Model & Strategy

FreeFrom works to dismantle the nexus between gender-based violence and financial insecurity so that survivors have the opportunity to thrive and live free from abuse. Financial insecurity is the number one threat to a survivor’s long-term safety, as it is the chief motivator for survivors who remain in or return to abusive relationships. Currently, however, most shelters and emergency services have little to no programming or support geared towards achieving financial stability. Many service providers are survivors themselves, struggling with similar challenges as their clients, and find it difficult to focus on building a foundation for success for themselves and their clients without the tools and support needed.

FreeFrom has a three-pronged strategy for transforming our response to domestic violence, building capacity within the domestic violence movement to support survivors’ financial recovery, using innovative strategies to reach survivors directly with self-help tools and resources, and removing structural barriers to survivors’ financial security through policy and regulatory reform.
FreeFrom believes in the creativity, resourcefulness, and power that each survivor has to achieve financial independence and to build communities that support individual, intergenerational and collective healing. Their holistic strategy is responsive to the needs of survivors and supports their agency in determining their own path towards financial, physical and emotional well-being.

At a Glance
Founded: 2016
Founder & CEO: Sonya Passi
Economic Empowerment
Location of work: Domestic, West Coast
FreeFrom
Los Angeles, CA
Financial security and safety for survivors
Meet Sonya Passi

Sonya Passi is working to transform the way we address domestic violence in the US, from a short-term, crisis intervention, band-aids approach toward a focus on long-term recovery and safety for survivors, their families, and their communities. She grew up, like most of us, in and around abuse of different kinds. She watched her aunt start a business out of necessity to make ends meet and put food on the table because of domestic violence and watched many other adults around her stay in abusive situations out of financial necessity. From a very young age, she understood that if you aren’t safe in your own home, you could never really feel safe anywhere in the world. Immersed in human rights principles as a young teenager, she was clear that safety in the home is a basic human right.

At 16 years old, Sonya began hosting domestic violence awareness weeks at her high school. In college at Cambridge University, she started a group that was educating campus students about intimate partner violence and, as a second-year student at UC Berkeley School of Law, she co-founded the Family Violence Appellate Project (FVAP). FVAP has transformed the legal landscape for survivors in California, by providing pro bono appellate legal services and creating binding case law to support survivors across the state. She moved on from this organization, which remains a thriving nonprofit, to found FreeFrom and attack the root problem of financial insecurity for domestic abuse survivors on a national scale.

Impact

FreeFrom’s train-the-trainer model reforms the existing system by teaching shelter staff and other people who work directly with abuse survivors the basics of financial empowerment, including how to check credit, generate income, and protect one’s assets. This training is tailored to the needs of survivors and it empowers the frontline workers by supporting them in building up their own financial confidence and foundation.

Every summer, FreeFrom hosts a Survivor Wealth Summit, bringing together domestic violence organizations, asset building organizations, survivors, key stakeholders, funders and policy makers in the same physical space to cross-pollinate and build intersectional movement power.

FreeFrom developed an online Self Help Compensation Tool that walks survivors through their legal options for resources, reimbursement, and lawsuit remedies in the aftermath of abuse. The tool has been used in 44 states and 90% of users say they are more likely to pursue compensation after using it.

FreeFrom has launched the first-of-its-kind Survivor Wealth Policy Group to advance survivor wealth-centered policies in every state in the U.S. This group brings together diverse organizations and entities from across the nation to discuss strategies and share resources.

For the first time in the U.S., FreeFrom is developing guidelines for the banking industry that will support survivors on the road to financial recovery while simultaneously providing an economic benefit to banks. Once implemented, these guidelines have the potential to help every survivor in the U.S. save the money they need to stay safe, protect themselves and their financial resources, and start down the road to financial recovery.

FreeFrom is partnering with Berkshire Bank and other employers to implement a Survivor Paid Leave Policy for a period of 12-months. This policy will provide survivor-employees with 10 days of paid and protected leave to deal with the consequences of abuse. At the conclusion of the pilots, FreeFrom will have a tried and tested paid leave policy that proves not only that paid leave is necessary for survivors to achieve the financial security they need to stay safe, but also that such policies provide significant economic benefits to the employers.