Diocesan News

Why domestic violence and poverty often go hand in hand

By Katie Hile, regional director of social services at Catholic Social Services of Southern Nebraska

Fleeing domestic violence is hardly ever an easy decision. Leaving a man who once loved you but started to abuse you doesn’t necessarily mean you never loved him. But his struggles can no longer be solved, excused, or endured, by you and most importantly, by your children. The abuse became too much to bear and whether it was physical, verbal, emotional, or psychological; you had had enough. As the news breaks to family and friends, one might ask: well why didn’t you just leave sooner?

Let me tell you why.

Poverty, and the prospect of poverty, reduces options. Separating oneself from an abuser can be expensive. It usually requires finding a new living arrangement, paying for moving expenses, and then all the details of changing your address and updating any and all emergency contact information—time-consuming tasks that can easily cut into your work schedule, and your paycheck. 

If you have children, you might need to transfer them to a new school district and inform the school office of the situation. Children living in homes with conflict often struggle academically, and sometimes socially, so any supplemental learning and behavioral support they were receiving might need to be paused, or worse, stopped. 

You break it to family and friends that he won’t be coming with you to birthdays, work events, and family gatherings anymore. Many people will be shocked at his absence but probably just because you hid the abuse so well. Time goes by and the curiosity and concern dissipate. You and your children settle into apartment living, but one thing remains and follows you everywhere—financial insecurity. 

In June, with great interest by our residents at St. Gianna Women’s Homes, we hosted a guest speaker from a local bank and credit union. She presented to the women about how to achieve financial stability. She opened the conversation by asking our current residents: What do you want for your future? What are your goals? Where do you want to be five years from now? 

The women quickly responded with answers and comments such as: I want to buy a home. I want to improve my credit score. How do I budget my monthly expenses so that I can save? What community resources are available to low-income families wanting to buy a home? What do I do for retirement? 

To lay the foundation for these women, and to motivate them to pursue the answers, our speaker moved onto discussing SMART goals: encouraging the women to be specific (S) with their goals, identifying ways to measure (M) progress toward achieving their goals, reflecting with the women as to whether their goals are attainable (A) and realistic (R), and most importantly, setting a timetable (T) for which to achieve their goals. 

These conversations are just the beginning. Many of the women we serve at St. Gianna’s are coming from severe situations of financial insecurity. Transitioning from a mentality of survival to one of sustainability takes a lot of hard work. 

At Catholic Social Services, we remain continuously grateful to our generous donors and prayerful supporters who help make our work possible. With your continued support, we will be able to serve and hopefully guide women not only in ways of spiritual and physical wellbeing, but also of economic stability and prosperity so that they too can be powerful witnesses of strength, resilience, and hope.

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