Financial abuse is pervasive, crippling, and often hidden. Though less apparent than physical or emotional abuse, financial perpetrators prevent their victims from acquiring, using, or maintaining financial resources. Abusers isolate spouses or partners, preventing them from work or transportation or seizing victims’ income. Victims may have their spending tightly monitored and restricted by a partner or worry excessively about how their partner will react to simple, everyday purchases.
Money and finances play an important role for many victims when considering whether to leave an abusive relationship. Behind fear, financial factors are the strongest predictor of a victim’s decision to stay, leave, or return to an abusive relationship. Many survivors have limited or no access to money or have had their financial security destroyed by their abuser.
Economic empowerment is the key to breaking the cycle of violence over generations. Financial stability and self-sufficiency are necessary precursors for leaving and abstaining from abusive relationships. Over 10 years, the Allstate Foundation has given more than $40 million to national, state, and local domestic violence programs through its partnership with the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) to support economic empowerment services. Since 2005, the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence (KCADV) and its member programs–including Safe Harbor in Ashland–have received more than $1 million in grants for this work.
In addition to grant dollars, financial education sessions with Allstate agents provide survivors and advocates the opportunity to connect with professionals in the financial mainstream–often a first opportunity for victims of financial abuse. I am grateful for the opportunity to connect with those in need in my own community. Volunteering with survivors at Safe Harbor has been a truly rewarding experience, which has offered me a deepened understanding of barriers to self-sufficiency for survivors and a chance to empower members of my community to become financially strong.
Survivors are often faced with the devastation of leaving behind a home, income, and sense of financial security when leaving abusers. Regardless of a survivor’s education, job skills, or personal earning potential, all survivors must overcome the challenge of financial stability if they are to care for their families and live more safe and secure lives.
Safe Harbor provides survivors with emergency shelter, individual and group counseling, services for children who have witnessed violence, and tools to achieve financial stability. Generous funding from the Allstate Foundation funds a Car IDA program for survivors–a one-to-one matched savings program, which helps survivors secure reliable transportation to and from work. Allstate Foundation funding also supports a credit-building microloan program, financial education and counseling, and asset-building services–demonstrating the Foundation’s belief in the financial potential of each individual and supporting families’ access to the American dream.
If you suspect a friend or family member is in an abusive relationship, the most important thing you can do is to let them know that they have support and options to leave the relationship. If you are concerned about the safety of your friend or family member, or to learn about victim services in your area, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224.