Methodology

How we chose these categories

We are working to build a world in which every policy maker at all levels of government considers survivors’ financial security as well as their unique circumstances and needs in all policies, regardless of whether they seem to directly relate to survivors or intimate partner violence.

In the meantime, we selected thirteen policy categories to include within the National Survivor Financial Security Policy Map and Scorecard (Policy Map and Scorecard) that we identified as being the most directly connected to survivors’ ability to build financial security.

Specifically, we identified these thirteen policy categories based on the lived experiences of survivors and with the benefit of survivor guidance and feedback.

The thirteen policy categories including within the Policy Map and Scorecard are as follows:

  • Economic abuse defined in state laws
  • Paid and protected safe leave
  • Safe workplaces
  • Unemployment Insurance accessibility
  • Litigation abuse protections
  • Designated tort for intimate partner violence
  • Victims of crime compensation accessibility
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) accessibility
  • Temporary Assistance Program (TANF) accessibility
  • Safe banking protections
  • Coerced and fraudulent debt protections
  • Rental protections
  • Alternatives to law enforcement responses

How we chose the Model Policy characteristics

Once we identified our thirteen policy categories, we designed a Model Policy for each. These Model Policies include what we have identified as the most supportive protections and other characteristics that a policy should include to best support survivors’ financial security. Simply put, the Model Policies are our dream policies.

The Model Policy characteristics were developed based on:

  1. survivors’ lived experience, guidance, and feedback;
  2. the strengths of existing policies;
  3. subject matter expertise regarding the intersection of financial insecurity and the experience of intimate partner violence and economic abuse; and
  4. data and research.

How we chose the Adverse Policy characteristics

In order to provide an accurate evaluation of how well (or poorly) a state’s existing laws support survivors in building the financial security they need to stay safe, it was necessary for us to also identify what we describe as Adverse Policies.

The Adverse Policy characteristics are those that restrict survivors’ access to resources, undermine their autonomy, require them to interact with law enforcement (despite the fact that 80% of survivors do not feel safe calling the police), or otherwise cause them harm. These characteristics are just as important to note as those of our Model Policies because they can turn an otherwise helpful policy into a harmful one.

Like the Model Policy characteristics, the Adverse Policy characteristics were developed based on:

  1. survivors’ lived experience, guidance, and feedback;
  2. the weaknesses and pitfalls of existing policies;
  3. subject matter expertise regarding the intersection of financial insecurity and the experience of intimate partner violence and economic abuse; and
  4. data and research.

How we conducted the research

We conducted policy research for all 50 States, plus the District of Columbia with the support of pro bono law partners and legal researchers. The team researched each state’s respective government websites and used legal resources to identify statutes related to the thirteen policy categories listed above.

Why include economic abuse in defining intimate partner violence...?

We cannot begin to address economic abuse as it relates to intimate partner violence without properly acknowledging it in state laws. This requires that economic abuse be included in the legal definition of intimate partner violence. We know that in 99% of intimate partner violence cases, survivors also experience economic abuse, which occurs when a harm-doer exerts control over a survivor’s finances, rendering the survivor economically dependent on the harm-doer. Economic abuse tactics include monitoring and controlling a survivor’s bank accounts, incurring debt in a survivor’s name via coercion or fraud, and stealing a survivor’s paychecks. States must provide a comprehensive definition of economic abuse in their laws.

Model policy is a definition of intimate partner violence that includes all or similar language:
  • Committing acts of economic abuse, including but not limited to: controlling, regulating, monitoring or depleting the other party’s movements, finances, economic resources, credit, access to services, basic necessities, ability to work and/or ability to pursue education or job training
Adverse policy include the following characteristics:
  • A definition that explicitly excludes economic abuse or tactics

Why include paid and protected leave...?

