There are countless reasons domestic violence victims are unable to leave their abuser. One of the most daunting obstacles preventing a victim from breaking the cycle of abuse often is financial.
Abusers find demoralizing ways of controlling victims and forcing them to lose autonomy. Victims are forbidden to work, obtain their GED or have any access to money. Other times, abusers destroy their victim's credit, overdraw their bank account and default on loans.
Empowerment of women always has been at the heart of the YWCA and economic empowerment is the practice of putting tools into the hands of women so they can say, "I can do this on my own. I am confident and I am able."
Recently, the YWCA's Wise Options and Liberty House programs became the only domestic violence/transitional-housing programs in the state to adopt the Allstate Foundation's Moving Ahead Through Financial Empowerment curriculum with the support of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence (PCADV).
Economic empowerment starts at the beginning. Without a GED or any previous work experience, some victims truly feel powerless. We connect those in need of private tutoring to the right resources and make sure every woman can receive her GED.
Beyond that, each survivor is provided with cover letter and resume writing assistance, interview skills, job searching skills and how to dress for success. For those who have never worked before, the YWCA currently is building connections to individuals, companies and organizations that can provide internships and job-shadowing opportunities.
Once an income is secured, new challenges arise and our staff is right there, helping women conquer them all. Creating and sticking to a budget, prioritizing expenses and building a savings account are skills learned only through experience. Once a victim's banking and credit history are abused, they often are unable to open new accounts because of outstanding debt. Thankfully, we have partnered with local credit unions that work with survivors to pay off other accounts while slowly building a new savings account.
While it is cliche to say, in terms of economic justice and empowerment - knowledge truly is power. Survivors are provided with a copy of their credit report and case managers work closely with them to contact creditors, create payment plans and otherwise clean up their credit history. For those truly in need of credit counseling, they are connected to a local nonprofit credit counseling service who helps victims begin to rebuild this important step toward independence.
For the case managers and staff who work so closely with victims and watch them grow and breathe freely as they take these steps toward becoming a survivor - the experience is unspeakably gratifying. And these services are not just for those who reside in the YWCA's shelters. Anyone seeking help in any of our programs, whether they are here for a Protection From Abuse order or are receiving counseling through Wise Options, all of these services, and more, are provided free of charge. The YWCA is proud to offer these services as we grow and expand our commitment to provide peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.