Many survivors of domestic violence have experienced economic abuse — a powerful tactic used by batterers to gain power and control in a relationship — which can have devastating short- and long-term effects on survivors. As a result of experiencing economic abuse, survivors may find themselves in need of guidance and support with respect to their finances. When an abusive partner hides income, drains bank accounts, ruins credit, sabotages efforts to work or go to school, damages housing, or uses other tactics, survivors have a more difficult time maintaining a job, securing housing, and making financial ends meet.
Given these factors, economic security — the condition of having a stable living wage or other resources to support a quality standard of living — is all the more important for survivors and their families.
There are a variety of ways that advocates can work to support the economic empowerment of domestic violence survivors. Programs can incorporate asset building strategies into existing services to help increase survivors’ economic stability, including the promotion of Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) and micro enterprise development initiatives. Community-based asset building programs for domestic violence survivors have been shown to enhance survivors’ economic well being and independence. This tax season, advocates can assist survivors in claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and other credits that are available to low income individuals and families.
Resources are available to survivors and their advocates that can help on the pathway to realizing economic security. Two key initiatives are highlighted here.
WOW’s Economic Security Institute
46% of U.S. residents live in households that lack economic security, and women are more likely to lack economic security than are men (Wider Opportunities for Women, 2013).
Wider Opportunities for Women, a nonprofit organization working to build pathways to economic security and equality of opportunity for women, families and elders, recently developed the Economic Security Institute (ESI). The ESI’s collection of research and advocacy resources can help advocates employ an economic security framework in their efforts to help individuals and families build better lives.
The ESI is home to a variety of helpful interactive tools including policy updates on state-level legislation and research on individuals and families living with and without economic security. Their National Economic Security Measure Initiative is focused on the development of new measures of what Americans need to be economically secure. They also provide a commentaries section, a DC-Metro area self-sufficiency calculator, and an economic security scorecard, which grades state-level policies on their potential to improve the economic security of workers, families and retirees. The Economic Security Database provides guidance for measuring the income levels needed to achieve economic security. Finally, Economic Security in the States features an interactive map where users can access information on economic research, media coverage, and model organizations with respect to a particular state.
NNEDV & The Allstate Foundation’s Economic Justice Partnership
Whether a survivor of domestic violence is struggling to eat, find a safe place to live, hold a job, achieve academic goals, support children, seek asylum from cruelty, rebuild a life after an identity change, protect assets or overcome identity theft, Moving Ahead Through Financial Management curriculum can help (The AllState Foundation, 2010).
With a specific focus on domestic violence survivors, the Economic Justice Project of the National Network to End Domestic Violence works to strengthen advocates’ financial capabilities to better assist survivors move from short-term safety to long-term security, and to an economically sustainable independent life. The Project offers tools and information to help domestic violence survivors take charge of their debt, improve their credit score, learn about asset-building opportunities, and create a savings or retirement plan. Among the available resources on NNEDV’s website, survivors and advocates will find information on financial abuse, tips for survivors that are seeking to secure their financial future, a directory of agencies that may be helpful in economic and financial planning, and more.
NNEDV has worked in partnership with The Allstate Foundation to address the pervasive, destructive barriers that domestic violence poses to the safety and security of women and their families. The Allstate Foundation’s Economic Empowerment for Domestic Violence Survivors Program provides a holistic network of services for domestic violence victims and advocates that enable survivors to transition to stable, productive lives free from violence.
Of particular relevancy to survivors and their advocates is the Moving Ahead Through Financial Management Curriculum by NNEDV and The AllState Foundation which addresses financial abuse, financial fundamentals and foundations, mastering credit, budgeting strategies, and short-term planning.
What tools do you apply in your advocacy work to promote economic justice for survivors?