New Op-Ed From Our Founder & CEO

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A few years ago, I found myself in an abusive situation. It wasn’t intimate-partner violence—which, fortunately, has received much more media attention since the rise of the #MeToo movement—but I still believed my life to be in danger, and all I knew for sure was that I needed to get out. With a law degree, a six-figure salary, and 10 years of experience in the field of gender-based violence, I was as well-resourced as anyone could be.

But still, it took me five weeks from when I made the decision to leave to actually get out. It took quitting my job to feel safe. And it took every single cent in my savings account to heal.

Most people who have experienced abuse aren’t that lucky. Many don’t have a job, savings, good credit, and access to resources to fall back on. In fact, the number one reason survivors of domestic violence stay in abusive situations is that they can’t afford to leave—and the number one reason survivors return to abusive situations is financial insecurity.

So if we truly want to help survivors, we need to invest in survivor wealth, a term I use here to mean having the financial freedom to do things like live well, build a safe and nurturing home, pay bills on time, and not live with crushing debt. Achieving this holds the keys to survivors not only getting out of abusive situations—but also staying out.

Every year during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, there’s a flurry of articles written about the financial impact of domestic violence. It never seems to be enough, however, to shift the dominant public narrative that people stay in abusive situations out of love, weakness, or both.

FreeFrom Launches National Train the Trainer Program

In order to efficiently scale and integrate our work into the domestic violence movement, FreeFrom has developed a Train the Trainer Program: The Survivor Wealth and Wellness Certification Program. 

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The training equips domestic violence organizations to offer income building, credit repair and protection, and pathways to financial security as part of their day-to-day services for survivors.

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Its methodology is survivor-centered and trauma-informed and designed to support the trainee in building up their own financial capacity, so they can authentically approach this work from a place of confidence and abundance.

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Trainees complete a series of online modules in conjunction with one-on-one financial coaching with the FreeFrom team. They are then supported with a year of technical assistance that includes: legal consultation services for survivor small business and credit needs; quarterly online learning and partner community building opportunities; and access to curriculum & resources used throughout the training. 

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More than 85 organizations in 15 states have expressed interest in the training. Our first cohorts are based in Houston, TX, and Los Angeles, CA. 

Cheers to Survivor Wealth and Wellness

Dear community,
 
2018 has been a year like no other. With violence against women at the forefront of national media coverage, we witnessed survivors coming forward in unprecedented numbers and the demand for services across the country reached an all-time high. 

With your support, we have continued to evolve our work to meet the ever-urgent financial needs of survivors, with a commitment to advancing our vision of Survivor Wealth and Wellness. Thank you for partnering with us to bring this vision to life.

Best wishes for a restorative year's end and a prosperous 2019,
 
Sonya and the team

FreeFrom partners with GiveCrypto to pilot safety grants for survivors

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Breaking the cycle of violence demands bold and innovative solutions. Cryptocurrency grants can transform the lives of survivors, by providing them with the funds needed to leave, secure safe housing and invest in their families’ healing. 

FreeFrom is excited to pilot this new program with the generous support of GiveCrypto. To start, we are offering grants of 2500 dollars to 9 survivors in crisis, no strings attached, and will track the impact of this grant in their journey to safety. 


GIFTED realizes vision of wealth and wellness through entrepreneurship and living wage employment

GIFTED by FreeFrom, our social enterprise program that launched in April 2018, is closing out the year with nearly six figures in sales to support Survivor Wealth and Wellness. Thank you to our community of supporters for choosing GIFTED as your go-to gifting site. 
 
A special thank you to The Impact Circle and The XX Fund for their support of this program, which allowed us to purchase inventory ahead of time to prepare for an incredibly high volume of holiday sales; thank you to theMayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, and First Lady, Amy Wakeland, for inviting survivors back this year to sell GIFTED products at their Annual Holiday Market; and a huge thank you to Silicon Valley Bank for choosing GIFTED throughout 2018 for their corporate gifting opportunities.

FreeFrom finalizes Survivor Wealth and Wellness Train the Trainer Curriculum for 2019 release

In response to the overwhelming demand for our financial capacity building programming, FreeFrom has developed a train the trainer curriculum to effectively meet the needs of organizations across the country who are seeking to implement this programming into their day-to-day work with survivors.

