"Financial education can help survivors learn how they can maximize their income by becoming banked, avoiding alternative financial services, paying down debt, making informed decisions about loan options, and saving."
Providing Financial Education Services to Domestic Violence Survivors
Financial education services for adults
Financial education is an essential component of asset building services. While a participant may not be eligible for an Individual Development Account (IDA), he or she can still develop useful financial literacy skills with an asset building agency. The core financial literacy skills covered in AFI programs focus on goal setting, creating and managing a budget, credit and debt management, understanding financial services and taxes, and saving for the future. To find out more about these areas, please refer to the “Core Competencies for Financial Education” fact sheet at http://idaresources.org/page?pageid=a047000000C4RmT, which is one of many other resources in the “Financial Education” section of the www.IDAresources.org website.
Adult learners often approach the topic of household finances with previously conceived beliefs based on experiences from their own lives. A successful financial education program will respect what adult learners bring to the table, while helping them improve their knowledge and skills. For more information about delivering financial education to adults, see the fact sheet at http://idaresources.org/page?pageid=a047000000B6aT4.
How can domestic violence survivors benefit from financial education?
Access to financial education is particularly important to many survivors of domestic violence. Gaining power and control over an intimate partner is at the core of domestic violence and abusers employ many tactics to entrap a victim in the relationship. Financial abuse can include such tactics as: allotting an allowance, hiding family assets, running up debt, interfering with the partner’s job or education, and ruining her credit. One study found that 99% of survivors of domestic violence experienced some form of financial abuse. (For more information, see Asset Building for Domestic Violence Survivors: Why is it important? at http://idaresources.org/page?pageid=a047000000Bo2RbAAJ)
As a result of having experienced financial abuse, many survivors are left without a source of income, a high level of debt, ruined credit scores and lowered levels of confidence in managing money. Skills taught related to budgeting, accessing public benefits and managing debt can be critical to assisting survivors in gaining safety and long-term security for themselves and their children.
Survivors of domestic violence can be particularly vulnerable to predatory lending practices and may be unbanked as a result of financial abuse. Financial education can help survivors learn how they can maximize their income by becoming banked, avoiding alternative financial services, paying down debt, making informed decisions about loan options, and saving. For a survivor still in an abusive relationship, financial education can play an important part of planning for her safety or escaping abuse.
How can domestic violence agencies and AFI partner to provide financial education?
Together, domestic violence agencies and AFI agencies can work on incorporating domestic violence information into existing AFI financial literacy curriculum, and referring survivors to AFI programs to make sure they benefit from that curriculum.
Through partnerships between AFI grantees and domestic violence service providers, safety policies and protocols can be developed, inter-agency referral agreements put in place, and specialized program materials designed-- including specialized financial planning resources for survivors. Successful participation in asset building services can be enhanced for many survivors when AFI grantees and domestic violence programs partner to offer support to address their complex safety and economic challenges.
Tailoring Financial Education Curricula to the needs of Domestic Violence Survivors
Incorporating domestic violence information into financial education is essential for survivors as they often have unique and complex safety needs. Whether a survivor is still in the relationship or has left one, safety is paramount. Commonly, abusers stalk and threaten their partner, even long after they have left an abusive relationship. Abusers often have access to their partner’s personal identifying information such as passwords, social security numbers and date of birth. With this information, abusers may be able to locate a survivor by accessing their credit report or records from financial institutions. Alternatively, abusers may use this access to further incur debt in a survivor’s name. When a survivor leaves an abusive relationship, it is imperative that all passwords on all accounts are changed and that credit card companies are instructed to remove the survivor’s name off any jointly held accounts. Helping survivors navigate their financial needs and challenges safely is critical as well as empowering them with information they can use to build financial independence.
Several curricula have been specifically tailored to meet the unique safety and financial needs of DV survivors. Redevelopment Opportunities for Women (ROW) provides a specially tailored curriculum and training for providers (see http://www.row-stl.org/Content/RP_EEC.aspx for additional information). The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) and The Allstate Foundation have also created materials specific to the financial and safety needs of survivors. This curriculum can be downloaded at www.clicktoempower.com or at http://nnedv.org/resources/ejresources/ejcurriculum.html.
In addition, domestic violence advocates and researchers have developed two publications that address the importance of financial education for survivors, effectiveness of these programs, program design and the need for including information about safety in conjunction with financial education: Economic Education Programs for Battered Women: Lessons Learned from Two Settings, and Economic Empowerment of Domestic Violence Survivors. These papers, as well as additional resources on domestic violence, are available at http://www.vawnet.org/.
This is one in a series of fact sheets on asset-building and Domestic Violence Survivors produced by the Assets for Independence Resource Center. For more information about AFI services, visit the resource center website at www.IDAresources.org or contact the center at 1-866-778-6037 or via email at info@IDAresources.org. To find an AFI grantee near you, go to http://www.idaresources.org/Map. To search for domestic violence programs by state go to: http://www.nnedv.org/resources/coalitions.html.
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. 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. Survivors in need of assistance can also call the National Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
 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.