What do people who experience domestic violence tell us they need in order to establish a life free from this violence? In a word – money. Or put another way, enough financial resources to not have to turn back to the person that causes harm in order to have shelter, food and basic needs for themselves and their children.
Free From, an organization dedicated to support of financial independence for survivors of domestic violence has published a report that highlights what survivors have said would be most helpful.
The information gathered is relative to the additional challenges of dealing with the pandemic. However, adequate financial resources are always critical to establishing safety.
Free From raises money in order to give small grants to survivors. Cash in hand is so needed but so hard to come by when one is escaping from an unsafe home. Grants were disbursed in $250 segments. Those who applied were given space to share how the funds were helpful. Free From heard from 1300 survivors.
Of the respondents that received cash, 77% reported their harm-doers prevented or disrupted their ability to earn income and 96% reported economic abuse. Survivors reported they have an average of $1280 per month stolen from them than they lose out on average income per year of $23,076 dollars. In other words, not only are they restricted from earning money, what they have is also taken from them. They also reported an additional $17,700 in damaged property.
This is how abusers gain and maintain control. Resources are denied, taken or destroyed so survivors struggle to find the means to be safe.
During COVID 19 restrictions violence has escalated, revenue sources have diminished and court proceedings have been slowed or delayed. All of this leads to survivors having more contact with their abusers or losing access to resources like child support.
In this effort, survivors reported their biggest needs are relief for utilities or debit/credit and safe employment. And cash. It is rare to find a source willing to give cash money directly to survivors. The fear that they will somehow waste it keeps almost all sources from making this much needed emergency resource available.
We know from decades of working with survivors that they know best what they need for themselves and their children. We must learn that the best way to help families be free from domestic violence is to help them get what they need in their life to get on their feet. Kids need shoes and milk and a safe bed to sleep in. Survivors need time and space to make long term plans. This usually entails not having to worry about the lights being turned off or having to sleep in the car in order not to be beaten. It means having a job without fear of being fired because the harmer is calling 25 times a day. It means being able to buy bus tokens or tires. Sometimes it means having a glass of wine with a safe adult friend who will listen.
No one chooses to get in a relationship with someone who will harm them. We need to find easier ways to help them get out when they don’t feel safe. Sometimes a little bit of cash will help.