Empowering victims to leave abuse
EASTON — The Mid-Shore Council on Family Violence is working to better enable its clients to leave their abusive relationships by economically empowering them.
Gov. Larry Hogan, MidShore police agencies, elected officials, community partners and professionals in the field officially cut the ribbon on the Mid-Shore Council on Family Violence’s Economic Empowerment Center in Easton on Thursday, Aug. 17.
“Our administration is working hard to create an environment of economic opportunity for every Marylander and that beings with protecting and empowering the most vulnerable among us,” Hogan said to a crowd gathered outside the Economic Empowerment Center at 8626 Brooks Drive.
“As all of you here this morning know, victims of domestic violence and sexual assault often experience economic challenges, which can have a devastating and lasting impact on their ability to recover from an act of violence, leave an abusive situation or achieve financial independence, and the ability of victims of domestic violence or assault to become economically secure is fundamental to that person’s safety,” he said.
Jeanne Yeager, executive director of the Mid-Shore Council on Family Violence, said her organization helps victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in Talbot, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Caroline and Dorchester counties.
Yeager said victims who come to the Mid-Shore Council of Family Violence face significant challenges related to limited financial resources. She said 25 percent of its clients have no income of their own when they enter services, and Hogan said it is estimated that three out of four victims stay with an abuser longer because of financial issues and constraints.
“Together, we must work to empower these individuals and to ensure that they have the tools and the skills they need to break the cycle of abuse and violence,” Hogan said. “This is exactly what this empowerment victims services project is doing.”
The Economic Empowerment Center has been open for seven months and already has seen results, Yeager said. She said 75 percent of its clients have increased their ability to meet basic expenses, 62 percent have increased their standard of living, 75 percent have decreased their financial worry and the total benefits of savings to clients has been about $7,400.
“Prior to providing economic empowerment services, financial barriers kept victims in abusive relationships and prevented them from becoming selfsufficient,” she said. “But no longer. Through the provision of legal representation in cases such as debt restructuring, consumer law, custody, child support, landlord-tenant, mortgage, MVA (Motor Vehicle Administration) and tax issues, our clients are overcoming these barriers.”
The state funded the Economic Empowerment Center at $1.4 million, Hogan said. The empowerment center works to address immediate needs, too, like assistance with access to food, medicine and safe, secure housing, Hogan said, adding it also will address transitional economic services like career training and finding employment.
“The economic empowerment victims services project is particularly important because it serves victims who live in rural areas, who as a result face unique challenges to recovery,” Hogan said. “Projects like this one are not only life changing, but they’re actually life saving.”
The Mid-Shore Council of Family Violence with its Economic Empowerment Center is taking a multifaceted approach that’s necessary to provide the kind of comfort, safety, support and structure that families need to get back on their feet, Sen. Addie Eckardt, R37-Mid-Shore, said Thursday.
“This center will do just that, provide that kind of safe environment, provide the structure, provide the support, provide the foundation, because individuals in order to be able to bloom and grow need to be validated, need to find that they have self-worth again and they have unique skill set ability that sets them to be able to be productive and loving and caring and that’s what this team does there and so we’re thankful for that,” Eckardt said.
Partners with the MidShore Council on Family Violence also spoke at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Talbot County Sheriff Joe Gamble said the organization educates his deputies and keeps them up on the latest laws and ways they can collaborate, and he knows they’re getting sound advice for a victim, because “we know their priority are victims and victim ser vices.”
The Talbot County Chamber of Commerce also partners with the organization, because, as Executive Director Al Silverstein said, “we all need a good workforce.”
“The governor has done a good job of trying to move economic development forward in our state and we can’t do that without quality individuals who are trained, who don’t have the kinds of problems that those who have domestic abuse undergo, that can come to work every day and be productive citizens,” Silverstein said. “This economic empowerment center is a great tribute to the business community and to the individuals it will serve.”
Officials cut the ribbon on the Mid-Shore Council on Family Violence’s Economic Empowerment Center on Thursday, Aug. 17. The center will help victims of abuse get back on their feet, economically.