By Sharon Svec
Abuse is never straight-forward. Tools like the power and control wheel show that abusers will often use multiple ways to gain power and control in a relationship. Breaking free from an abuser is a huge step, but at YWCA advocates do all they can to ensure that violence is not tolerated or perpetuated in the future. By providing education and solution-oriented support for survivors of domestic violence, YWCA helps break the cycle of violence.
The Strengthening Families, Ending Violence Project is one such support service offered by the SafeChoice Domestic Violence Program of YWCA Clark County. Through this project, advocates and shelter residents work together using an empowerment-driven model that supports the parent/child bond and ends the cycle of violence. The project is multi-faceted and has been funded through multiple sources including United Way of the Columbia-Willamette, the Looking Out Foundation, and Bank of America.
Three main aspects of the project include the children advocacy program, support groups and housing and transportation assistance. The support groups contain three additional components: DV 101 to help participants better understand the dynamics of domestic violence, a personal enhancement section to provide self-care practice, and a financial empowerment section to help residents transition out of the shelter into a financially stable environment.
Support group facilitators Ashmeeta Kumar, David Chapparo and Katheryn Manning will offer weekly sessions. The support groups will follow a cyclical curriculum based on the 60 day stay offered to shelter residents. Ashmeeta will facilitate DV 101, David will lead personal enhancement and Katheryn will address fiscal empowerment. The team leading the groups will consistently be evaluating the success of their efforts, and will make subtle adjustments to the curriculum to ensure residents are getting the most out of participation.
I recently talked with Katheryn to learn more about the fiscal empowerment section of the support groups, “I’m excited. I think that along with financial empowerment comes a lot of freedom. If you have that component, then it opens all kinds of doors for you. Being able to give financial tools that really work is very valuable.”
Utilizing a curriculum prepared by The Allstate Foundation and the National Network to End Domestic Violence, Katheryn will lead the group through the following five modules: Understanding Financial Abuse, Learning Financial Fundamentals, Mastering Credit Basics, Building Financial Foundations and Creating Budgeting Strategies. Participants will have an opportunity to implement concepts and practice new techniques with supporting activities and worksheets. Because every person’s situation is different, Katheryn believes it’s important to provide individualized support whenever possible.
Katheryn notes that at a time of transition, when everything seems up in the air, education and training like this can feel grounding and empowering. “The financial part is huge. Someone may have lost their job because of the DV. They may have had to leave their home; having to start over. It can be very overwhelming. So here you are in the shelter. You need to find shelter and take care of a lot of other things, and you need to do that in 60 days. So the empowerment part of that is to offer the encouragement that it can be done, to instill that sense of the ripple, and to be there to separate all that all out and make it manageable.”
Empowerment has always been a key part of YWCA’s mission, and by offering something more than temporary housing – by offering an entire program which empowers survivors in a variety of ways, SafeChoice embodies the mission of YWCA and models it for survivors. With funding from Bank of America, SafeChoice is able to extend that empowerment outside the doors of the shelter. Not only will survivors gain financial assistance because of grants from United Way, but they will know how to make the best use of that assistance and how to leverage it into financial independence.