Bankers on the front line in the fight against domestic violence

At a time when the incidence of domestic violence is high and on the rise, it is essential that banks recognize that they are uniquely placed to recognize and respond to customers who may be looking for a way out of a relationship. abusive.

UN Women Reports that one in three women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence from a trusted person in their home. By any measure, COVID-19 and the resulting social isolation and stay-at-home mandates have escalated domestic and intimate partner violence.

the biggest obstacle reducing this violence is financial insecurity. When a person is looking to get out of a dangerous situation at home, they first confront their track record. Do I have enough money to leave? Will I be able to secure an apartment or safe accommodation on my own? Can I afford to bring my household members who depend on me with me?

Additionally, perpetrators of domestic violence frequently make poor financial decisions with mutual funds, seek emotional leverage through financial control, or pressure their partners to borrow money on their behalf. Money is always complicated, but the consequences of financial decisions are heightened in dangerous home environments.

Financial options support women caught in such scenarios. If we recognize the role that banks play in providing these options, the financial services industry can design and deploy them for maximum impact.

Paulette Perhach popularized the idea of ​​a “F*ck off bottomsa few years ago to encourage women to make their own life choices without financial constraints. This is part of a range of financial toolsincluding secure and private savings, emergency loans, remittances or payments from trusted friends, which can help people who are victims of domestic violence.

Financial service providers have a responsibility to identify and administer those tools that can meet the needs of clients, especially those in risky situations.

The time has come to recognize the opportunity and ability of financial institutions to deliberately empower people to leave destructive family situations, and it is heartening to see that this is already happening in many places around the world.

For example, the Australian Banking Association introduced guidelines for its members on how to deal with intimate partner violence. Westpac, one of Australia’s ‘big four’ banks, trains its staff to detect domestic violence and potential financial abuse. If these situations are identified, specialist teams can provide financial assistance in the form of financial flexibility and special considerations tailored to individual circumstances.

This could include a moratorium on loan repayments, alternative ID requirements for those who left home in a hurry without their wallet and credentials, options to send account statements to a trusted address and even assistance with housing pets. Staff refer patients to external support specialists, when appropriate, to help with next steps such as a safe discharge plan, housing assistance, trauma counseling or financial advice. Westpac sent warning letters, terminated customer relationships due to misbehavior and, if necessary, reported violators to law enforcement. Westpac sees itself not only as a provider of financial services, but also as an enabler of financial security, aspiring to help its customers meet their changing needs and pursue economic empowerment on an individual level.

Last year in Latin America, three microfinance institutions (CREDICAMPO and PADECOMSM Credito in El Salvador and ODEF Financiera in Honduras) engaged with the Grameen Foundation to provide training to its loan officers to learn to recognize violence marriage and other gender-related domestic risks. , during the first meeting with customers. These workshops on power dynamics and conflict in relationships help loan officers become aware of the larger context of their clients’ lives and prepare them to meet real-life challenges through finance.

In the United States, a Californian organization called FreeFrom has created a financial security policy map and dashboard, showing how financially difficult it is, on average, for victims of domestic violence to leave dangerous situations. FreeFrom then matches this research with direct financial assistance for survivors, as well as connections to valuable financial services.

Isolating women’s financial lives from their domestic lives often has perilous consequences. In the fight against domestic violence, financial institutions are already acting on the front line, providing immediate and essential resources for the well-being and independence of women worldwide. If we recognize and value this role that banks already play, the financial sector can have an ever-increasing impact on the fight against domestic violence around the world.

About Hubert Lee

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