The training will cover income building, credit repair and credit building, personal finance protection, and recovery from financial trauma. Participants who complete the training will receive one year of technical assistance from FreeFrom as they implement these services as well as legal consultation services for survivor small business and credit needs; quarterly online learning and partner community building opportunities; and access to curriculum and resources used throughout the training.

Get Ready for the Survivor Wealth Summit

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On July 24-25th, 2019, FreeFrom will host a groundbreaking two-day event for attendees to explore the concept of survivor wealth; develop a deeper understanding of financial trauma and healing; and build new skills and tools to support those who have experienced gender-based violence. In addition to engaging plenaries, panels and small group financial coaching opportunities, attendees will be offered workshops from three tracks: Income Building; Credit and Personal Finance; and Systems Change.

An expo room will be open throughout the summit for survivors to receive free on-site services, including: one-on-one financial counseling; legal consultation on small business creation; career counseling and resume building; professional headshots; and business card design. 

Registration and survivor scholarship applications will open in late February at freefrom.org.

Celebrating FreeFrom's 2nd Birthday with a Season of Abundance

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FreeFrom turns 2 today. What an extraordinary 2 years it has been. We began with just an idea - that with wealth and economic security, survivors of domestic violence could heal and build safe futures for themselves and their children. Now we have reached over 100,000 survivors through our technology and began implementing strategies to integrate our work in all 50 states through training and policy reform.

The last month has been an incredible time of abundance and an energizing end to our second year. Our work has been recognized by leading institutions of social innovation, the #MeToo movement, design and social change competitions, and by a growing base of individual supporters, whose generous collective donations helped us win the 2018 Purple Purse challenge. 

What's next? With your continued support, we will work harder and dream bigger to reach our vision of a world in which survivors have the resources necessary to invest in their long-term safety and healing. We look forward to updating you on our progress as we: 

  1. Expand our self-help compensation tool to be available to survivors in all 50 states, with the goal of reaching 1 million survivors each year; 

  2. Train domestic violence organizations across the country to integrate income building, credit building and financial protection services into their day-to-day work with clients; 

  3. Host the 1st annual Survivor Wealth Summit in July 2019 at the California Endowment – Los Angeles; 

  4. Build a financial recovery app for survivors to overcome the impact of financial abuse and financial trauma; 

  5. Grow our social enterprise, Gifted by FreeFrom, to build survivor wealth through entrepreneurship and living wage employment;

  6. Advocate to remove structural obstacles to economic justice for survivors; and

  7. Work to integrate the voices and needs of 1 in 4 female survivors into the asset building and financial services world.

Thank you for believing in us, investing in us and partnering with us for these last two transformative years. It is an honor to do this work and we are so grateful to have your support.
 
With deep gratitude,
 
Sonya and the team

Guggenheim Network for Social Innovation selects FreeFrom as 1 of 4 organizations developing innovative solutions to solve enduring social problems

FreeFrom is honored to partner with Guggenheim over the next three years to continue evolving our programming to meet the financial needs of survivors of domestic violence. We look forward to learning from the Network and our esteemed cohort of innovators:

  • JustFix.nyc, a service for New Yorkers featuring data-driven technology tools for tenants and advocates fighting housing displacement

  • Sanitation and Health Rights India, a builder of sanitation systems for toilets and safe drinking water to achieve health equity in rural India

  • SIRUM, a medication recycling program connecting unused, surplus medicine with people who need them most

For more information on the Network and this Cohort, click below. 

Ashoka Changemakers and BNY Mellon award FreeFrom with the Champions of Financial Wellbeing Award

FreeFrom was thrilled to advance from the top ten into the top four finalists, joining trailblazing organizations who are empowering communities to develop financial security, resilience and freedom: Fig Loans, Mission Asset Fund, and Grand Canyon Trust – Tuba City Project. Learn more about their work and our winning project below. 

FreeFrom joins first funding cohort in The Fund for the MeToo Movement and Allies, administered by the New York Women's Foundation

Building upon the energy and activism ignited in the #MeToo movement, Tarana Burke worked with the New York Women’s Foundation to create a new fund to support organizations working to end sexual violence and the interrelated issues of domestic violence and sexual harassment. FreeFrom will join seven other grantee organizations in this first round of funding. Learn more about what’s next for the MeToo movement and the call to action for philanthropy to invest $300M in the next year to drive systemic change below. 

