Economic Empowerment Project

Financial control of domestic violence survivors has long been recognized as a prevalent and powerful tactic, compelling victims to remain with the abuser or return to him. A survivor’s access to household income, bank accounts, paychecks, assets and investments is commonly denied or restricted. Her credit is often ruined by the abuser, and her ability to keep a job or go to school is compromised by the abuse.

Domestic violence advocates often express their frustration with the barriers that survivors face when they try to get ahead. They wonder how they can help survivors overcome obstacles such as economic sabotage, bad credit, and low income. Often, financial education for the general community fails to help survivors because it does not address the abuser generated obstacles she is experiencing. Advocates are looking for safe strategies to help the survivor budget, save for her goals, pursue education and employment, and create a realistic economic action plan that is geared to her individual situation.

ICADV began its Economic Empowerment Project in 2007 to help advocates address these issues. This project works to increase the safety of domestic violence survivors. It expands the economic options and financial knowledge survivors need to build a life without violence and gives local domestic violence program staff the tools needed to assist clients seeking financial independence. The project has three key components: training, technical assistance and community partnerships.


- In Illinois in 2008, 36.9% of households headed by single mothers are living in poverty, compared to 17.1% of single fathers and 5.3% of dual-headed households with children. Of all families in poverty, 52.3% are headed by single mothers with children under 18.

- Nearly 60% of all low-wage workers in Illinois are women, though women make up only 45.8% of the state's workforce.

- Out of the six earning categories defined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 61.2% of employed females in Illinois are concentrated in the three lowest categories, compared to 42.2% of men.

From Chicago Foundation for Women - Illinois Fact Sheet for Creating Opportunity for Low-Income Women in the Green Economy Women's Economic Security Campaign


ICADV hosts economic empowerment curriculum training for advocates and case managers to help them deliver basic financial education and advocacy to survivors. We currently support two curricula: Realizing Your Economic Action Plan (REAP) by Redevelopment Opportunities for Women, Inc. (ROW) and Moving Ahead Through Financial Management by The Allstate Foundation and The National Network to End Domestic Violence. Each curriculum was created specifically for survivors of domestic violence to address their unique situation and safety concerns combined with important basic financial information on budgeting, credit and banking. Advocates may also attend follow-up trainings to gain more information on working one-on-one with survivors and increase their skills.

Technical Assistance

Technical Assistance is a key part of the Economic Empowerment Project. The Project Manager provides intensive, individualized assistance and support to advocates working in ICADV Voting Board Member agencies as they address the specific challenges encountered as they work with survivors.

This technical assistance takes on a variety of forms. Through site-visits, phone and email communication, the Project Manager assists programs as they implement economic advocacy into their services.

Community Partnerships

The Economic Empowerment Project forms new partnerships with national and local organizations to promote economic opportunities that benefit survivors, specifically low income survivors of domestic violence. Survivors gain access to financial services and products they may have previously been denied due to their abuse.

Through the Economic Empowerment Project...

  • Survivors of domestic violence are given new information, options, and tools for economic freedom. They receive the personal help and support they need to pursue their economic goals.
  • Domestic violence advocates learn ways to help survivors create and implement economic plans to overcome obstacles that impede their road to financial independence.
  • Domestic violence programs continue to expand their capacity to help survivors increase their opportunities to live free from abuse.


For more information, contact the Economic Empowerment Project.