Getting unstuck from the cycle of poverty and abuse

Thursday, April 18, 2019

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(Transcribed and edited from an interview with Nanci Micke, Vice President at United Way Fox Cities, Beth Schnorr, Executive Director at Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs, and Jordan Lefeber, Economic Advocate at Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs on WHBY's Focus Fox Valley with Hayley Tenpas. Listen to the full interview online starting at 21:15.)

Hayley: There was a term that I had never really heard before—financial abuse—in the information that you sent over. Talk with me a little bit about what that is and the realities that come along with it.

Beth: Financial abuse is a common thread among the clients that we see. It is part of power and control. It is a tactic of establishing an atmosphere where somebody feels like they are trapped and can’t leave. Actually, financial abuse is the number one reason why survivors of domestic violence feel that they cannot leave a domestic abuse situation. If they are able to leave, it is the number one reason why they go back; they can’t afford to leave and can’t afford to stay away. Financial abuse can be a wide range of things, from controlling the finances to putting up barriers for somebody to advance themselves (for instance, if they want to go back to school).

To be able to make it on your own, you have to have a good education and you have to have a job that allows you to earn more than $10.00 an hour. Perpetrators will many times get in the way of someone’s ability to do that and sabotage their work. So many of the people that we’ve worked with have lost good jobs because they’ve been harassed at work. Educating employers is also a big part of the work that we do.

Hayley: Jordan, I love your title—Economic Advocate—tell us what this program is and what you’re able to do with these women.

Jordan: The Economic Advocacy Program is helping our clients to overcome barriers when it comes to employment and financial needs. The program looks at all of the areas around needing a job; those might be things like child care or transportation. It might be, ‘I can’t buy the scrubs or the uniform that I need.’ There are so many other things that go into getting and keeping a job—that’s what I can do in my role. I can help find the job, work through guidelines for putting together a résumé and interviewing, and also help people work through some of the barriers, so people can sustain their jobs.

Beth: We’ve seen so many people get stuck in a cycle of poverty and abuse. We knew we needed to do things a bit differently and really focus on the issue of financial abuse if we were going to give people better resources.

We started our Economic Advocacy Program maybe about four or five years ago. We were able to get some funding to get it started, but United Way Fox Cities provided a grant at this time to make sure the program was stable and sustainable. We are really grateful for that because we know that it is a program we want to continue. We’ve had such great results.


United Way Fox Cities gave a $24,999 grant to Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs for their Economic Advocacy for Survivors of Domestic Abuse. The program provides financial literacy education, assistance with continuing education, job training and skill building, job placement, career development, and long-term support for survivors.