An estimated 99 percent of abusive relationships involve financial abuse, and it’s the number one reason why women aren’t able to easily leave. It can also have long-term implications as survivors attempt to rebuild, impacting their ability to make housing down payments, secure loans, or obtain employment.
Financial abuse involves controlling a victim’s ability to acquire, use, and maintain financial resources. Tactics include preventing the victim from working and acquiring their own income; controlling the victim’s financial accounts or restricting their access; incurring debt in the victim’s name or stealing their funds; or demanding to know how and when the victim made purchases.
To remove this barrier, YWCA Dayton’s shelter services team has implemented a national curriculum called Moving Forward. Created by Allstate, whose philanthropic arm focuses on supporting domestic violence survivors, it is available to all clients in YW’s domestic violence shelters and provides an evidence-based, financial education curriculum that builds a path to independence and sustainable self-sufficiency. YWCA Dayton is one of 12 local associations participating, led by YWCA Central Virginia as the program’s anchor association.
Clinical interns Chantal Wiggins and Ashley Workman helped lead YW’s first Moving Forward sessions. The curriculum takes eight, hour-long sessions to complete and covers topics like budgeting, résumé building, job searching, banking basics, and long-term planning. In its first year, 15 clients graduated from the course.
“The group is centered on creating stronger financial knowledge to empower our clients with the tools they need to create a better future for themselves and their families,” Wiggins explained. “It has been invaluable in showing our clients that they have choices for their future, and that their life is not over just because they are hitting a rough patch right now. If they want to go to college and build a career, there is a way to do that. If they want to own a home, there is a way to do that.”
There are resources available, Wiggins said, that many people – including survivors – are not aware of, like the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA), which fights for economic justice by offering low mortgage rates, no closing costs, no premium mortgage insurance, and do not base qualifications on the buyer’s credit score.
“The feedback from clients has been amazing! All of the ladies are very engaged in group sessions and are helping each other by sharing their personal stories,” Wiggins said.
Additionally, community support for the program has allowed participants to not only gain life-saving skills and knowledge, but also receive funds to fuel a fresh start. Thanks to a grant from the First Financial Foundation, each graduate is presented with $150 to open their own savings account, along with $75 to purchase new employment attire and bus tickets to help with transportation to and from job interviews.
“Through this group and so many others, YWCA is saving lives and breaking barriers one client at a time. We show our clients that where you are right now is not where you will always be, and we help guide them until they reach their final destination. I am so honored to be part of such a wonderful organization,” Wiggins said.