Imagine being forbidden to work, being forbidden to take courses that could help you advance in your career — or having your career sabotaged in any number of ways by your partner.
Imagine only being given a small allowance to spend, not having access to the money you make — or even having that money hidden where only your partner can access it.
These are all examples of financial and economic abuse. And they happen quite frequently in New Jersey.
So said Julye Myner, the executive director of the Center for Hope and Safety, a nonprofit in Rochelle Park that is working to bring greater understanding — and opportunity — to victims of domestic violence.
Financial abuse or economic abuse is defined as controlling an individual’s ability to acquire, use and maintain economic resources, and it is one of the most powerful methods of keeping a victim trapped in an abusive relationship. Studies show domestic violence survivors often cite concerns over their ability to provide financially for themselves or their children as one of the top reasons for staying with or returning to an abusive partner.
“When most people think of domestic abuse, they think of verbal abuse or physical violence, but research shows that financial abuse occurs in 99% of domestic violence cases,” she said.
“The impact of financial abuse can be devastating. In the short term, victims may be unable to obtain safe housing, and in the long term, they might face overwhelming debt and legal fees, have ruined credit scores and/or be unable to secure employment.”
The business community can help.
Like any nonprofit, Myner said the Center for Hope and Safety would love to have donations. But what it really needs are job opportunities for the women accessing their services.
The Center for Hope and Safety is looking to grow its pipeline of career opportunities for clients by partnering with local businesses and organizations.
“We’re calling on the local business community to help us provide meaningful employment opportunities to our clients by partnering with us,” Myner said. “Our hope is to create mutually beneficial relationships that will provide companies with an expanded talent pool while continuing to foster independence for our clients by helping them to obtain and maintain steady employment.”
Funding is needed, too
Without continued support, victims of domestic violence won’t be able to receive the lifesaving support they need, said Julye Myner, the executive director of the Center for Hope and Safety, a nonprofit in Rochelle Park.
Myner said the pandemic has strained financial resources for the center as it responded to the significant increase of calls for help. Grant funding and private donations are down significantly, which Myner fears will result in cuts to critical programs, including legal services and the Economic Empowerment program.
“Our Time of Hope campaign is our call for help,” Myner said. “We answer thousands of calls every year providing domestic abuse victims and their children with hope and safety, and now we’re calling on the community to help us to continue to be able to provide these lifesaving and life-changing services and programs by donating to our Time of Hope Campaign. Every dollar donated ensures that we are able to continue to provide victims the necessary resources and support systems to successfully rebuild their lives.”
Center for Hope and Safety’s Time of Hope Campaign ends June 30. To make a donation and support the center’s mission of rebuilding lives beyond domestic violence, click here.
Myner said the talent available is diverse.
Survivors of domestic abuse come from all walks of life, have a diverse range of skillsets and are ready and motivated to rejoin the workforce, she said.
“For victims of domestic abuse to truly be able to rebuild their lives, they need a number of support services in addition to safe housing,” Myner said. “Our Economic Empowerment program is a critical piece in ensuring that they can break the cycle of abuse and regain their independence through employment.
“Providing career opportunities to victims creates a ripple effect, leading to long-term stable housing and increased earning power. It’s more than just a job — it’s a lifeline to be able to successfully rebuild their lives.”
Myner said the center is eager to provide help with barriers that many survivors face when obtaining and maintaining employment — including helping with child care and transportation issues.
The center also provides safety and escape planning, housing, legal services and a free economic empowerment program, which offers career counseling, financial workshops, provides information on how to fix bad credit, how to build savings and more so that victims can become financially independent.
But it all starts with jobs.
Defining financial abuse
Actions that equal financial abuse include:
- Forbidding the victim to work;
- Sabotaging work or employment opportunities;
- Forbidding the victim from attending job training or advancement opportunities;
- Controlling how money is spent;
- Not including victim in investment decisions;
- Not allowing access to bank accounts;
- Withholding money or giving an allowance;
- Refusing to work or contribute;
- Hiding assets.
Businesses and organizations interested in partnering with Center for Hope and Safety to provide potential career opportunities to survivors should contact the center’s career counselor, Nereida Montijo, at 201-446-3481 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Myner said the need is urgent — and that the issue only has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
“These issues have only become further amplified with the COVID-19 pandemic, as women are at higher risk for the social and economic devastation that has resulted from the pandemic,” she said.
Myner said calls to the center’s free 24/7 hotline have increased by 46% during the pandemic, further demonstrating the severity and prevalence of domestic abuse.
During that time, the center has answered more than 6,150 calls and have helped more than 1,190 adults and children find safety from their abuser.
Myner knows that economic independence is key for survivors of any kind of domestic abuse and plays a vital role in them successfully rebuilding their lives.
She’s hoping business owners will do what they can to help.
Reach Center for Hope and Safety at: hopeandsafetynj.org or call 201-498-9247.