Survivors have any number of urgent matters they must deal with as a result of the abuse they experience. And many of these matters - attending court, going to the hospital - must be dealt with during the workweek. Survivors need time off work to deal with the consequences of the abuse they’ve experienced. Without access to such leave, survivors lose wages, lose their jobs and become less employable over time. In fact, a CDC report1 found that U.S. women lose 8 million days of paid work each year as a result of intimate partner violence, the equivalent of 32,000 full-time jobs. However, unpaid and unprotected leave is simply not enough. Most survivors can’t afford to take leave if it means missing a paycheck or that their job won’t be waiting for them when they come back. Without access to paid and protected leave, survivors are forced to choose between their job and their safety.

Model policies include the following characteristics:
  • Survivors are given leave from work to deal with the consequences of abuse
  • Leave is paid
  • Survivors who take leave are protected from job loss, discrimination and retaliation
  • Survivors get at least 10 days of leave annually
  • Leave does not deplete accrued time off (i.e., sick leave, vacation)
  • Leave is available to all employees regardless of employer, sector or employee status (PT/FT)
  • Leave policy provides an exhaustive list of reasons to take time off for work to deal with the consequences of abuse
  • Survivors are not required to prove that they have experienced intimate partner violence to access leave, or can access leave with a sworn statement from either the survivor or a qualified third party that intimate partner violence occurred
  • Employers must keep employees’ reasoning for leave and related documentation confidential
Adverse policies include the following characteristics:
  • Survivors are required to produce a protective order or police report proving that intimate partner violence has occurred in order to access leave

Why include safe workplace policies...?

77% of survivors report that a harm-doer has prevented or disrupted their ability to earn an income, and survivors report losing an average of $23,076 in income as the result of intimate partner violence each year.2 Steady and secure employment is vital to a survivor’s financial security. This means that it is not enough to simply help survivors find a job, but instead we must work to help survivors keep their jobs. At minimum, employers must be required to ensure that their survivor-employees are able to work in safe, secure workplaces with dignity. Safe work standards include availability to reasonable workplace accommodations, job protection, and privacy / confidentiality.

Model policies include the following characteristics:
  • Employers are prohibited from discriminating or retaliating against employees based on their status as a survivor
  • Protections against discrimination and retaliation are available to all employees regardless of employer type, sector, and employee status (PT/FT)
  • Employers must make reasonable accommodations available for survivors
  • Reasonable accommodation requirements apply to all employers regardless of employer type, sector, and employee status (PT/FT)
  • Employers must keep employees’ survivor status confidential
  • Confidentiality requirements apply to all employers regardless of employer type, sector, and employee status (PT/FT)
  • Survivors are not required to prove that they have experienced intimate partner violence to access protections, or can access protections with a sworn statement from either the survivor or a qualified third party that intimate partner violence occurred
Adverse policies include the following characteristics:
  • Survivors are required to produce a protective order or police report proving that intimate partner violence has occurred to access protections

Why include Unemployment Insurance (UI) accessibility...?

UI is a benefit for authorized U.S. workers who have been laid off to cover lost wages. A 2012 study3 found that up to 60% of survivors lose their jobs due to intimate partner violence and 78% experience employment sabotage. Survivors who are forced to leave their job due to intimate partner violence are left without a stable income, causing increased financial vulnerability. Access to UI can help curb this impact by providing much-needed financial support while a survivor looks for new employment.

  • Model policies include the following characteristics:
  • Survivors who must leave or quit work due to intimate partner violence remain eligible for benefits
  • State provides 100% wage replacement for survivors of intimate partner violence
  • Survivors are not required to prove that they have experienced intimate partner violence to access protections, or can access protections with a sworn statement from either the survivor or a qualified third party that intimate partner violence occurred
  • Adverse policies include the following characteristics:
  • Survivors are required to produce a protective order or police report proving that intimate partner violence has occurred to access the program

Why include litigation abuse protections...?

One way harm-doers deplete resources and assets from survivors is through what is commonly referred to as litigation abuse. Harm-doers commit litigation abuse by misusing the legal system to assert power and control over a survivor, including by taking action in court or through their attorney to increase a survivor’s legal fees.

