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SustainAbilityCT: Helping Clients Help Themselves

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Josie* is a disabled 48-year-old mother of two who discovered she owed more than $100,000 to creditors she had never heard of. Josie's husband is an outwardly charming and seemingly successful man who has been physically, emotionally and financially abusive throughout their 20 year marriage. Using a variety of tactics, including physical threats, intimidation and sophisticated financial manipulation, he attached Josie's name to numerous charges and opened accounts in her name without her knowledge. Arrested over the summer for assaulting their son and barred from their home by an order of protection, he then stopped paying all household bills, cut Josie off from the one bank account she had access to and cashed in her disability benefits for as long as he could get away with it.

SustainAbilityCT Attorney Advocate Dorian Arbelaez_ Coordinator of SustainAbilityCT Meaghan Dwyer_ SustainAbilityCT Advocate Magally Moreno.

In spite of the challenges she faces, Josie has remained upbeat and persistent, spending countless hours over the past few months dealing with the fraud and identity theft perpetrated by her husband. In brief, she has placed a security freeze on her credit report, closed accounts, made arrangements to repay what she can, and filed for divorce. She will have to sell their house and may have to file for bankruptcy.

Josie is one of the more than 400 individuals who have benefited from DVCC's SustainAbilityCT (iACT) economic empowerment program during the past year. She and many others have made remarkable strides towards achieving financial independence by working closely with iACT in order to meet specific goals such as: extricating themselves from crushing debt caused by their abusers; creating and adhering to budgets; building resumes and securing jobs; finding solutions to housing obstacles. Each has a different story, with the common thread of partners who abuse and entrap through financial control and manipulation.

SustainAbilityCT provides clients with practical assistance, challenges them with homework assignments, offers them tangible goals and reinforces their knowledge through financial workshops. Our advocates utilize partners and contacts in the legal, housing, government and financial communities in order to help our clients fight for their rights, as well as enhance community understanding about the special circumstances of victims of domestic violence. Most recently, we have added an attorney to our iACT team who helps to advise clients on civil legal issues, including divorce, custody, immigration, and matters that may be brought to Small Claims Court.

One of the most striking characteristics of clients like Josie who work with iACT is how committed they become to digging themselves out of difficult situations and building sustainable futures for themselves and their children. They take advantage of our expertise and assistance, but also continually rise to the challenge of learning to help themselves.

*Name changed for privacy and safety

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