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.