Model policies include the following characteristics:
  • State protects survivors from litigation abuse by their harm-doer
  • The policy includes a broad definition of litigation to include any kind of legal action or proceeding
  • The policy requires harm-doers using litigation abuse tactics to pay all attorney’s fees and costs incurred by a survivor
  • The policy permits the dismissal with prejudice of any action in which a harm-doer is found to have committed litigation abuse
  • The policy requires attorneys that participate in litigation abuse to pay the survivor’s attorney’s fees
Adverse policies include the following characteristics:
  • None

Why include a designated intimate partner violence tort...?

Experiencing intimate partner violence is incredibly expensive. The CDC4 estimates that the lifetime cost of intimate partner violence per female survivor in the U.S. is $103,767 and $23,414 per male survivor. Further, it is estimated that survivors incur $17,7705 in property damage every year. Unfortunately, survivors are typically solely responsible for paying the expenses related to the harm they’ve experienced. Survivors should be afforded the right to bring a civil lawsuit against their harm-doer to recoup the costs of that harm.

Model policies include the following characteristics:
  • Survivors have the right to sue their harm-doers through a designated intimate partner violence tort
  • Statute of limitations applicable to designated tort is at least 5 years
  • Statute of limitations applicable to designated tort is at least 20 years in cases of brain injury and / or a disability
  • The designated tort is structured as a continuing tort
Adverse policies include the following characteristics:
  • Designated tort excludes any gender identities and sexualities

Why include victims of crime compensation...?

Victims of Crime Compensation offers financial support for survivors to help pay for their expenses. Unfortunately, the eligibility and application process for compensation limits the availability of this important resource for many survivors. States can implement measures to guarantee greater accessibility and impact of the program.

Model policies include the following characteristics:
  • Survivors can appeal eligibility determination
  • Survivors can appeal amount awarded
  • There is no deadline to apply for compensation
  • Compensation is available to people who are undocumented
  • Early partial deposits of compensation awards are available
  • Compensation awards are available to cover attorney’s fees
  • Compensation awards are available to cover the cost of coerced and fraudulent debt
Adverse policies include the following characteristics:
  • Survivors are required to submit a police report as part of the application process
  • Survivors are required to cooperate with law enforcement for the investigation and / or prosecution of the crime
  • Compensation is not available to survivors with a criminal record

Why include Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) accessibility...?

SNAP is a federal food assistance program administered at the state-level. SNAP plays an important role in meeting a survivor’s food security needs. In fact, a survey6 of 1,126 intimate partner violence direct service providers indicated that 80% of survivors rely on SNAP to meet their basic needs. SNAP has shown to keep families out of poverty and reduce food insecurity.7 Allowing survivors to access special considerations and exemptions from program requirements can offer the flexibility they need as they heal from the harm they’ve experienced while still remaining eligible for SNAP.

Model policies include the following characteristics:
  • Survivors are eligible for exemptions or deferments from work or job training requirements
  • Survivors are eligible for expedited enrollment into the program
  • Survivors can remove harm-doers from listed household members on SNAP applications or renewals
  • Survivors are eligible for benefit replacement when applying for a separate household from their harm doer
  • Survivors are eligible for specific exemptions or special considerations without having to apply through a shelter or other intimate partner violence service provider organization
  • Survivors are not required to prove that they have experienced intimate partner violence to access exemptions or special considerations, or can access them with a sworn statement from either the survivor or a qualified third party that intimate partner violence occurred
Adverse policies include the following characteristics:
  • Survivors are required to produce a protective order or police report proving that intimate partner violence occurred to access exemptions and / or special considerations

Why include Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program accessibility...?

TANF is a federal cash assistance program administered at the state-level for the lowest income families. In fact, in a survey8 of 1,126 intimate partner violence direct service providers indicated that two thirds of survivors rely on TANF to address their basic needs.9 Giving survivors access to special considerations and exemptions from program requirements can offer the flexibility they need as they heal from the harm they’ve experienced while still remaining eligible for TANF.

