The Cost of Violence / by Corinne Mason

In March 2016, York University PhD student Mandi Grey presented $7 million in invoices to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to demonstrate the cost of sexualized violence. She created a survey online and 158 respondents calculated the costs associated with their experiences of sexual violence-- from legal costs, lost tuition fees from students unable to attend college and university because of their experiences, and mental health support costs. 

According to Gray, “Until the state provides adequate funding for victims to access legal services, victims of sexual assault will continue to pay emotionally, physically, socially, and economically for actions they never consented to." 

In my forthcoming book Manufacturing Urgency, I argue that relying on the economic costs of violence to communicate the urgency of the issue is too narrow, and that economic responses are too technical to combat complex systems of power which perpetuate gender-based violence. In the book, I focus on the World Bank's costing of violence against women, which deems violence as a obstacle to development, progress, and economic growth. 

For Gray and the 158 other respondents, measuring of cost of violence on their lives illustrates the brutal affects of violence, including the economic affects of coming forward as a survivor. 

The World Bank, on the other hand, is concerned with the cost of violence to the economy. That is, unlike Grey and the 158 other survivors of violence, the World Bank is concerned with how gender-based violence takes a toll on the economy. Using a formula called "disability-adjusted life years (DALYs)," the Bank calculates the cost of violence on the economy by measuring the loss of women's productive potential when injured or disabled, or otherwise unable to work. When women cannot work, they are assumed to be drains on the economy, which is in direct conflict with neoliberal prescriptions that call for drastic cuts to social and health services. 

And while Grey might be concerned with her inability to work, especially as bills for tuition and legal services stack up, the claims these survivors are making is that they have fallen through the cracks of a neoliberalized economy which doesn't support them, and that the economic toll they are paying is non-consensual-- an additonal form of violence. This economic critique illuminates the systemic and structural impacts of sexualized violence, and this difference matters.