Women’s Financial Empowerment Program offers support for women who have experienced domestic violence

Resolve Counselling has launched a new program to support women who have been, or are currently experiencing, domestic violence and will help them take back control over their life. The Financial Empowerment Program is possible thanks to a Community Investment Grant from the United Way and the City of Kingston.

The program aims to empower women to live independently and improve their financial situation. Women who have previously left an abusive relationship, and those who are currently in one, are all invited to take part in the grant program. Resolve is hoping to see as many women as possible during the grant period, which ends on September 30, 2022.

“Financial abuse can be a huge piece of domestic abuse,” said Tara Everitt, Director of Community Services at Resolve Counselling. “Getting honest, informed and accurate information from a trained financial and credit counsellor, I think is so important. Knowing that there are resources out there in the community to support women, [and how] to get that information is really important.”

The program is free, and, as with all Resolve services, completely confidential. The one-on-one sessions allow women to explore all their options, either in-person, virtually, or over the phone.

Each session, while individualized based on need, will have an overarching structure. The counsellor will ask the client about their financial safety plan; whether their funds are separate from a partner’s, and what their financial goals are. Then they will discuss financial fears and identify the biggest hurdles they need to overcome in their current situation. They will also investigate the client’s credit, government supports, and community resources that will help in each specific situation.

The goal of the sessions is to identify ways to enhance each woman’s financial situation, according to Jeri Bittorf, a counsellor at Resolve.

“We’re going to do a complete budget with them, to get an idea of where they are financially and you know, maybe where they might need a little bit more assistance or if they need to start bringing in some extra income,” Bittorf explained. “Then we can start brainstorming with them ways that they could improve their financial situation, or maybe reduce some of their expenses in order to be able to meet their needs.”

Another important area the counsellors will discuss with clients is housing.

“I’ve been referring people to the portable housing support grid,” shared Bittorf, noting that they also make sure that women have housing that fits within their budget.

Typically, the Women’s Financial Empowerment Program will provide from one to three sessions for each client, according to Bittorf.

“I think there’s a lot of financial fear that prevents women from leaving, regardless of whether it’s an abusive situation. There’s still economic and income inequality between women and men,” noted Everitt. “Especially when there’s children involved, a lot of women feel like they might not be able to do this on their own. And I think we’re here to just reassure women that they have choices, and that they can do this on their own.”

Gender-based violence covers a very large spectrum of abuse, Everitt stated. “If any woman is questioning, please just call. The grant is very open and there’s no criteria in terms of what that kind of spectrum of violence can look like,” she said.

Everitt went on to note that abuse is not necessarily what’s depicted on TV, with physical violence and black eyes. “Emotional abuse involves how [a] woman feels. So if they’re feeling powerless, if they’re feeling not good enough, if they’re feeling constantly like they can’t do things on their own, those are often signs that their partner is potentially manipulating them to feel like that to prevent them from leaving them,” she said, adding that the abuse often comes from fear and control from a woman’s partner — they don’t want the woman to leave the relationship.

“If a woman is feeling really bad about the relationship and fearful — like they can’t go out with their friends on their own — those are all signs,” Everitt continued. “So regardless of whether a woman doesn’t think they fit in, I would still have them call and come in, and meet with a counsellor. We also have mental health counsellors in part of our women’s program that we can also make referrals to, and they can get all their needs met under Resolve, between their emotional and their financial counselling supports.”

Everitt reiterated that the women do not need to be currently in an abusive relationship to be supported by this program. “It could have been years ago that they were in an abusive relationship,” she stated. “You know, there are a lot of steps that might need to happen before they can be in the right place to deal with their financial situation and financial empowerment. So this might be a couple of years since they’ve been in an abusive relationship, but this program is still open to them.”

The Women’s Financial Empowerment Program is set up so women can disclose what they’re comfortable with. According to Resolve, the main focus is on the client’s financial situation and how they can have control and live more independently on a single income.

To set up a free, confidential appointment, call Resolve at 613-549-7850, and mention the Women’s Financial Empowerment Program.

For more details on Resolve Counselling and their services, visit their website.

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