July 29, 2014

Strength to Leave: "Moving Ahead Through Financial Management" illustrates that domestic violence must be addressed holistically

Domestic violence exists as a multi-faceted problem.

You often hear, "Well, why didn't she just leave?" with no real thought behind it. When you build a life with someone, you entangle yourself to that person. Without the tools to disentangle, even a normal relationship can be hellish to leave.

With abusive relationships, you have the added dimension of a partner that very well may be manipulating the situation to keep a person isolated. This abuser may have cut their victim off from friends and family. He or she may have taken control of the finances of the household, so that the victim doesn't feel able to leave from a monetary standpoint.

Meg Fry of NJBiz recently discussed the impact of financial education on victims of domestic violence. Fry first reminds us of how serious an issue this really is:
One out of every four women is being socially and financially isolated from everyone other than her abuser. 
One out of every four women — regardless of social or economic success — has had her credit destroyed or access to her money denied. 
And one out of every four women has considered her financial situation a factor in whether or not to leave her abuser.
Fry goes on to explain the results of a curriculum that educated victims of domestic violence on financial management:
The study reached out to 457 respondents from seven states and Puerto Rico that had previously participated in the “Moving Ahead Through Financial Management” curriculum developed by The Allstate Foundation and the National Network to End Domestic Violence. 
In addition to helping domestic violence survivors feel empowered about their finances, the curriculum also has taught nearly 400,000 nationwide how to disentangle financial relationships with an abusive partner, correct misuses of financial records and address safety concerns. 
After completing the program: 
86 percent felt they knew how to set financial goals. 90 percent felt they learned how to create a budget, with 31 percent seeing a financial increase after implementing one. 72 percent felt they understood how to improve their credit rating, compared with 20 percent pre-curriculum. 71 percent felt they could wisely invest in savings through bonds, mutual funds, and stocks, compared with 17 percent pre-curriculum. 18 percent started using a bank account.
 Obviously, these are really key points of building a life outside of a relationship you want to leave.

The most telling aspect of the study is that it points out something we don't talk about enough: We ask victims to leave, but we rarely give them the tools. We expect them to have enough self-preservation to know that they don't want to be there, without giving a thought to how to help them see a future.

Financial security is a very basic instinct in the world we live in. Leaving a partnership isn't as simple as walking away, and financial situation is a part of it that we rarely address except in passing.

Arming domestic violence victims with the tools they need to overcome their abusers' threats and financial isolation is a critical move in reducing the amount of domestic violence in our society.

I look forward to seeing more programs like this, hopefully buoyed by the success of this study.

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