Rutgers Researchers Uncover New Tool For Empowering Victims of Domestic Violence


It’s an all-too common situation to find victims of domestic violence and their abusers still living together, even after numerous interventions by law enforcement or the presence of a domestic violence restraining order.

Why do victims stay? It’s often because — beyond the physical threats and emotional harm that may be happening in the relationship — another form of abuse is also taking place: financial abuse. Financial abuse involves a range of behaviors including controlling victims’ access to money, destroying their credit, and interfering with their employment. Victims are left feeling unable to support themselves.

Safe houses are available when domestic violence victims need to get help and seek shelter as the result of a threat or altercation, but what tools and resources can help end the vicious cycle of financial abuse? Researchers from Rutgers University, working on behalf of the Allstate Foundation and National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), say they’ve found the answer: make financial education a standard part of services offered to domestic violence victims.

To test their theory that increased money smarts may help domestic violence victims make more empowered decisions about their situations, researchers enlisted approximately 450 domestic violence survivors to take part in the Moving Ahead through Financial Management Curriculum developed by The Allstate Foundation and NNEDV. The curriculum includes information on how to disentangle financial relationships with an abusive partner, work through past misuse of financial records, and address safety concerns, all while working toward long term financial empowerment.

According to Rutgers researchers, participants showed significant improvements in key financial behaviors by between 42-103 percent after learning the curriculum. Additionally, they reported less hardship, less financial strain, and a 10 percent increase in quality of life ratings — all of which can be important factors when it comes to individuals feeling strong enough to leave abusive relationships.

Notable stats reported by survivors after completion of the curriculum include:
•         86 percent knew how to set financial goals and experienced a 30 percent increase in identifying their own financial goals for the future,
•         90 percent learned how to create a budget and experienced a 31 percent increase in actually following their weekly/monthly budget,
•         72 percent understand how to improve their credit rating, compared to 20 percent pre-curriculum,
•         71 percent know how to invest in savings through bonds, mutual funds, and stocks, compared to 17 percent pre-curriculum, and
•         There was an 18 percent increase in the number of survivors using a bank account post curriculum.

“The scars caused by financial abuse can last more than a decade,” said Vicky Dinges, senior vice president of corporate responsibility at Allstate, in a press statement. “This research validates what we’ve heard from social service providers for years. Financial empowerment works and is one of the most important ways to help survivors obtain long-term security and safety for themselves and their children.”

Are you affected by the issue of financial abuse? If you have questions concerning the cost of legal fees associated with pursuing a permanent restraining order, or pursuing a divorce from an domestic violence abuser, we encourage to get in touch with us to schedule an initial consultation. Please contact us for more information.