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More Resources Needed to Help Domestic Violence Victims Regain Financial Independence

March 31, 2016

New data finds that nearly 400 domestic violence programs reported financial assistance as a significant unmet need in 2015

Despite an increased understanding of the role financial abuse plays in trapping domestic violence victims with abusive partners, local domestic violence programs strain to provide financial services for survivors.

This data was among several findings from the annual “Domestic Violence Counts” census, conducted by the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) last September over a 24-hour period with 1,752 local domestic violence programs across the United States. [1]

The demand for financial empowerment services is a direct result of financial abuse, which occurs in 99 percent of domestic violence cases. [2] Financial abuse is a primary reason victims stay in, or return to abusive partners. After years of abuse, survivors often find themselves unable to secure stable housing because their credit scores are too low, or that their abusers have taken out credit cards in their names and depleted their savings accounts. Perpetrators of these crimes are not nameless, faceless identity thieves. These actions are intentional behaviors by abusers meant to harm victims.

Financial education services, which empower survivors to budget, repair credit, and establish financial self-sufficiency, set survivors on a course to independence:

  • An advocate in Colorado said that, after completing the “Moving Ahead” financial literacy curriculum, a survivor she worked with is “…obtaining financial independence for her family.” She is working toward a nursing degree and has applied for an interest-free loan to purchase a car for her family. In part because of this new financial independence, this survivor shared that she knows that “the sky is the limit now for herself and her children.”

Financial empowerment is increasingly a core service for domestic violence survivors:

  • More than 190 of the surveyed local domestic violence programs (11 percent) have expanded their financial literacy programming in the past year.
  • More than 73 percent of surveyed domestic violence programs offer financial services year-round.
  • 22 local programs offered matched savings programs or microloans. Microloans help survivors gain access to resources needed to build or improve credit, purchase used cars to get to jobs, or pay for college or job training expenses. The loans are paid back over time and redistributed, so other survivors can benefit from this financial tool.

However, as demand continues for these life-changing services, staff and funding cuts make it difficult for domestic violence programs to provide the help survivors need:

  • 35 local programs were forced to reduce or completely eliminate financial education programs due to lack of resources.
  • Nearly 400 local programs reported that requests for financial assistance were one of the primary areas of unmet need due to lack of resources.
  • 24 percent of local programs reported reduced government funding was the cause of unmet requests for help.
  • 1,235 staff positions across the U.S. were eliminated in the past year. Most of these positions (79 percent) were direct service providers, such as shelter staff and legal advocates.

“Financial abuse is debilitating for many survivors of domestic violence. Financial education and credit building services are vital to ensuring that survivors are empowered to lead lives free of abuse,” said Kim Gandy, NNEDV president and CEO. “National financial empowerment programming helps address this desperate need by equipping survivors and their advocates with the tools they need to move from short-term safety to long-term security – and there are not enough resources to meet this need.”

“Financial services provide survivors a path to independence, and should be core to every domestic violence program in our country,” said Vicky Dinges, senior vice president, corporate responsibility, Allstate. “Today, far too many victims who need financial help to rebuild their lives are turned away. We need to ensure that domestic violence programs have resources to provide these critical services.”

The Moving Ahead Through Financial Management curriculum is a free tool for survivors. Created by The Allstate Foundation and NNEDV, the curriculum helps survivors untangle financial relationships with abusive partners, work through past abuse of finances, and address safety concerns. The curriculum, which has been proven essential for survivors and advocates, will be updated this year and for the first time will be available for download via e-reader. To learn more, visit PurplePurse.com.

[1] http://nnedv.org/projects/census/4655-domestic-violence-counts-census-2015-report.html

[2] https://centerforfinancialsecurity.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/adams2011.pdf

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The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that serves as the leading national voice for domestic violence victims and their allies. NNEDV’s membership includes all 56 state and territorial coalitions against domestic violence, including over 2,000 local programs. NNEDV has been advancing the movement against domestic violence over 25 years, having led efforts among domestic violence advocates and survivors in urging Congress to pass the landmark Violence Against Women Act of 1994. To learn more about NNEDV, please visit NNEDV.org.

Established in 1952, The Allstate Foundation is an independent, charitable organization made possible by subsidiaries of The Allstate Corporation (NYSE: ALL). Through partnerships with nonprofit organizations across the country, The Allstate Foundation brings the relationships, reputation and resources of Allstate to support innovative and lasting solutions that enhance people’s well-being and prosperity. With a focus on building financial independence for domestic violence survivors, empowering youth and celebrating the charitable community involvement of Allstate agency owners and employees, The Allstate Foundation works to bring out the good in people’s lives. For more information, visit www.AllstateFoundation.org.