For many years, domestic violence has been an issue among many females. Whether it’s physical or emotional abuse, the scars of domestic violence aren’t easily healed even after the relationship is over. What’s more is that oftentimes women feel trapped in their relationships due to financial dependency on the abuser, which forces women to stay in abusive relationships.
“Most of the women who go to domestic violence shelters go to shelters because they don’t have anywhere else to go,” said Assistant Director for the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association (KDVA), Mary O’Doherty. “They don’t have any family to help them, maybe they’ve alienated their family, maybe they’ve alienated friends…So if you’re coming to a shelter your options are extremely limited.”
One study published in the Journal of Poverty Law and Policy finds that financial security is a large part of what determines if a victim of domestic violence stays a victim or becomes a survivor.
However, thanks to a grant program initiated by the Allstate Foundation, over 1,100 victims of domestic violence in Kentucky have been helped in 2013 alone and still going strong. KDVA’s Economic Justice Project is an example of the programs the Foundation aids in order to help victims escape from domestic violence.
The Economic Justice Project helps survivors gain economic self-sufficiency through four methods:
- Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) where matched IDA savings help survivors gain assets, such as a home or a car.
- Micro loans – survivors get no-interest loans to help them gain or improve credit in order to make important and necessary purchases.
- Financial Education – survivors receive information on how to set financial goals, make a budget, and more.
- Free help with tax preparation
Since asset building is a key ingredient to economic self-sufficiency, helping victims who have experienced domestic violence abuse in these areas is crucial to their recovery.
“Most of the women that we work with are economically dependent on their abusers,” said O’Doherty. “They know that if they leave their abusers their standard of living is going to go down, and more importantly, the standard of living for their children is going to decrease. I think that keeps a lot of women in relationships that they don’t want to be in.”
Shawnna Smith of Northern Kentucky is an example of what an IDA can do to help a domestic abuse survivor get her life back. Smith was in an abusive relationship for 14 years. Her husband took away the keys to her car, and she was left isolated in her home with no means to get out of the house or take her children to school, wrote KDVA in a report.
The report added that when Smith’s husband filed for divorce, she moved back in with her parents and borrowed an old car to get to work and back. She opened an IDA to help save for a better car and KDVA matched her savings. An advocate then helped Smith find a low-interest loan rate and Smith was able to buy her own vehicle. “I don’t have to worry anymore if my car is going to start every morning,” Smith said in a statement.
IDAs can also help survivors purchase a home. Since economic abuse is often used to control a woman into staying, it is important for the victim to leave that situation as soon as possible in order to start rebuilding.
“If we can help a woman get her own place to live, get a housing voucher, or help her find an apartment that she can afford, then we’ve done a lot to help break the cycle of violence,” said O’Doherty. “So many women stay in relationships and live with violence because they think they have no other choice, because they have nowhere else to go. Helping women get housing is a big part of what we do.”