by United Way of Metro Chicago

You start working shifts as a cashier at the grocery store. After receiving your first pay, you check the joint bank account you share with your spouse. You’re shocked to see the balance is low.

Your spouse tells you they’ve opened a new account and have transferred all of your savings and spending money. They say that working at the grocery store isn’t necessary and that you’re needed at home to watch your children and catch up on chores. Your spouse’s income is more than enough to cover your household expenses anyway.

You stop working at the grocery store. When you ask your spouse for money for groceries, they accuse you of spending too much. A haircut? Out of the question—you can do that yourself at home. A bike for exercise and to run errands? You’re told you’re being selfish and crazy.

Nearly 50% of people have experienced psychological abuse. Not to mention 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. Financial abuse—when someone restricts another person from making, saving, or spending money—occurs in 99% of domestic violence cases and is often a main reason domestic violence survivors stay with an abusive partner. Because they can’t afford to leave.

Reclaiming Power and Financial Independence

This is why financial empowerment is so vital—and potentially life saving for domestic violence survivors. In 2020, United Way of Metro Chicago, The Allstate Foundation, and our community nonprofit partners came together to financially empower survivors during a time when incidents of domestic violence were on the rise due to the pandemic and stay-at-home restrictions.

The Stability for Survivors program connects community partners, like shelters, crisis centers, and counseling programs, with The Allstate Foundation’s Moving Ahead Curriculum, a five-module course designed to help domestic violence survivors achieve financial independence and rebuild their lives. The curriculum covers practical financial topics, such as budgeting, managing debt, and improving credit. It has been proven to help survivors move from short-term safety to long-term security.

Alongside the curriculum, the programs offer additional services, like job training and small business supports to survivors, as well as match-savings and micro-loan opportunities.

“We’re grateful to continue our longstanding partnership with United Way to support survivors of domestic violence,” said Francie Schnipke Richards, Vice President, Social Impact and The Allstate Foundation. “Every person should have the information and tools they need to create a safe, stable, and fulfilled life. Now, more than ever, it is critical to get financial resources in the hands of survivors in need.”

Stability for Survivors in Action at Anew

Anew, previously the South Suburban Family Shelter, is a Stability for Survivors program partner that uses The Allstate Foundation’s Moving Ahead Curriculum to train their counselors and offer financial literacy classes to people who have experienced violence. “This support has made a tremendous difference and impact for our counseling clients,” said Raphaelle Cappos, Counseling Program Manager at Anew.

“Part of their case management services with us is using The Allstate Foundation’s Moving Ahead Curriculum to assist with becoming more financially stable and independent,” Cappos continued. “Most of them have never had a savings account and now make deposits weekly or biweekly. They are learning how to save and plan to eventually use their savings on much-needed things, like finding a new place to live or doing maintenance or repairs on their homes, buying a new vehicle, immigration processing fees, and saving money for her children’s education.”

Through the curriculum and counseling at Anew, Annie* learned how to improve her credit, budget money, and open a bank account. She was also inspired to get her career back on track after she had lost her job because of the domestic violence she experienced.

“Learning these things made me feel empowered, like I had control of life and my kids’ lives,” Annie wrote. “As a survivor of [domestic violence], you want nothing more than to have your power back and a sense of control.”

Program Expands, Reaching More Survivors

Financial empowerment services, coupled with wraparound services like basic needs support and counseling, are critical to helping survivors like Annie rebuild their lives. And funders are taking note. In 2022, Crown Family Philanthropies joined United Way and The Allstate Foundation to support the Stability for Survivors program, allowing the initiative to expand and connect with more community partners—and empower more survivors to regain their sense of self and independence.

“We believe that all Chicagoans deserve a safe place to call home, as well as access to the resources necessary to empower healthy and fulfilling lives,” said Christy Prahl, Program Director of Health and Human Services at Crown Family Philanthropies. “The Stability for Survivors program provides a path to financial wellbeing and a more secure future for survivors and their children.”

Community partners participating in the Stability for Survivors program are:

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, please visit the above organizations’ websites for support and resources or call:

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
National Network to End Domestic Violence
Council on Criminal Justice 

*Name changed for confidentiality