The California-based nonprofit, FreeFrom, has launched a self-help compensation tool designed to give survivors of domestic violence some hope that they can be compensated. The goal of FreeForm, founded in 2016, is to create support for survivors. The company’s three areas of focus – credit repair, income building, and access to compensation – are designed to provide its clients with the economic justice and financial independence necessary to ensure their permanent safety and the safety of their children. With the launch of their online self-help compensation tool, survivors across the U.S. will be able to more readily navigate through an otherwise messy legal process.
“Survivors across the U.S. will be able to seek financial justice and navigate a complicated legal process with ease,” says Kat Manalac, FreeFrom board member. “FreeFrom is transforming a difficult, emotionally-taxing process into one that is accessible and empowering.”
The web-based tool, which can be found at compensation-quiz.freefrom.org, aims to give hope to domestic violence survivors who are looking into their legal options. It currently includes information for California, but the company intends to expand its reach nationally by the middle of 2018.
An abuse victim is able to navigate a series of questions regarding the person’s financial situation and what they are seeking compensation for – essentially, their options are Small Claims Court, Criminal Restitution, Tort Litigation and Victims of Crime Funding. Once the user inputs the needed information, the website displays their individualized options.
“Survivors should not have to pay for the medical bills and property damage resulting from them being abused but that is the status quo,” says Amira Samuel, FreeFrom’s compensation program director.
FreeFrom indicates one in four women and one in seven men nationwide will experience severe domestic violence within their lifetime, and domestic partner violence is expected to cost the U.S. between $5.8 billion and $12.6 billion annually, according to national reports.
Unfortunately, according to the program’s press release, “these virtually insurmountable challenges force many to choose between returning to their abuser or facing homelessness and poverty. In fact, the number one reason survivors of domestic violence stay in and return to abusive situations is because they cannot afford to leave and rebuild.”
What’s more, a 2009 study in the Health Services Research Journal found that women who experienced physical abuse faced 42 percent higher health care costs than non-abused women, and a 2003 study out of Georgia found that 38 percent of a sample of 110 survivors of domestic violence had experienced homelessness after leaving an abusive home. Women’s odds of reporting homelessness were reduced by 30 percent only when police officers responded positively and provided them with hope and the help they need. In fact, most women who are in long-term abusive situations ultimately develop battered women’s syndrome, which leads to a state of psychological paralysis, in which the victim feels she legitimately cannot leave her situation whether or not this is actually true.
The compensation tool was designed in partnership with ThoughtWorks, a global software developer that was established with the purpose of revolutionizing software design, creation and delivery, while advocating for positive social change.