Massachusetts: Helping Survivors of Domestic and Sexual Violence Achieve Economic Security

Economic security is a key factor in helping domestic and sexual violence (DSV) survivors achieve safety for themselves and their children. Poverty increases the risk of sexual violence, and sexual violence can jeopardize a victim’s economic security, leading to unemployment, interrupted education, and homelessness. The isolation and lack of resources in rural areas can worsen the situation by limiting survivors’ options. In 2016, the rape crisis centers funded by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) received reports of 1,895 new incidents of sexual assault, and the state-funded domestic violence hotline received 25,186 calls. To help address the economic security needs of rural DSV survivors in western Massachusetts, MDPH used Preventive Health and Health Services (PHHS) Block Grant funds to support the Rural Economic Security Initiative of the Massachusetts Rural Domestic and Sexual Violence Project (MRDSVP). This project builds on the efforts of DSV prevention advocates and others working to help survivors become financially independent.

In 2016, MRDSVP hosted a cross-systems economic summit—Economic Justice for Survivors: Exploring Strategies That Work. More than 120 people attended, including staff from DSV agencies, legal services, housing agencies, employment programs, state agencies, and law enforcement agencies, as well as DSV survivors. By the end of the summit, participants reported an increase in their knowledge about survivor economic security and took away practical strategies to address this concern in their communities. The summit also gave participants opportunities to collaborate and network across nontraditional channels.

Additionally, the summit helped recruit new members for the project’s Economic Security Taskforce, which works to improve and maximize survivors’ economic resources, and led to the formation of Our Women’s Network. This community collaborative supports DSV survivors’ efforts to generate entrepreneurial income. MRDSVP meets regularly with the network to provide technical support. The summit also provided statewide exposure for The Money School, a 6-week financial literacy pilot program for women who have survived DSV in Berkshire County. Managed by the Elizabeth Freeman Center and the American Institute for Economic Research, The Money School is a workshop series that teaches women how to establish credit, open a bank account, plan and budget, and learn to become financially independent. Since the 2016 summit, 69 women from Berkshire County and Springfield graduated from The Money School. The school’s success served as a catalyst for a $100,000 financial literacy replication grant in Springfield.

With the support of PHHS Block Grant funding, Massachusetts is helping domestic and sexual violence survivors become more economically secure and independent.

Story year: 2017

Mother explains how to use a budget to her young daughter.

With the support of PHHS Block Grant funding, Massachusetts is helping domestic and sexual violence survivors become more economically secure and independent.

Page last reviewed: October 11, 2018