But money can buy anything else.

If you’ve been following me on Facebook, you know I’m taking domestic violence advocacy training through DAWN (Domestic Abuse Women’s Network, serving South King County). We cover lots of topics: social justice, economic justice, basic family law, basic protection orders, suicide, teen dating violence, batterer intervention, safety planning, chemical dependency, trauma, LGBTQ issues, religion, available resources, . . . it goes on and on, deeper and deeper.

And money is a recurring theme. Access to resources is probably the most important factor affecting what you can do to keep safe. Abusers very often try to control access to bank accounts, funds, and pocket change.

In all my self-defense classes, I tell students that they need to have their very own bank accounts. Their name, and only their name, should be on it. This account needs to have enough money to live on for 6 months to a year. This is your safety hatch.

Perhaps an insecure partner, even abusive spouse, will whine. “Sugarplum, we’re married now, we don’t need separate accounts. Why are you holding out on me?”  Or maybe, “Honey, don’t you trust me? You must not care about me the way I care about you.” Or even, “You have all that money separate, you must be cheating on me!”

Once upon a time, in this land of the free, women were not legally entitled to own property, including their earned wages. Any and all income, regardless of who earned it, belonged to the male head of household. I emphasize in my classes that the slow change in the law, giving women the right to retain their earnings, to buy and own property, to save and spend and invest, is a critical precursor to effective self-defense. Otherwise, you have nowhere to go.

I’ve taught far too many women who ended up homeless or in transitional housing. Keep the account. In your name. Only.

My mother would have been 90 years old this month. In her long life she experienced a lot as a member of the Greatest Generation: the Great Depression, Second World War and its Holocaust, the Baby Boom, better living through chemistry, the cultural upheavals of the sixties and seventies, feminism, the Cold War, Reaganomics, undeclared “wars” across the globe, declared “wars” on poverty and drugs. Unprecedented prosperity and change. She got her first computer at the age of 87. She outlived most of her friends.

She never outlived her values.

My mother always knew who she was and what she thought important. Regardless of the mores of the day, her certitude of what was right and what was wrong never wavered. She was not shy about conveying these values to her children. By the time I was 12, I knew precisely what she would reply to any request.

Mom and I disagreed often. She played very safe, which I felt was far too restrictive. I am more inclined to assess challenges and take calculated risks. But despite our differences, what I learned best from my mother was to know your own values and boundaries, and honor those first.

The first items on my Safety Plan worksheet ask about your goals and plans. What gives your life meaning? What do you value most? Because, regardless of their approach to risk, women who are clear on these will keep themselves safer.

PS – to learn more about planning for safety and other self-defense strategies, sign up for a self-defense class.