Here you can find some explanations of our work, and common questions we've been asked as we start expanding The Survivor Fund Innovation Hub. This work is iterative and if there are questions you have, that are not answered here, please contact us

What is Financial Care?

Financial care is care with cash. It is a direct, immediately useful form of support for another human being. It is not an investment (because human beings are human beings, not commodities). Financial care is only one form of care, one of many ways that we must continue to show up for survivors, as people in our communities, our families, and our schools. Financial care emphasizes that survivors who need financial support are our equals- we are not giving them something they do not deserve or need to earn.  We care for rather than give to. We care for rather than invest in, as human beings are not financial objects, but complex subjects. 

“Care is a relational ethic, grounded in a premise of interdependence.” Carol Gillian

What is Power-Based Sexual Violence?

This term refers to various forms of harm including stalking, sexual assault, rape, intimate partner violence, dating violence, sexual harassment, and other forms of assault predicated on a desire to dominate and/or control another person through power-based sexual acts of violence. These forms of violence are predicated on and compound social, economic, and political inequality-such as gender or racial inequality- which manifests in interpersonal relationships. We use this term to reflect the intersectional nature of these experiences and to highlight the centrality of power inequality in these issues. 

Why Financial Care? Does It Work?

“Financial care” or direct cash assistance programs are a social protection tool used widely and to great effect in a variety of contexts. Flexible funding cash assistance also is cost-effective. In 2021, FreeFrom learned that 64 percent of the 6600 survivors who received cash assistance from them needed the cash assistance to “get safe.” The next three most urgent needs, in order, were: utility bills relief, credit and/or debit card relief, and safe employment. FreeFrom also learned that survivors of domestic violence need $730 on average to get safe immediately and $978 per month on average to stay safe.

Sexual violence costs money. A lot of money. In fact, sexual assault is the most costly of any crime, with a 2008 study estimating the “intangible” costs to be  $265,913.16 in 2022 dollars.. A 2022 study found that 16% of emergency room visits for sexual assault were not covered by insurance, with an average cost of $3,551. Approximately 20% of female survivors of sexual violence, aged 18-24, (RAINN), report to the police, and very few report to universities.  According to a 2017 estimation, rape is the most costly of all crimes with an estimated lifetime cost of over $122,000. Money will not erase the harm caused by sexual violence.  However, some of the services that money can buy can help a survivor address the ramifications of their traumatization. This includes counseling, transportation, STI testing, moving costs, and a variety of other tangible costs. 

Why College Students?

All survivors of violence deserve financial care. A variety of organizations including FreeFrom and the HEART Survivor Care Fund are leading survivor-led economic justice work, targeted at a general survivor population, particularly survivors of intimate partner violence. 

The Survivor Fund focuses on youth and college students specifically for a few reasons; 

College is a pivotal period in economic development. Sexual violence and financial insecurity are significant risk factors for retention and degree completion, impacting lifetime salaries. A 2017 survey of college survivors of sexual violence found that 91 percent of respondents reported long and short-term health problems they associated with educational and career issues. Gender-based violence has serious personal, professional, and academic impacts on survivors (Jordan et al, 2014). Experience with violence during college can derail long-term financial stability (Jordan et al, 2014). College is also a pivotal time for economic development. The Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce found that earning a college degree brings women an additional $822,000 for a four-year degree. Yet this economic catalyst can become a significant inhibitor.  Many survivors of sexual assault leave school with debt for a degree they could not finish. The impact of disrupted career trajectories is innumerable. Women hold nearly two-thirds of student debt and students of color hold the majority of debt (AAUW, 2021). Thus, financial care for college survivors, in this period of extreme importance, can manifest in a lifetime of realized economic and professional goals, facilitated by a college degree. 

College is a period of increased vulnerability and economic insecurity. Sexual assault is a primary risk factor for suicidal ideation among college students. College students, particularly first or second-year students, often lack a social support system and are distanced from their parents. College students are undergoing a period of significant psychological, physical and social change, a period of transformation that can create vulnerability and risk, particularly when alcohol is included. Sexual assault is significantly more likely to occur in the first few months of college, particularly due to this increased vulnerability, in a period called the “Red Zone.”  A 2021 report from Freefrom found that “the key to safety—and in particular long-term safety—is financial security.” 

For college-aged survivors of gender-based violence, there is a significant lack of trauma-informed and survivor-centered care systems. This coincides with the well-documented economic toll of experiencing sexual violence, which is significant over an individual's lifetime; the large gender gap in student debt, and the lack of access to financial support for survivors of assault.

Finally, the Survivor Fund believes in young people, in their capacity. Young people have many opportunities ahead of them, a hallway of doors. Caring for the well-being of young people helps open doors, rather than close them.

