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Meet the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Through this regular feature, the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) will be introducing you to our member coalitions. Read the rest of our Meet A Coalition features here.

Meet the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence:

What is it like to do domestic violence work in Kentucky? 

The Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence (KCADV) enjoys incredible responsibility and trust from our fifteen member domestic violence programs that work to improve services for survivors across the state. In 2017, coalition staff focused on ensuring underserved and culturally-specific populations have meaningful access to those services. We created a mechanism for documenting our programs’ commitment to meaningful access in its data collection practices and are working to develop policies and procedures to ensure meaningful access. For example, one policy encourages the administration of naloxone/Narcan in shelters.

A hallmark of KCADV is its ambitious economic justice program, which provides financial education, credit counseling, microloans, and IDAs to more than 2,000 survivors every year. We have used Low-Income Housing Tax Credits to build housing for survivors and have a HUD-funded Rapid Rehousing program, two efforts that house about 150 survivors annually. We also have a Training Institute that last year educated more than 4,466 professionals and, with the Kentucky Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, hosted a conference attended by more than 500 advocates and others who work in our field. We had our most successful legislative session in a long time, successfully advocating for two new state laws: one law eliminated Kentucky’s outdated mandatory reporting law and the other law created leasing protections that make it easier for survivors to get out of leases.  Finally, we raised more than $22,000 through our Purple Purse Challenge, funding we’ll use to provide survivors with emergency assistance in 2018.

What impact does your unique Kentucky context have on this work?

Kentucky’s geography presents a challenging context for our work, as the state contains both extremely rural, isolated areas as well as three metropolitan areas. The Appalachian plateau runs through approximately a third of the state. Eastern Kentucky, much of which is considered Appalachia, has consistently experienced severe poverty as well as rough travel conditions and limited access to resources. Meanwhile, the northeastern, central, and western regions of Kentucky are home to both suburban and urban centers. Louisville and Lexington, the two largest cities in Kentucky, are the 29th and 60th most populous cities in the United States, respectively. As a Coalition, we must be prepared to meet the unique needs of survivors in both urban and rural areas.

What are the biggest barriers that survivors face in Kentucky?

Kentucky is one of the poorest states in the country, ranking 46th in median household income in the July 2017 U.S. Census. Kentucky is home to the third poorest county in America, and four out of the top ten poorest counties by median household income are in Kentucky. Economic abuse is the primary reason a survivor of domestic violence will stay in an unsafe situation. With poverty being so prevalent in our state, the financial hurdles most survivors of domestic violence must face when leaving their abuser are exacerbated. We are proud of our Economic Empowerment Program staff and the work they do to help survivors work toward financial independence.

What’s happening in Kentucky that you’re excited about?

KCADV partnered with the Kentucky Housing Corporation and The Housing Partnership Inc., a local nonprofit housing developer, to build 27 units of rental housing for survivors across the state. In June 2017, KCADV and one of our fifteen member programs, GreenHouse17, celebrated the completion of 24 apartments for survivors in Lexington. We are currently working on KCADV Homes Hazard, 12 apartments for survivors in Hazard in Eastern Kentucky.

Are there any champions in Kentucky that you’d like to thank or celebrate for their record or work on domestic violence?

KCADV recently awarded Representative Melinda Gibbons Prunty and Senator Ralph Alvarado with the “Champions for Justice” Award for their legislative work on behalf of victims of domestic violence at the 19th Ending Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Conference in Lexington.

Rep. Gibbons Prunty (R-Greenville) and Sen. Alvarado (R-Winchester) were honored for their support of two new laws that increase protections for survivors of domestic violence during the 2017 legislative session.

Rep. Melinda Gibbons Prunty, sponsored HB 309 which ensures that victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking who have a court-issued order of protection may not be evicted from their rental units solely because they are victims.

The new law allows victims with long-term orders of protection to terminate their leases if they give their landlords 30 days written notice. The law allows protected tenants to change the locks at their own expense as long as they give their landlords notice and a copy of the key. The law also gives landlords some important protections, including allowing them to bar abusers from their property and formally evict abusers based on the issuance of orders of protection.

Sen. Alvarado sponsored SB 86, which replaces the 39-year-old mandatory reporting law with a mandatory education and referral requirement for all survivors of intimate partner violence. The law requires a broadly defined group of professionals to provide a suspected victim of domestic or dating violence with educational materials about domestic violence, referral information for accessing the state’s 15 regional domestic violence programs and 13 rape crisis centers, and information about how to access protective orders.

How is your coalition working to end domestic violence?

KCADV runs a nationally recognized Economic Empowerment Project that addresses the self-sufficiency hurdles faced by domestic violence survivors. Last year, close to 20,000 domestic violence victims came to our shelters for safety, services, and encouragement so they could start a new life – personally and financially. Financial stability is key to helping a survivor leave her abuser – especially if she has children. Financial control by an abusive partner causes many victims to believe they have no choice but to remain with their abuser. We serve 2,000 survivors annually with financial education, matched savings accounts, emergency funding, free tax preparation, and credit building to help them get financially fit to live independently.

As a part of the Economic Empowerment Program, KCADV has formed a collaboration with the Kentucky Community & Technical College System (KCTCS) to provide economic empowerment services to TANF recipients enrolled in the college system’s Ready-to-Work (RTW) Program. The partnership gave KCADV a new way to reach survivors, as the majority (72%) of RTW students had experienced domestic violence.

If your coalition was a musician or music group, who would you be and why?

We had to go with the indie folk band Bon Iver. KCADV recently partnered with Bon Iver for their 2 A Billion campaign. The campaign was created in the wake of their album “22, A Million,” to raise support, awareness, and person-to-person connections in an effort to promote gender equality, and end domestic violence and sexual abuse. At each stop on their tour they featured a local gender equity organization. We were honored to work with them for their show in Louisville, Kentucky and grateful for their donation to our cause. We admire Bon Iver’s initiative to highlight such an important issue – and we love the music too!

Is there anything else you’d like to add? Anything we didn’t ask that you’d like to share?

In 2016 we released two evaluations that confirm our economic empowerment services are an effective approach for overcoming poverty and domestic violence.

One study evaluated our partnership with the KCTCS Ready-to-Work program, and the other evaluated work with clients at KCADV’s 15 member programs. The evaluations validate a program that improves the financial skills and standing of survivors and offers an evidence-based model that helps us further our work and encourage similar initiatives. Dr. Jennifer Cole, a University of Kentucky psychology professor, and KCADV Evaluation Coordinator Alyssa Tremblay conducted the evaluations from June 2014 to August 2016. More than 90 percent of participants reported making progress on their financial goals and capability. Participants increased savings and income, reduced debts, and found employment.

Survivors served by KCADV member programs:

  • Reduced incidence of homelessness from 57% to 16%
  • Tripled savings from an average of $96 to an average of $281
  • 69% began using a written budget

KCTCS students:

  • Doubled their savings from an average of $181 to $417
  • 43% decreased debt and 67% accessed their credit score

Learn more about KCADV: