Facebook has announced that it will begin offering 20 days of paid leave to employees who experience gender-based violence. The company previously offered unpaid leave to survivors, but it was limited to employees in the U.S. Now, Facebook employees across the globe will be able to access up to 20 days of paid leave if they or a family or household member experiences domestic abuse or sexual assault.
Under this new policy, employees will have to tell their managers they need an emergency leave, but they are not required to disclose the reason or provide a police report or any other documentation.
The number 1 reason survivors stay in or return to situations of abuse is that they can’t afford to stay safe. Providing paid and protected leave to employees experiencing gender-based violence allows survivors to deal with the consequences of harm without worrying about losing their job.
Contact FreeFrom’s Director of Systems Change Initiatives, Amy Durrence, at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to work with us to implement a paid leave policy at your business.
We’ve been working collectively with thousands of survivors across the country over the past year building a model for an effective and inclusive no-strings-attached cash assistance program for survivors. Following the release of our latest report last month entitled, “Trust Survivors: Building an Effective and Inclusive Cash Assistance Program,” our work has been cited in a New York Times article about Biden’s COVID-19 Aid Package and its focus on survivors of intimate partner violence.
The New York Times said:
“Some organizations that support abuse survivors, like FreeFrom, prefer that relief money go directly to those who have been abused, giving them the flexibility to cover expenses that can restore their independence, like day care, transportation or health care. They hope Mr. Biden will eventually fulfill his campaign pledge to allocate $5 billion in such cash grants to survivors in need.”
We’re so excited to see our collective work being highlighted and the data and stories from survivors being centered in this conversation.
From more than 550 applicants, we are beyond honored to be in the final 10 and excited to join some of our favorite folks and partners like Native Women Lead, National Domestic Workers Alliance, Caring Across Generations, and others as fellow finalists.
If FreeFrom wins one of the three $10MM grants available, we will use it to shift the way our society understands and responds to the problem of intimate partner violence. We will call on all pillars of our society to take responsibility for this systemic problem and shift the burden of recovery away from survivors.
The Challenge, hosted by Pivotal Ventures, Melinda Gates’ investment and incubation company—with additional support from MacKenzie Scott and Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, and managed by Lever for Change—was launched in June 2020 to accelerate the pace of progress toward gender equality in America.
Sonya Passi, our founder & CEO, was quoted in a Forbes article announcing the top 10 finalists. The Challenge, she said, “gives us the freedom and ability to be bold and visionary and the funding to invest in structural change so that every pillar of our society is actively working to support survivors and their long-term safety.”
The Biden-Harris Administration has pledged $5 billion to be used as direct cash assistance for survivors. At FreeFrom, we are thrilled about this promise as we know from our experience giving unrestricted cash grants to over 4,100 survivors from across the U.S. that survivors’ #1 need is cash to spend as they see fit.
To help the Biden-Harris Administration design a survivor-centered program, we asked an incredibly diverse sample of survivors what they need and overwhelmingly, they expressed that they need a program steeped in flexibility and trust.
Some key takeaways from the data:
71% of survivors were not seeking support from a domestic violence or sexual assault organization when they applied for a Safety Fund grant;
53% of survivors report that they do not have any “proof” that they are a survivor (e.g., police report or restraining / protective order);
68% of survivors can’t or don’t feel safe getting a police report;
69% of survivors can’t or don’t feel safe getting a restraining / protective order;
84% of survivors would not be able to access cash assistance if they had to meet certain added eligibility requirements beyond their experience of harm.
In February 2020, FreeFrom’s Director of Systems Change Initiatives, Amy Durrence, testified before California’s Little Hoover Commission on how the state can improve its response to Intimate Partner Violence (IPV).
In our testimony, we argued that California must prioritize financial security for survivors in order to better respond to IPV, including by paying service providers – many of whom are survivors themselves – a living wage. Read our full written testimony here.
This month, the Commission released its full report and recommendations to the state. The report – which relies heavily on FreeFrom’s testimony – includes a formal recommendation that California “require all state-administered domestic violence grants to provide a living wage and annual cost-of-living increases to awardees.”
“It is unrealistic to expect service providers to help survivors toward financial recovery if they themselves have not experienced financial security…At a minimum, state-administered grants must provide a living wage to service providers. Not a survival wage, but a wage that allows them to live safely and healthfully in their community, obtain good health insurance, cover childcare and transportation expenses, and save for retirement.”
Little Hoover Commission Report, Jan 2021
Citing FreeFrom’s testimony, the Commission also made the following recommendations prioritizing economic security for survivors:
Create a one-stop financial security support program to help survivors start over;
Transition the Victim Compensation Board model from one that compensates survivors via reimbursements to one that offers up front real-time payments;
Provide survivors with compensation through the Victim Compensation Board regardless of whether they “cooperate” with law enforcement;
Allow survivors to use the state’s Restitution Fund to cover the cost of attorneys’ fees necessary to pursue civil cases against their harm-doers;
Officially recognize survivors as a group facing barriers to employment;
Connect survivors with state apprenticeship programs so they can earn income while completing their education or training; and
Make the state-administered emergency housing program more flexible for survivor needs
We are thrilled with the Little Hoover Commission’s focus on economic security for survivors, and we are committed to working with the California Legislature to make sure that these recommendations become a reality.
