment for essential services related to the abuse. Essential services include residential, health, social, and legal assistance. SB 16 would establish unpaid leave if a person, family, or household member is a survivor of domestic or sexual violence and would require employers to maintain health coverage for the employee while on leave.


  • Domestic and sexual violence affects all genders, races, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic statuses. There is a disproportionate prevalence of domestic and sexual violence amongst women and ethnic minorities.
  • In 2019, Missouri domestic and sexual violence programs were unable to meet the needs of 41% of service requests.
  • Victims may experience domestic distractions at work or lose their jobs as a result of domestic and sexual violence. The impacts of losing employment are much greater for ethnic minorities and those who make lower wages.


  • Numbers of domestic and sexual violence are likely underreported, for reasons including shame, embarrassment, and fear of retaliation.
    • The terminology ‘domestic violence’ and ‘intimate partner violence’ are used interchangeably and often combined into one statistic.
  • Twelve states offer employment protections and leave specific to survivors; current program outcomes have not been evaluated.
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