There is no meaningful empowerment without meaningful access to the important everyday resources and the basic needs of life—food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, community. For survivors of sexual assault, the impact of that trauma nearly always has an economic impact and/or it forces an economic choice. For those struggling with poverty or homelessness, taking the time to heal from sexual assault and other traumas may be a luxury they cannot afford.
What is needed is a new definition of solvency; what is needed is a new understanding of what is at the core of our human rights. Survivors should not have to choose between their job and reporting sexual assault—but they do. Survivors should not have to choose between seeking services and changing communities—but they do.
As advocates know, supporting survivors may have nothing directly to do with the sexual assault. On the surface, the support to prepare for a job interview or finding rapid rehousing options could appear disconnected from trauma recovery. But advocates know that empowerment and self-confidence are central to healing. Landing that job, becoming economically independent, reducing the stress of seeking out the bare necessities—they all contribute to more connection with the community, more voice for survivors, and provide healthier space for healing and recovery. Being able to be in a new house or apartment, a space with no connections to the assault, a space of one’s own, and the control of being in charge of major life choices is empowerment and helps survivors create in which they have voice and hope.
Supporting survivors in economic justices means centering their bare necessities. Creating projects and services to center what is most important and fundamental to survivors’ lives is empowerment-based and trauma-informed. Realizing that economics play a huge factor expands what healing and recovery from trauma looks like. Sexual assault already extracts a major financial cost on our society through the costs of healthcare, loss of jobs/job production, criminal justice costs, and costs to communities and families. The path to a world without sexual assault is through true economic opportunity and justice for survivors so that they are not forced to choose between healing and surviving.