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FINANCIAL EMPOWERMENT

by Joan Bachman
I attended a workshop this week on Financial Empowerment for victims of domestic violence. The workshop was sponsored by the local YWCA Emergency Shelter, and presented by Kim Pentico of the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) which receives support from Allstate (Insurance) Foundation.

Topics covered by the instructor included descriptions of financial abuse and how it affects the victim, and the importance of teaching financial safety planning and budgeting to a survivor of abuse. A comparison of audience members revealed a range of levels of financial knowledge, and a surprising variety of learned attitudes and practices regarding money. It became obvious that an advocate or instructor must understand the survivor’s attitude and experience to provide financial information effectively. Imposing judgment will slow the learning.

One in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced partner-perpetrated physical violence. Ninety-nine % of survivors of domestic abuse cite financial abuse as the primary reason for remaining in a dangerous relationship. Financial abuse is a pattern of behaviors or actions that are used to intimidate and threaten another person. Elements of financial control include withholding money or “giving an allowance”; withholding basic living resources, medications or food; not allowing a partner to work or earn money; and stealing a partner’s identity, money, credit, or property.

Financial safety planning includes knowing how money works, what cash and assets are available, looking for ways to save money, and gradually developing financial independence. Effective budgeting requires honest sorting of needs and wants. After meeting basic living essentials (housing, food, transportation, etc.), my needs and wants are probably different from your needs and wants, based on our individual status and goals. It is important to my sense of being to follow my ideas of use of money; the same is true of you and of a survivor of domestic violence. Attitudes about money easily lead to misunderstanding between people.

We were reminded of the difference between minimum wage and living wage. According to a review of several websites, one adult with 2 children would need to work more than 2 full-time jobs at minimum wage to earn a living wage. i.e., to afford housing, food, transportation, child care, insurance, and health care. Many victims of domestic abuse have limited recent experience and so are hired for low wage jobs. The absolute need for outside financial assistance is evident. Because that assistance is generally time-limited, it is important that someone new to self-responsibility receive support in developing reasonable spending habits to reach a secure future. The advocate must learn and practice how to offer helpful advice without judgment. The objective is for the survivor to become safely able to meet personal and family needs.

An example of wage needs: The average rent for a 2-bedroom apartment in Fargo is $841, up from $834 last year. A rule of thumb says housing should cost 30% of income, therefore, a living wage would be $16.15 per hour. Employers can contribute substantially to quality of lives by paying a living wage to workers.

For those of us who are able to meet routine expenses as well as unexpected expenses and opportunities, we must remember that, no matter how we got to this level of comfort, not everyone understands money the same as we do. Not everyone understands or agrees with our particular ideas on responsibility and independence. To be helpful to someone in need, the first requirement is to listen and empathize, not to judge. Each of us can make a contribution in some way to improving quality of life for victims of domestic violence. I choose to volunteer my time.

“For is it not true that human progress is but a mighty growing pattern woven together by the tenuous single threads united in a common effort?” Madame Chiang Kai-Shek

About the Author

Joan Bachman

Joan Bachman is a Registered Nurse, Licensed Nursing Home Administrator, Registered Health Information Technician, and Faith Community Nurse. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. Joan has experience as a Nurse, Administrator, Developer, Trainer, Grant Writer, and served as Administrator of SD State Survey Agency. She has consulted with health care facilities and nonprofit organizations and presented leadership training. Joan is the author of Guidebook for Assisted Living Facilities and Senior Service Providers and Guidebook for Physician Services in the Nursing Facility, and she has published in professional journals.

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