Nearly 40% of women in D.C. have experienced intimate partner violence, which is higher than the national average of 25%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest report.
Three D.C. officials told WTOP that the city has a slew of resources to help survivors. Michelle Garcia, the director of the District of Columbia Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants, said the first thing someone in a domestic abuse situation should do is call the City’s emergency victim hotline, which runs 24/7. There they will be connected to community organizations that can help. The phone number is 844-4-HELP-DC (844-443-5732).
“It can be incredibly helpful for any victim or survivor to be connected with a domestic violence service provider that can really explore the world of services that are available to them, including services around addressing financial abuse and restoring financial independence,” Garcia said.
Victims of domestic abuse can be trapped by partners, who cut off access to bank accounts or other financial assets. Michelle Hammonds, director of Financial Empowerment and Education at the D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking, said that women who want to leave should start collecting whatever financial documents they can, such as credit reports, account passwords and titles to properties.
She also suggested having bank account statements sent to a P.O. Box or some other location, where the abuser will not be able to access it.
She also recommended those who are eligible sign up for the DC Opportunity Accounts Program, a matched savings program to assist low- to moderate-income D.C. residents.
“With that particular program, I do know there was an individual that was able to purchase a car so that they can leave a domestic violence situation,” Hammonds said.
Jennifer L. Porter, executive director of the Mayor’s Office on Women’s Policy and Initiatives, said another available resource is a free, online financial literacy workshop first initiated by Mayor Muriel Bowser in 2017. This year, the series is specifically geared to women.
“What are some of those preventative things that we can activate women to learn about,” Porter said. “We talk about conversations, particularly with girls, around healthy relationships and how important it is to couple those messages with healthy and financial wellness and financial practices that can support their economic empowerment.”
Garcia said when someone is ready to leave, community organizations can connect them to housing, including emergency shelter, transitional and permanent housing.
The city will be allocating $3 million this year to those organization to provide financial assistance to help domestic abuse survivors get back on their feet, including money for groceries, Metro cards, gas and security deposits. And she said it’s not only women who are affected.
In D.C., 26% of men are victims of domestic abuse. That’s also higher than the national average of 1 in 10 men.
While D.C. services for domestic abuse survivors are primarily for city residents, the D.C. hotline will direct nonresidents to services in their own area. The city also investigates any crime that happens in D.C., including to non-residents.