Spotlight on Helpmate
Today, sexual assault and domestic violence victims come to one place and receive these services:
• Help from experts to find safety and craft a plan to move forward
• Legal help with child custody, financial support, and temporary restraining orders
• Forensic medical exams to document injuries
• Emotional support and counseling through case managers that support victims in
healing from the emotional impacts of violence
Today, I’m taking off my financial planner hat and stepping into the role of community advocate. For years, Starks Financial has employed community-minded people active in local non-profits. In 2017, we expanded our partnership with Helpmate, a community agency committed to ending domestic violence.
My interest in this cause started in 2016 when I attended the Ladies High Tea, Helpmate’s main annual fundraiser. A speaker discussed a study in which researchers literally walked with a victim of domestic violence through her journey of getting help and landing back on her feet. Getting herself and her family into a safe situation required filling out sixty-one forms, talking with twenty-one people, and receiving thirty referrals. I was amazed and saddened to hear this story. I can’t imagine having to overcome all these obstacles in a state of physical, mental, or emotional crisis. Many victims, I’m sure, never manage to navigate such a maze.
As a result of this study, and after a few of years of collaboration, the Family Justice Center was born. Helpmate, Our Voice, and Mountain Child Advocacy Center were all involved in this joint venture from the beginning. What else is Helpmate doing to end domestic violence?
Helpmate operates a 24/7 emergency hotline so victims can reach out for help at any time. A trained volunteer or case manager is always available to provide information or help create a plan for victims of domestic violence.
If necessary, victims stay safe at Helpmate’s emergency shelter. Survivors and their children spend safe nights in Helpmate’s shelter, with onsite case management and counseling to support them in securing next steps. If a bed is not available, Helpmate staff work tirelessly to find another location that can house victims.
Helpmate staff and volunteers work in partnership with the local police department to advocate for victims. Many area law enforcement officers have completed training specifically focused on identifying domestic violence and suggesting next steps that can be taken to get a victim to safety.
Helpmate leads the effort to prevent domestic violence in our community by addressing it at its roots. They offer prevention education to schools, universities, youth groups, and summer camps in our area. Youth learn the characteristics of healthy relationships. Educators teach them to identify abusive behavior, help their friends in abusive relationships, and prevent abuse through social media. Helpmate also offers training to professionals who might be interacting with victims regularly, like doctors, hairdressers, and teachers. They teach them how to identify signs and offer a victim support, safely.
You might be wondering what a financial planning and investment management firm has in common with a domestic violence agency. My “aha” moment came during a Helpmate training. We discussed the “Wheel of Power and Control” – an illustration of the forms that domestic violence can take. Financial abuse is one. It can take the form of the abuser preventing his partner from getting a job, making her ask for money, or giving her a strict allowance, taking her paychecks, and/or preventing the partner from having any access to family income.
Over the years in my work, I’ve spoken with several women going through divorce. Helpmate’s training made me realize that many of the stories I was hearing were classic examples of financial abuse. For example, I spoke with a woman who had just left her marriage. She wanted advice on getting access to their financial information. Her spouse had locked all financial documents in a closet so she couldn’t have access. All but one of their checking accounts were in his name only, and that account was emptied and closed when she left the relationship. While married, she was paid an allowance of $400 per month for helping in the family business, but was not allowed access to any other income or assets – even though the household income exceeded $100,000.
Our conversation illustrated one truth of domestic violence that runs counter to common stereotypes. Domestic violence truly has no relationship to socioeconomic factors. It crosses all economic classes, professions, racial and gender identities, and ages. It is truly a public health issue.
Starks Financial has always had a soft spot for programs that help empower women and children, especially when it comes to financial empowerment. Helpmate and the work they do with other agencies in our community certainly fits the bill.
My role as a financial planner and my identity as a woman make domestic violence feel close to home. You don’t have to have personal experience with domestic violence to be invested in ending it. Join me in creating a community that is safe for every family.
You can learn more about Helpmate’s work at its website (helpmateonline.org) or by calling their business line at 828/254-0516. If you need support, please call Helpmate’s hotline at 828/254-0516. Consider being a part of the team that aims to eradicate domestic violence in our area.
Jennifer L. Adams is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner and financial planner at Starks Financial Group. Starks Financial Group is not a registered broker/dealer and is independent of Raymond James Financial Services. Securities offered through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment Advisory services offered through Raymond James Financial Services Advisors, Inc. This article expresses the opinions of Jennifer L. Adams and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Raymond James does not provide legal services. Helpmate is not affiliated with Raymond James Financial Services. Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER ™, and CFP® in the U.S.