Why Isn't Title IX Enough? 

“The more costly and time-consuming complaints are, the harder it is to make complaints for those with fewer means. Those who need to complain are those who cannot afford to complain. Those who most need to and cannot afford to complain often leave. Those who complain might leave because of who or what remains. And when those who complain leave, what or who they complain about remains. The escalation of violence against those who complain about violence is how violence remains” Sara Ahmed 

College campuses are the site of much work on the pervasive issue of sexual assault and gender-based violence more broadly. Title IX implementation has focused on criminal or civil justice and arbitration. Parallel to these systems of justice and safety within a community, gender-based violence has high financial costs and significant economic life disruptions. Whether a crime is reported to the police or a civil lawsuit is filed, survivors incur direct financial costs related to their victimization. Thus, economic justice is a critical area for the future of survivor support and justice. 

Most universities’ existing interventions are legal, and focused on removing, or mitigating, the impact of perpetrators on campus. We understood this valuable justice work - the legacy of Title IX and Jeanne Clery. 

Advocacy work and research conducted by a variety of student organizations, highlight the limitations and continued failures of Title IX. 

However, such policies do not address the immediate economic needs of survivors. Most of the time, survivors of sexual assault absorb the financial ramifications of their victimization. 

A 2022 report from Know Your IX documents institutional betrayal from universities as survivors of violence attempt to navigate the bureaucratic thicket around Title IX. According to the report, 39 percent of survivors who reported the sexual violence to their schools experienced a substantial disruption in their educations. Often, reporting to their university hampered a survivor’s educational and economic advancement. 35 percent of respondents noted that their schools explicitly encouraged them to take time off. The financial cost of going through the extensive Title IX process, which sometimes includes hiring attorneys, and taking unpaid leaves of absence, left survivors homeless or unemployed. More than 40 percent reported experiencing PTSD. 

Title IX is a fickle federal policy, subject to change according to the whims of the current Presidential administration. The partisan nature of these basic protections does not make baseline protections less important to advocate on behalf of. However, this shifting reality offers opportunities for innovations beyond the legal/ institutional answer of law. Current policies do not address the immediate economic needs of survivors. Most of the time, survivors of sexual assault absorb the financial ramifications of their victimization. 

Beyond the limitations of Title IX and challenges in implementation, Title IX is not enough. Title IX is a legal scheme designed to measure civil liability after harm has beEN done. It focuses on events, on the preponderance of the evidence. This process does not center on the practical or immediate needs of survivors. Gender-based violence has costs, and Title IX,  a lengthy, abstract legal process is not designed to quickly address these costs. 

Why aren’t we replicating the student assistance fund within campus structures across the country?

There are many benefits to the university setting, and we see our work as co-existing alongside, and in coordination with, current efforts to improve the University setting. We are supportive of the work universities are undertaking to try and combat power- based sexual violence for students. 

Our decision to take the fund outside of the university structure was based on several factors: 

A national fund means having a wider reach. Student survivors should have access to financial care regardless of whether or not their university has a fund.

What are the common barriers a confidential fund faces within the university structure that led to us moving our model outside of the university? 

This list is not exhaustive: 

How will a student survivor access funds? How will a university advocate be involved?

In our current fund model, student survivors, with the help of campus advocates, submit applications to a panel of trauma-informed experts. Then, funds or reimbursements are directed to students via a variety of institutional means. 

Our vision for students accessing financial care will begin with empowering and educating advocates at colleges and universities with our application process. We will ensure there is shared understanding on what we can provide financial care for, and in turn, have them help student survivors apply. 

Once a student-survivor applies, a confidential, trauma-informed panel, will review the application to determine the direct cash amount. Once approved, the Survivor Fund Innovation Fund will provide the financial care to the student. 

A model application form is forthcoming and is being developed alongside students and advocates. We hope to use a variety of low-barrier and confidential transfer platforms to ensure that survivors are able to receive cash quickly and in a flexible, usable manner. 

We will not be accepting applications at this time as we are enhancing the current application to support the national model.

Are you currently accepting applications for the Fund?

At this time, we are not currently accepting applications for the fund. Our focus is on fundraising and ensuring we have a confidential, trauma-informed infrastructure to support our national model. If you have resources, ideas, or connections to help our fundraising efforts, please contact us. 

Finally, we acknowledge that there is a significant unmet need for this type of care, underscoring the urgency of this work. Students are continuing to experience power-based sexual violence, and then have to pay for school, transfer fees, moving costs, medical bills, and other direct financial consequences of experiencing violence. We are working as fast as we can to get to an operational place to provide funds. 

This reality informs our work and adds urgency to our mission.