October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and members of two prominent advocacy groups and one insurance body say producers have an important role to play in helping survivors of domestic violence find freedom.
“Financial abuse is a common tactic used by abusers to gain power and control in a relationship,” said Insurance Information Institute Vice President Loretta Worters. “That’s why it’s so important that survivors understand how insurance works and what a critical role it can play in gaining financial freedom and economic self-sufficiency.”
Rita Smith, executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, identified three insurance lines as a priority for women looking to leave an abusive situation: health insurance, renter’s insurance, and auto insurance.
Smith recommended that producers use the health exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act when shopping for domestic violence survivors who don’t have coverage through their employers.
“The way insurance is provided via the ACA is really helpful for women who have been victims of domestic violence,” Smith said. “They can’t be denied health insurance because of previously existing conditions, which unfortunately often includes domestic violence.”
Kim Pentico, economic justice specialist with the National Network to End Domestic Violence, advised producers to also recommend short-term disability insurance to domestic violence survivors.
For women who move out of their abuser’s home, renters insurance is vital. Producers should advise domestic violence survivors to install security systems both for personal protection and a discounted rate on both actual cash value and replacement cost policies.
Pentico said producers also need to remember to update auto insurance policies for women leaving abusive situations.
“One thing we’ve not always done a good job with is determining who pays the car insurance premium to make sure she’s not driving around uninsured,” she said.
Beyond health, renters, and auto insurance, Smith said producers need to attune to each survivor’s unique situation. Because women leaving their abusers are often also leaving part of their financial stability, money may be tight and producers should be sensitive to their client’s initial and ongoing needs.
“Think creatively and strategically with her on what to put into her insurance portfolio to help her gain some security over time,” Smith said. “There’s a limited amount of resources and it’s important to prioritize those things and to understand that it’s a rebuilding process.”