FreeFrom takes first place in the Allstate Foundation's 2018 Purple Purse Challenge

Over 3,200 donors helped FreeFrom raise over $174,000 in this Challenge to place first – and take home the coveted prize of a $100,000 grant award. Thank you to everyone who contributed and raised funds on our behalf. We’d like to send our gratitude to Chani Nicholas, our top fundraiser this year, our board of directors, and to the five incredible fundraising bands who participated in our NYC Battle of the Bands, sponsored by Proskauer Rose, Silicon Valley Bank, Ropes & Gray, DLA Piper, and Hughes Hubbard.

FreeFrom's Founder, Sonya Passi, Delivers Lightning Talk at 2018 Prosperity Now Summit

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Our founder & CEO, Sonya Passi, was selected as 1 of 8 speakers to present on fresh innovations in the asset building field at the Prosperity Now Summit in Washington, DC, earlier this month.

Speaking about FreeFrom's work, Sonya explained, "We need the domestic violence movement to integrate asset building work into their core services and we need the asset-building movement to be responsive to the needs of 1 in 4 women."
 

FreeFrom Named Pioneer of Financial Well-Being by Ashoka and BNY Mellon

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FreeFrom is honored to join an esteemed cohort of 10 organizations recognized as Ashoka Financial Well-Being Pioneers. Our project, Healing, Rebuilding, and Thriving: Financial Capacity Work for Survivors of Gender-Based Violence was selected by Ashoka and BNY Mellon as one of the most innovative programs in the US that advances the financial wellbeing and asset growth of underserved communities.

As a Pioneer, FreeFrom will have access to a collaborative digital platform to connect with peers, mentorship from a team of thought leaders from Ashoka and BNY Mellon, and admission to the exclusive Social Capital Markets Conference in San Francisco.

FreeFrom Joins Uncharted's 2018 Visible Connect Accelerator Program

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FreeFrom is proud to announce that we've been accepted into the inaugural cohort of Uncharted's Visible Connect Accelerator Program. The 9-month accelerator delivers funding, mentorship, and other resources to organizations using tech to solve some of the nation's most pressing social issues. We are excited to join the 2018 cohort as we continue to scale our Online Self-Help Compensation Tool and grow as an organization. 

FreeFrom's Self-Help Compensation Tool Honored by Core77 Design Awards

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FreeFrom's Online Self-Help Compensation Tool has been named an honoree of the Core77 Design Awards. Our tool was chosen as a finalist out of 100s of applicants. 

Recognizing excellence in all areas of design enterprise, the Core77 Design Awards annually celebrate the richness of the design profession as well as the insight and perseverance of its practitioners. 

VICTORY: FreeFrom Client Wins Compensation in Civil Tort Case

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By the time the FreeFrom team first met with our client, Sarah, she had incurred exorbitant abuse-related expenses, including lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering. Sarah's was one of the first compensation cases we took on. We knew that it could be a lengthy and difficult process, but were able to match her with a pro bono litigation team at Proskauer Rose LLP to take on her case. 

After 18 months of work with FreeFrom staff and her legal team, Sarah won a $24,700 judgment in her favor. This is an extraordinary victory for her, as she will now be able to cover the costs of the harm she suffered and fully invest in rebuilding her life. We are incredibly grateful to our partners at Proskauer Rose for their pro bono representation of her case, and for helping advance economic justice for survivors everywhere. 

VICTORY: Colorado Increases Statute of Limitations for Domestic Violence Torts

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One year ago, FreeFrom spoke with policy leaders in Colorado about the need to increase the statute of limitations for survivors of domestic violence to sue their abusers for damages under tort law. 

The Colorado legislature has now extended the statute of limitations to 6 years, and 20 years in cases of long-term disability, including traumatic brain injury. 

Congratulations to the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence for their tireless work in achieving this incredible step toward justice for survivors.

We look forward to collaborating with more state coalitions and leaders to give survivors adequate time to seek justice for the harm done to them.