Columbus, Ohio-based Thirty-One Gifts is helping the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) launch the Independence Project to help survivors of domestic violence build credit scores.
The project is a credit-building through micro-lending program to help survivors build economic independence and is the first national project of its kind in the U.S. The program launched in a few states in February and continues its national rollout through October, which also is the 30th anniversary of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Thirty-One Gifts provided $90,000 of seed money to pilot the program. The donation established the Thirty-One Fund within the Independence Project to support survivors.
The program now is available in 19 states and has provided 145 loans. By the end of October, the organization expects to offer the program in 36 states. Of the loans provided so far, 50 were funded through the Thirty-One Gifts Independence Fund. Now other donors, including Verizon Wireless, have joined the project.
“NNEDV currently works with several state coalitions that have microloan programs serving survivors in their regions,” said Kim Gandy, President of NNEDV. “With Thirty-One’s funding, we will be able to augment funds they are distributing, enabling each coalition to help dozens of additional survivors to rebuild their credit and move toward long-term financial stability.”
Independence Project micro loans are $100 micro loans for survivors of domestic violence, who often have damaged credit ratings due to financial abuse that occurs in addition to physical and emotional abuse. The program provides short-term, no-interest loans that are paid back over 10 months, and are designed to help survivors build good credit so they can better secure housing, transportation and employment in the long-term.
“I know my credit score is 480,” wrote a borrower, “and I feel relieved and excited that once I successfully complete the loan, I can continue to re-apply for another loan until I get my score back up.”
Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive, controlling behavior that can include physical, emotional, sexual or financial abuse. One in four women will be a victim of domestic violence at some point in her lifetime, and financial abuse occurs in 99 percent of domestic violence cases. Victims frequently face immense financial barriers and often are forced to access expensive financial services and products.
“Financial abuse, whether you’re talking about ruining her credit, getting her fired or hiding money, is just as effective in controlling the victim as a lock and key,” said Gandy. “Women are literally being forced, because of financial dependency, back into abusive relationships.”
Another component of the Independence Project is to provide training and technical assistance to the domestic violence field to increase general knowledge about credit and banking. In March, conducted their first Annual Economic Justice Summit: Navigating Economic Justice: Dollars, Sense and Safety.
NNEDV and its supporters also are conducting several other initiatives during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, including NNEDV’s annual #31n31 social media campaign. Throughout October they will share and define a buzzword about domestic violence each day, encouraging understanding of the issue and actions that can be taken.
From Oct. 15 through 21, NNEDV will conduct the National Week of Action, providing activities each day to understand and build awareness among others about domestic violence.
The week includes Oct. 19, when NNEDV will observe national #PurpleThursday, where everyone is encouraged to wear purple to honor victims and support survivors of domestic violence. NNEDV, using the hashtag #PurpleThursday, will conduct a Thunderclap campaign, whereby social media followers are encouraged to share the message of Domestic Violence Awareness Month through social media posts.
Thirty-One Gifts will dedicate and match all funds raised through its purchase roundup program throughout October, up to $31,000. Customers will have the option to donate by rounding up their purchases to the nearest dollar or making a donation of any amount to support domestic violence service providers in the U.S.
The company also has pledged $100,000 to a capital campaign for a new facility for CHOICES for Victims of Domestic Violence in Columbus, Ohio, where they are headquartered.
Independent sales consultants with Thirty-One are being encouraged to work in their local communities in support of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The company has more than 67,000 sales consultants throughout the U.S. and Canada.
The Verizon Foundation supports domestic violence in several ways, including the HopeLine program, where Verizon collects no-longer used wireless phones, batteries, chargers and accessories in any condition from any service provider to benefit victims and survivors of domestic violence. Donated phones are then turned into valuable resources for nonprofit organizations and agencies that support domestic violence victims and survivors nationwide.
For more information about NNEDV, the Independence Project and their October activities, click here.
About the National Network to End Domestic Violence
The NNEDV is a social change organization dedicated to creating a social, political and economic environment in which violence against women no longer exists. As a membership and advocacy organization of state domestic violence coalitions, allied organizations and supportive individuals, NNEDV works closely with its members to understand the ongoing and emerging needs of domestic violence victims and advocacy programs. Then NNEDV makes sure those needs are heard and understood by policymakers at the national level. NNEDV also offers a range of programs and initiatives to address the complex causes and far-reaching consequences of domestic violence. Through cross-sector collaborations and corporate partnerships, NNEDV offers support to victims of domestic violence who are escaping abusive relationships—and empowers survivors to build new lives.