October 3, 2018
Empowering Domestic Violence Survivors Through Economic Independence Programs
Affordable housing with some of the most prestigious apartment complexes throughout Polk County. An amazing Small Business Program. Childcare for qualified survivors. “We have so many great programs that provide a promising future for our survivors and their children,” said Economic Justice Advocate Ta’Nika Ellington, who started the Economic Independence program at Peace River Center (PRC) and has managed it for five years. Every day she empowers domestic violence survivors to gain skills that will keep them violence-free and living their best life.
An Array of Economic Empowerment Programs
From diapers and gas cards to Goal Diggers Small Business and Professional Development, through Peace River Center Victim Services domestic violence survivors have a wide variety of empowerment and support programs. Depending on their qualifications and current program offerings, survivors can participate in:
- adult literacy including GED and college courses;
- case management;
- credit counseling;
- crisis counseling;
- financial empowerment programs;
- housing and utility assistance;
- legal services;
- Peace River Center Thrift Shoppe vouchers for clothes and household goods;
- safety planning; and
- Women Independence Scholarship, Inc.
The numbers speak for themselves: more than 25 survivors have started small businesses, 20 plus survivors received $500 matched savings accounts through the Allstate program, more than 50 survivors achieved a certification for professional development, including 15 who received a college education. The success stories go on and on, demonstrating that with the correct resources and support system survivors can remain independent and violence-free.
To qualify domestic violence survivors must reside in Polk, Highlands, or Hardee county and be at least 18 years of age or older. Ta’Nika said most programs are not restricted on how long ago the domestic violence or sexual violence occurred. Only those pursuing relocation services through Victims of Criminal Acts (VOCA) in partnership with the Office of Attorney General must supply documentation of the abuse.
Program Format and Frequency
Survivors meet every other month in person and advocate follow-up via email, post mail, or phone with each survivor every 30 days. Survivors review Knowledge of Power and Control, personalized safety plans, resources, and referrals, as well as an accomplished goal plan using the Empowerment-Based Advocacy Model. Those residing in Peace River Center’s domestic violence shelters and those served by the community outreach programs have access to similar economic empowerment resources.
Peace River Center’s Wraparound Services
For survivors, success is more than attending a financial workshop. The survivor’s emotional state, level of trauma, and a support system outside of the Domestic Violence Program also have a major impact. Advocates provide crisis counseling, but if survivors need more in-depth counseling, they’re referred to Peace River Center Outpatient Therapy.
Achieving Success: Driven Advocate, Determined Survivor
Success is dependent on the survivors’ dedication and willingness to change. But the advocate plays a key role, too. “Their dedication, knowledge, and advocacy are crucial in the survivor’s success. If the advocate can’t direct and guide the survivor, success is slim to none,” said Ta’Nika. All advocates complete a 40-hour Core Competency training developed by the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence. This training equips them with skills such as rapport building, empathy, cultural diversity, and professional standards of compassion, which Ta’Nika says is the recipe for building trust with survivors. Advocates are also skilled at overcoming survivors’ transportation barriers and scheduling conflicts. They work closely with partner agencies to accommodate survivors in every way possible to help put them on the path to success.
“That’s my favorite aspect—seeing the end result of the survivors’ hard work and dedication to self-sufficiency,” said Ta’Nika.