Join Ana Zimmerman, Indian Tyler and Jennifer Spivak, 3 incredible entrepreneurs and members of the FreeFrom community, as they talk about (1) what they’ve learned in the process of building their businesses; (2) what advice they have for other survivors just starting out; and (3) why survivors make the very best entrepreneurs.
The panel will be moderated by our Founder and CEO, Sonya Passi.
The Biden / Harris Administration is pledging $5 Billion in cash grants for survivors and we need your help. We’re working to make sure this money is as accessible as possible for all survivors and centering those who are usually systemically left out of the conversation and policy-making process.
If you received a grant from us, we want to hear directly from you about your experience. We want to know what made it accessible and useful to you and what restrictions would create barriers for you to access it, so we can collectively make it very clear to the Administration what will make this program successful and useful for you and all survivors.
Please look out in your email and/or text messages for a quick 6-question survey from us to include your thoughts and ideas by THIS FRIDAY at 5PM PT. We will pay you $50 for your time.
Intimate partner violence is a systemic economic issue that demands full societal accountability, starting with our federal government. With 1 in 4 cis-women and nearly 1 in 2 trans folks still experiencing IPV in the U.S., it’s clear that the President and Congress are not doing enough. The lack of infrastructure in place to support survivors has become even more apparent as COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted survivors across the country.
Last year, we asked survivors what they needed to stay safe during COVID-19 and beyond. We’ve used what we learned directly from 1300+ survivors to develop a set of comprehensive federal policy priorities that, when passed, will support survivors across the U.S. in building the financial security they need to stay safe during and after the pandemic.
We are very encouraged that the Biden / Harris Administration’s Plan to End Violence Against Women includes some of our below proposals. FreeFrom is committed to doing the work necessary to ensure that the Administration makes good on these promises. However, at FreeFrom, we understand that gender-based and intimate partner violence impact folks across the gender spectrum, not just cis-women. We urge the Biden / Harris Administration to acknowledge this reality in their plan.
We also urge the Administration and every member of Congress to pass all of our recommended policies and join us in prioritizing financial security and long-term safety for survivors and their families:
Policy Recommendation 1: Provide survivors with tailored COVID-19 relief
Create enhanced fraud protections for survivor stimulus payments
Require institutions to cash stimulus checks without fines or fees
Protect stimulus payments from private debtors
Create Survivor Safety Grants program, earmarking funds for direct unrestricted cash grants for survivors
Policy Recommendation 2: Address economic abuse in VAWA
Expand the definition of intimate partner violence to include economic abuse
Divest funding from law enforcement response and reinvest in economic security programs for survivors
Require that all VAWA grants include enough funding to pay service providers a living wage
Fund direct unrestricted cash assistance for survivors
Remove tort restrictions on grants funding legal assistance for survivors
Policy Recommendation 3: Protect survivors while they bank
Pass the Survivor Safe Banking Act (modeled after the Senior Safe Act)
The Act will require banks to:
Report suspected economic abuse to federal authorities for data analysis and publication
Train management and staff in how to prevent, detect, and respond to economic abuse
Designate an internal team to handle survivor accounts
Implement enhanced privacy and anti-fraud protections on survivor accounts
Allow survivors to open accounts with ID and address alternatives
The Act will also provide banks with immunity from civil and regulatory liability related to their compliance with the Act
Policy Recommendation 4: Provide effective relief for coerced and fraudulent debt
Amend the Fair Credit Reporting Act and Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act by:
Expanding the definition of “identity theft” to include IPV-related coerced and fraudulent debt
Remove police report requirements to access available relief
Require credit reporting agencies to be trained in economic abuse
Create an economic abuse fraud alert
Expand the Equal Credit Opportunity Act to prohibit discrimination by creditors on the basis of someone’s status as a survivor of IPV / economic abuse
Policy Recommendation 5: Create paid and protected leave for survivors
Expand the Family Medical Leave Act to provide paid and protected leave for survivors:
Add IPV and economic abuse as grounds for leave under the Act
Require employers to provide at least 10 days of paid and protected leave to deal with the consequences of abuse without depleting accrued sick or vacation days
Prohibit discrimination and retaliation against employees based on their status as a survivor or their use of the leave
Policy Recommendation 6: Compensate survivors for the harm they’ve experienced
Amend the Victims of Crime Act to better support survivors by:
Making compensation available for survivors who have chosen not to involve the police
Extending or removing application deadlines
Lifting restrictions that disqualify survivors with criminal records from receiving compensation
Expand covered costs to include coerced and fraudulent debt relief, attorneys’ fees, property damage, and childcare
Earmark funds for direct cash assistance for survivor applicants
Policy Recommendation 7: Support and protect survivors through the tax code
Create a refundable Survivor Tax Credit
Create a refundable Coerced and Fraudulent Debt Tax Credit
Designate an Economic Abuse Specialized Unit within the IRS
Create a standardized Economic Abuse Affidavit Form
Create Economic Abuse Survivor Relief
Policy Recommendation 8: Increase access to justice through the courts
Create sanctions against harm-doers who have committed litigation abuse
Create sanctions against attorneys that facilitate and / or participate in litigation abuse
Require that judges, attorneys, and court staff be trained in economic abuse, including litigation abuse
Earmark funding for attorneys to provide pro bono legal representation to survivors in civil matters