Model policies include the following characteristics:
  • Survivors are eligible for exemptions or deferments from work or job training requirements
  • Survivors are eligible for time-limit exemptions or deferrals
  • Survivors are eligible for specific exemptions and special considerations without having to apply through a shelter or other intimate partner violence service provider organization
  • Survivors are not required to prove that they have experienced intimate partner violence to access exemptions or special considerations, or can access them with a sworn statement from either the survivor or a qualified third party that intimate partner violence occurred
Adverse policies include the following characteristics:
  • Survivors are required to produce a protective order or police report proving that intimate partner violence has occurred to access exemptions or special considerations

Why include safe banking protections for survivors...?

There are approximately 28.4 million10 survivors unbanked and underserved in the U.S., and as the result of economic abuse, only about half of survivors report having access to a safe bank account. Without access to a secure account, survivors are unable to protect their assets and save the money they need to get to safety. In fact, survivors indicate that on average their harm-doer steals $1,280 from them each month, including by accessing and depleting their online bank accounts. Safeguards are needed to protect survivors’ assets and help them build the financial security they need to stay safe.

Model policies include the following characteristics:
  • Financial institutions operating within the state are required to be trained in intimate partner violence or economic abuse
  • Financial institutions operating within the state are required to implement enhanced fraud protections on survivors’ accounts
  • Financial institutions operating in the state are required to designate internal team to handle survivor accounts
  • Financial institutions operating in the state are required to implement procedures and policies that create protections against unintended disclosures of survivors’ contact information and addresses.
  • Survivors are not required to prove that they have experienced intimate partner violence to access exemptions or special considerations, or can access them with a sworn statement from either the survivor or a qualified third party that intimate partner violence occurred
Adverse policies include the following characteristics:
  • Survivors are required to produce a protective order or police report proving that intimate partner violence occurred to access protections

Why include coerced and fraudulent debt protections...?

A major contributing factor to the nexus between financial insecurity and the experience of intimate partner violence is coerced and fraudulent debt, which occurs when a harm-doer incurs debts in a survivor’s name without their knowledge or consent. Coerced and fraudulent debt is a widespread problem — 52% of survivors report experiencing it and at least 42% have incurred damaged credit as a result.11 Moreover, these debts are significant in value. On average, harm-doers incur $15,936 in coerced or fraudulent debt in a survivor’s name each year. In order to build the financial security they need to stay safe, survivors need support for and relief from these debts.

Model policies include the following characteristics:
  • Survivors have the right to sue their harm-doers for coerced and fraudulent debt through a designated tort
  • Creditors and/or debt collectors operating within the state are required to be trained in intimate partner violence, coerced and fraudulent debt or economic abuse
  • State law provides survivors with relief from debt collection practices relating to coerced or fraudulent debt
  • State law provides survivors with relief from the obligation to pay for coerced or fraudulent debt
  • Survivors are not required to prove that they have experienced intimate partner violence to access protections, or can access them with one of the following: a sworn statement from the survivor or a qualified third party that intimate partner violence occurred
Adverse policies include the following characteristics:
  • Survivors are required to produce a protective order or police report proving that intimate partner violence occurred to access protections

Why include rental protections...?

Survivors and their families need housing. However, for many survivors, finding housing can be difficult. In order to make housing more accessible, survivors must have the right to fair rental protections that consider their unique circumstances and needs. Survivors with damaged credit due to coerced and fraudulent will have difficulty getting approval for a rental unit. Survivors may need to terminate their lease early to leave their abusive situation and should not be held responsible for damage to the unit caused by their harm-doer.

Model policies include the following characteristics:
  • Survivors are eligible to terminate a lease early
  • Early lease termination does not result in any penalties including future rent, deduction of deposits or other costs
  • Survivors can omit their credit scores on rental applications
  • Landlords are prohibited from evicting someone based on incidents of intimate partner violence
  • Landlords are prohibited from discriminating against survivors who are rental applicants or tenants
  • Survivors are not responsible for property damage as a result of intimate partner violence
  • Survivors are not required to prove that they have experienced intimate partner violence to access exemptions or special considerations, or can access them with a sworn statement from either the survivor or a qualified third party that intimate partner violence occurred
Adverse policies include the following characteristics:
  • Survivors are required to produce a protective order or police report proving intimate partner violence occurred to access protections

Why include alternatives to law enforcement responses...?

