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Grant will help Vermont survivors of sexual and domestic violence learn financial skills

The Vermont Women’s Fund provided $10,000 to the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity for two programs.

The programs are Voices Against Violence and Growing Money. Through the partnership, survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in Franklin and Grand Isle counties will learn financial skills to increase their confidence and to become self-sufficient.   

“Financial abuse is one of the ways in which survivors are kept in a relationship,” Kris Lukens, director of Voices Against Violence, said. 

Voices Against Violence will share the grant with Growing Money, an organization that helps Vermonters with financial independence.

“But a lot of it is repairing their credit, repairing the financial harm that has been done to them,” Lukens said. “Oftentimes their credit is completely wrecked.”

In 2020, Voices Against Violence received more than 1,600 calls to its hotline and sheltered 88 families. Lukens said survivors are limited in how they can help themselves when they are stuck in a situation. 

“It may be that they are not allowed to work outside the home,” Lukens said. “It may be that if they do work, their paycheck is taken away from them and they don’t have access to that money.”

Kathryn Baudreau, director of the Financial Futures program at CVOEO, said it could take some time to help victims get where they need to be.

“Our overall structure is to provide knowledge through classes and through content-based education, but then follow that up with individual coaching,” Baudreau said.

Meg Smith, director of the Vermont Women’s Fund, said now is the perfect time to help. 

“Our grants totaled $331,000, and $10,000 was the largest grant size that we give,” Smith said. 

Smith said this just made sense. “Not having financial means just keeps you locked into that situation,” Smith said.