Rutgers faculty evaluates victim assistance program


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Photo by Edwin Gano |

Survivors of domestic abuse benefit from financial education because they are also often victims of economic abuse, where former intimate partners intentionally undermine a financial situation to gain dominance. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY EDWIN GANO / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER


When addressing issues concerning domestic violence, financial stability sometimes falls to the wayside. Now, a study conducted by Rutgers faculty is showing the importance of educating survivors to be financially stable.

A new educational curriculum created jointly by the Allstate Foundation and National Network to End Domestic Violence is now helping survivors of domestic abuse restart their lives and learn more about managing their finances.

A study conducted by Rutgers faculty, titled “Evaluating a Financial Education Curriculum
as an Intervention to Improve Financial Behaviors and Financial Well-Being of Survivors of Domestic Violence”, has found the curriculum to be beneficial for domestic violence survivors in managing their finances following abusive relationships.

In December of 2014, three Rutgers faculty members conducted research evaluating the financial education curriculum. Their research indicated improvement in survivors’ financial knowledge, leading them to adopt better monetary practices.

Survivors of domestic violence benefit from financial education programs because they are often also victims of economic abuse, said Judy Postmus, director of the School of Social Work’s Center on Violence Against Women and Children.

“Economic abuse is a form of domestic violence and includes a range of tactics used by an abuser to undermine the economic independence of a current or former intimate partner,” she said.

Postmus said she has been researching economic abuse and its determinants since 2008.

Research tends to focus more on physical or emotional forms of abuse than economic factors, she said.

“Economic abuse itself isn't new, but there has been very limited research done on the subject,” Postmus said. “More research has been conducted on physical abuse followed by emotional or psychological abuse and then sexual abuse.”

An implication of this study is how it helped create a “policy window opening” for teaching financial management to domestic survivors, said Andrea Hetling, an associate professor in the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy.

Hetling said her experience helping domestic violence survivors at a New York City non-profit organization showed her how economic instability could act as a barrier.

“Non-profits can only do so much without policies and funding for these new economic empowerment programs,” she said. “In my opinion, public policies need to offer the push to make such programs available to all survivors, just like we do with shelters and legal services.”

The study conducted by Postmus, Hetling and Gretchen Hoge, a research assistant for the School of Social Work, is meant to help understand the impact of financial education, Postmus said.

Hetling and Postmus said the study tracked the impact of the curriculum on domestic violence survivors over time. According to the study, the educational program improved financial decisions by survivors.

According to the study, survivors who enrolled in this program experienced increased financial stability compared to survivors in a control group who received no financial education.

By having an experimental and control group, Postmus and Hetling said they were able to isolate other variables affecting the survivor’s recovery and show Allstate’s and the NNEDV’s program had a noticeable impact on the women who participated.

The study says that women in general are vulnerable in situations that ruin their finances. These situations include lower earnings in the workplace, divorce and outliving their spouse.

In other cases, the study said women might not be used to handling their own finances. The study said receiving extra financial education, along with other services that a shelter would not provide, can benefit survivors.

Although the study did not examine whether young women are more vulnerable to economic abuse, Postmus said college-aged women in particular are most in-need of monetary administration skills.

“Young women need strong financial management skills and should be open to jointly talking about financial situations when entering into a committed relationship,” she said.

The curriculum evaluated by the study can be found online at ClicktoEmpower.org.


Katia Oltmann

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