Law enforcement responses to intimate partner violence often result in more harm to survivors and their families. In an NDVH report12, 24% of survivors who called law enforcement ended up being arrested instead of the harm-doer. An ACLU study13 found that many survivors reported that they did not want their partners to be arrested because they relied on their income for support for themselves and their children. In the same study, 70% of survivors report that contact with the police sometimes or often results in the loss of housing, employment, or welfare benefits for either the survivor or their harm-doer. We must begin to implement solutions rooted in what survivors express they need and want.

Model policies include the following characteristics:
  • State has a task force or something similar to study, design and/or implement non-law enforcement responses to intimate partner violence
  • State funds non-law enforcement responses to intimate partner violence as an alternate resource
  • Survivors are able to drop criminal proceedings against their harm-doer with negatively impacting their ability to access resources
Adverse policies include the following characteristics:
  • Mandatory arrest requirements for calls related to intimate partner violence
  • Mandatory reporting for suspected intimate partner violence
  • “No-drop” policies

How we interpreted and assigned a policy category score

Every state statute was interpreted to determine and measure the extent to which they aligned with the Model Policy characteristics as outlined in each policy category. Each policy category score was tabulated based on the number of possible Model Policy characteristics. However, in any case where a category has an Adverse Policy characteristic, the total possible number of Model Policy characteristics were negated and the category was assigned an Adverse Policy score. Adverse policy characteristics are parts of the policy that can be harmful to survivors and / or drastically reduce the accessibility of the respective protections, resources or services.

Below is the grading criteria for each policy category:

  • Model policy - This policy has all of our model policy characteristics
  • Strong policy - This policy includes a majority of our model policy characteristics
  • Promising policy - This policy includes some of our Model Policy characteristics, but needs improvement
  • Adverse policy - This policy is harmful for survivors
  • No policy - This state does not have this policy

For each characteristic, states were given the following:

  • Criteria Met This state’s policy includes this characteristic
  • Criteria Not Met This state’s policy does not include this characteristic
  • Criteria Maybe Met It is unclear whether this state’s policy includes this characteristic

States were given recognition for innovative policy ideas and other policies that were similar to the policy categories but not quite aligned with the aspects in the scorecard. However, these items did not factor in the score.

  • Innovative Idea Innovative idea: Thinking outside the box on policy solutions
  • Honorable Mention Honorable mention: A policy that is not quite aligned within the listed Model Policy categories and/or characteristics, but is promising nonetheless

How we assigned an overall state score

The overall state score was calculated based on the total number of Model Policy characteristics present in the state across all policy categories excluding any of those in a policy category scored as Adverse. For every policy category, each Model Policy characteristic received a plus one. The total number of possible Model Policy characteristics across all categories is 70.

We assigned each state an overall score based on the following:

  • Model state (48-70 characteristics, ~ 69% to 100%): This state prioritizes survivors’ financial security across all policy categories and is a model for other states to follow!
  • Financial security friendly state (28-47 characteristics, ~41% to 68%): This state is prioritizing survivors’ financial security in a broad range of policies and is on its way to becoming a Model State!
  • Taking steps to becoming a survivor friendly state (15-27 characteristics, ~21% to 38%): This state considers survivors’ financial security in multiple policies and is making progress towards becoming a survivor financial security friendly state.
  • Some accountability by the state (8-14 characteristics, ~12% to 20%): This state somewhat considers survivors’ financial security in a few policies but has a lot of work to do.
  • Little accountability by the state (7 characteristics or below, ~11% and below): This state does not prioritize survivors’ financial security or consider survivors’ unique circumstances or needs when passing legislation.

