Survivors of domestic abuse seek financial independence
by Andrew Shilling
Aug 07, 2013 | 1020 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence commissioner Yolanda Jimenez at the NYC Family Justice Center in Rego Park.
The Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence commissioner Yolanda Jimenez at the NYC Family Justice Center in Rego Park.
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After leaving a long-fought, mentally and physically abusive relationship, Rosemarie enrolled in the Working in Support of Education (W!SE) back in June 2011 to take back her life.

As she explained, her now ex-husband was not only an overwhelming force in her personal life, but he also had complete control of their finances.

Through months of intensive counseling and workshops in financial planning and computer literacy, she is now preparing for her final exam to earn her course certification.

“When I started looking for a job, he took my certificates away, the car keys, the house keys and asked for his credit card back,” Rosemarie said of her marriage. “I had no access to money with a limited credit card, so I was stuck. I had no way of doing anything that I wanted to do because I would have to get an account.”

W!SE courses are built to help survivors of physically and mentally abusive relationships learn how to become financially stable, which means lessons on obtaining a loan, how to apply for a mortgage, investment awareness and what it means to be a truly financially stable individual.

“I came from a situation where I wasn’t responsible for the financial part of the family, so I came in with very little knowledge of financial awareness,” she said. “I had to learn everything about financial planning.”

A graduate of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Rosemarie said she is now looking to reenter the job market in social services to help women in abusive relationships.

Twenty-one W!SE participants, including Rosemarie, took part in an extensive four-hour financial workshop at the New York City Family Justice Center in Rego Park on Saturday called “Affording Your Dreams: Saving, Investing and Loans.”

Yolanda Jimenez, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, joined the group during the seminar to congratulate them on their hard work.

“It’s inspirational to see the enthusiasm of this group of women as they take the next steps to regain control over their finances, and in turn, over their whole lives,” Jimenez said. “I admire their strength and commitment towards a safe and independent future for themselves and their children.”

Since opening in 2008, the NYC Family Justice Center has helped nearly 2,000 victims of domestic violence.

David Anderson, executive vice president of W!SE, joined the group in the planning seminar to explain the importance of becoming financially stable.

“This innovative program is of particular significance to the group of survivors as they continue on their path to financial independence,” Anderson said. “The more you learn about personal finances, the more intuitive it becomes, like learning how to ride a bike.”

Thanks to nearly $25,000 in contributions from the Avon Foundation, W!SE now has served nearly 125 clients in roughly 20 classes since 2010.

Also a graduate of John Jay College, Gwendolyn joined the program in April after leaving a mentally abusive relationship, and needed help on her computer literacy as well as financial planning.

“I found that it’s very important for me to know how to budget and how to take care of my finances, which previously my husband had been the one to handle that,” Gwendolyn said. “I found myself being at a disadvantage because I found out how little I did know.”

After an unraveling sequence of events that ended her 36-year-marriage, she too is looking to help others who were financially and emotionally stranded with a position in social work.

“I’m still dealing with a lot of it, and I will be dealing with it for years,” she said. “We feed strength off of each other as well as learning from each other."
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