"Economic dependence is one of the main reasons that women remain in or return to an abusive relationship"
"A carefully structured partnership with a domestic violence program partner can help AFI agency staff develop the safeguards that are needed to effectively serve survivors. Similarly, an AFI partner can assist a domestic violence program strengthen the economic support they provide to families in their community."
Safety Planning in Partnership: The Common Thread in Providing Asset-Building Services to Domestic Violence Survivors
Domestic violence is all too common in the United States. Best understood as a pattern of abusive behaviors – including physical, sexual, and psychological attacks as well as economic coercion – by one intimate partner against another, domestic violence is used to gain, maintain, or regain power and control in the relationship. Research indicates that nearly 25 percent of surveyed women and nearly 8 percent of surveyed men said they were sexually and/or physically assaulted by a current or former intimate partner at some time in their lifetime. While domestic violence most frequently involves a male abusing a female partner, abuse by same-sex partners and of males by female partners is also the focus of increasing concern.
Domestic Violence and Economic Dependence
Research and experience also underscore that economic coercion and control are important tactics used by abusive partners, with particular impacts on women, including eroding their confidence in managing financial resources and their ability to achieve long-term safety and security. Almost 99% of survivors of domestic violence in one study indicated that they experienced some form of financial abuse from their partners. Economic dependence is one of the main reasons that women remain in or return to an abusive relationship.
Economic abuse and coercion by an intimate partner takes many forms. Many survivors are faced with considerable debt, poor credit, no credit history, lack of savings, and other financial hardships— often directly due to economic abuse they have experienced. The process of becoming financially stronger can be particularly challenging to domestic violence survivors, many of whom battle feelings of powerlessness in the process of gaining control of various aspects of their lives.
Increasing the Financial Strength and Options of Survivors
Given these realities, domestic violence survivors could greatly benefit from collaborative asset building services that carefully account for their safety concerns. Over the past several years, domestic violence agencies and asset building organizations have begun exploring ways to boost the financial strength of domestic violence survivors.
From these efforts and others, an expanding knowledge base is emerging on promising financial empowerment approaches to serving diverse survivors of domestic violence in different communities.
A New Federal Initiative: Building Assets for Survivors of Domestic Violence
Recognizing the benefit of helping domestic violence survivors become more economically stable, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), DHHS, has launched an initiative to promote partnerships between two of its programs – Assets for Independence and the Family Violence Prevention and Services Program of the Family and Youth Services Bureau – to help domestic violence survivors safely build assets and access other financial support services. Through this new initiative, ACF will support the development of partnerships between domestic violence and asset building agencies and provide tailored training and other materials to help them better address the short- and long-term financial needs of survivors of domestic violence.
A carefully structured partnership with a domestic violence program partner can help AFI agency staff develop the safeguards that are needed to effectively serve survivors. Similarly, an AFI partner can assist a domestic violence program strengthen the economic support they provide to families in their community. This new federal initiative will provide the training and technical assistance to support these local partnerships in developing safety policies and protocols, inter-agency referral agreements, and program materials, including specialized financial planning resources for survivors. Promising practices will be identified and disseminated, along with other related resources.
AFI Services Fact Sheet Series
The following series of fact sheets focus on how domestic violence survivors can particularly benefit from – and how AFI and domestic violence service agencies can partner to provide -- the following core AFI services: tax assistance, financial education, credit repair, debt management, enrollment in Individual Development (matched savings) Accounts, and help with accessing other federal benefits. The successful participation of domestic violence survivors in asset building services is more likely when AFI grantees and domestic violence programs partner to offer support to address their complex safety and economic challenges.
For Additional Information and Technical Assistance
The Building Assets for Survivors of Domestic Violence initiative is a partnership between the Office of Community Services and the Family and Youth Services Bureau. Through this initiative technical assistance is provided to both AFI grantees and domestic violence service providers by a team assembled and led by The Lewin Group which includes the National Resource Center for Domestic Violence, the National Network to End Domestic Violence, and the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association.
For more information about AFI services, visit the resource center website at www.IDAresources.org (in general and under the Population- Domestic Violence Survivors button). To find an AFI grantee near you, go to http://www.idaresources.org/Map. To find the state domestic violence coalition in your state, go to: http://www.nnedv.org/resources/coalitions.html. Local domestic violence programs near you can typically be found on the state coalition websites.
For more information about the safety challenges of survivors or for guidance on developing safety protocols contact the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence at 1-800-.537.2238 ext 5 (TTY 800-553-2508). For information about how to partner with local or state domestic violence programs contact, the National Network to End Domestic Violence at 202-543-5566 (TTY 202-522-8300). Survivors in need of assistance can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (TTY 800-787-3224)
 Tjaden, P. & Thoennes, N. (2000, July). Extent, nature and consequences of intimate partner violence: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey. (NCJ 181867). Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
 While the focus here is on women victimized by male partners or ex-partners, since they disproportionately represent domestic violence victims, men abused by female partners and men and women abused in same-sex relationships also deserve protections, support and advocacy services.
 Adams, A. E., Sullivan, C. M., Bybee, D., & Greeson, M. R. (2008). Development of the Scale of Economic Abuse. Violence Against Women, 14(5), 563-588. Fawole, O. I. (2008). Economic violence to women and girls: Is it receiving the necessary attention? Trauma Violence Abuse, 9(3), 167-77.
 Adams, et al. (2008) at 6.
 Cris Sullivan, et al., After the Crisis: A Needs Assessment of Women Leaving a Domestic Violence Shelter, Violence and Victims, 7(3), 267-75 (1992); Edward Gondolf with Ellen Fisher, Battered Women as Survivors: An Alternative to Treating Learned Helplessness (Lexington, MA: Lexington, 1988).
 Postmus, J. L. (2010). Economic Empowerment of Domestic Violence Survivors. Harrisburg, PA: VAWnet, a project of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence/Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence. At http://www.vawnet.org/applied-research-papers/summary.php?doc_id=2540&find_type=web_desc_AR