Challenges and what’s next

While the majority of the researchers had access to legal search engines, we made it a point to use publicly available resources that link directly to state laws as the main citation source. In doing so, we found navigating states’ websites posed the greatest challenge.

While many states offer easy to understand and navigate systems to search for current state laws, a majority made this process much more difficult. For example, some states require a user to navigate multiple search engines and websites simply to find state laws and did not make it clear if there are other locations on their site a user should search.

We also found that some states’ navigation systems made it difficult to link directly to a statute and /or locked users out after extended periods of searching. We did our best to cite directly to a state’s websites but in cases where this was not possible, we resulted in citing trusted third party websites.

From a broader perspective, this lack of access creates a level of disenfranchisement to the citizens of those respective states. It is the duty of the state to make their laws readily accessible so their citizens can better find the laws that impact their lives. As part of our work with states to pass policies that support and center survivors’ financial security, we will also elevate this important access to justice issue.

We hope our Policy Map and Scorecard not only brings greater insight to the current landscape of policies across the nation that impact survivors’ financial security, but also sparks policy change and innovation in the coming years. With this, we will continue to update and add to this existing tool as new legislation is passed and innovative policies are made.


1. CDC, Costs of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in the United States (2003). https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/IPVBook-a.pdf
2. FreeFrom, Survivors Know Best: How to Disrupt Intimate Partner Violence During COVID-19 and Beyond 2020. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/56a24df4d8af10a5072bed7c/t/5f358b263ca8db1d891a3fc9/1597344678710/Survivors+Know+Best+Report.pdf
3. Postmus JL, Plummer SB, McMahon S, Murshid NS, Kim MS. Understanding economic abuse in the lives of survivors. J Interpers Violence. 2012 Feb;27(3):411-30. doi: 10.1177/0886260511421669. Epub 2011 Oct 10. PMID: 21987509. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21987509/
4. CDC, Costs of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in the United States (2003). Epub 2011 Oct 10. PMID: 21987509. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/IPVBook-a.pdf
5. FreeFrom, Survivors Know Best: How to Disrupt Intimate Partner Violence During COVID-19 and Beyond 2020. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/56a24df4d8af10a5072bed7c/t/5f358b263ca8db1d891a3fc9/1597344678710/Survivors+Know+Best+Report.pdf
6. NCRDV, The Difference Between Surviving and Not Surviving: Public Benefits Programs and Domestic and Sexual Violence Victims’ Economic Security (2018). https://vawnet.org/sites/default/files/assets/files/2018-01/TheDifferenceBetweenSurvivingandNotSurviving_Jan2018.pdf
7. CBPP, Policy Basics: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (2019). https://www.cbpp.org/research/food-assistance/policy-basics-the-supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap
8. NCRDV, The Difference Between Surviving and Not Surviving: Public Benefits Programs and Domestic and Sexual Violence Victims’ Economic Security (2018). https://vawnet.org/sites/default/files/assets/files/2018-01/TheDifferenceBetweenSurvivingandNotSurviving_Jan2018.pdf
9. NCRDV, The Difference Between Surviving and Not Surviving: Public Benefits Programs and Domestic and Sexual Violence Victims’ Economic Security (2018). https://vawnet.org/sites/default/files/assets/files/2018-01/TheDifferenceBetweenSurvivingandNotSurviving_Jan2018.pdf
10. The World Bank, The Global Findex Database (2017). https://globalfindex.worldbank.org/
11. Adams AE, Littwin AK, Javorka M. The Frequency, Nature, and Effects of Coerced Debt Among a National Sample of Women Seeking Help for Intimate Partner Violence. Violence Against Women. 2020;26(11):1324-1342. doi:10.1177/1077801219841445.
12. NDVH Report, Domestic Violence Survivors Speak Out About Law Enforcement Responses (2015). https://cdar.uky.edu/CoerciveControl/docs/law-enforcement-draft6%209-28-15.pdf
13. ACLU Report, Responses from the field: Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, and Policing (October 2015). https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/field_document/2015.10.20_report_-_responses_from_the_field.pdf

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