Last Tuesday, Kerry Washington addressed an audience as a panelist at the Forbes Women’s Summit and there wasn’t anything the least bit scandalous in her message. In fact, the only thing the actress is hoping to fix is what seems to be some women’s lack of financial literacy.
Washington is an ambassador for the AllState Purple Purse campaign which works to fight against financial abuse particularly for women who are experiencing domestic violence. Author Janet Mock, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards and journalist Tamron Hall were also present on the panel.
The actress sat down with Refinery 29 to expand on her message and also talk about why she hasn’t tuned in to A Handmaid’s Tale just yet:
“I’m not sure I can handle it, particularly in these times.”
She may have a point as the show takes a sobering look at a world where women have almost completely been stripped of their independence. Washington is working to make sure nothing even close to that ends up happening in reality. Her first step is raising awareness around one of the major reasons women stay in abusive relationships. The National Domestic Violence Hotline reports 19% of their contacts reported some form of economic or financial abuse. Allstate’s senior vice president of corporate responsibility, Vicky Dinges says not having financial freedom is something that many couldn’t begin to imagine:
“Imagine not being able to pay for a cab ride because you don’t have money, or not having access to a bank account or the use of a credit card because your partner won’t allow it.”
“Financial abuse is a powerful and invisible form of domestic violence that keeps victims trapped, but we can do something about it: We can stand up to abusers, speak out on behalf of victims, and support survivors in their recovery.”
Purple Purse is working to create a chain of support by awarding grants to local grassroots organizations that provide financial literacy services, job training, and entrepreneurship guidance to survivors. The project also provides a digital financial and career curriculum that survivors can reference, using expertise that keeps their circumstances in mind.
Washington says a part of healing and making progress for the survivors is eliminating stigma:
“I think a big part of it is lifting the veil of shame. A lot of times we say, why does she stay? Why do they stay? We know from our work that the number-one reason people stay is because they don’t feel like they have the tools to go. And all of us, rather than shaming and blaming, can use our resources to lend a hand to people who don’t have access to that information to be able to transform their lives.”
She also states in her own childhood home, money was rarely discussed in detail:
“I know how disempowering it can feel to not feel financially literate. Sometimes, as women, we just don’t want to be involved in the details and don’t want to ask the questions. And because it’s not something that we’re necessarily taught, we’re not sure if it’s something we should know. Abuse is a multi-layered issue, so there are obviously sociological and psychological issues that need to be addressed, but when you can at least give a woman the tools to walk away, then you can start to do that bigger work.”
Washington is also helping work on a limited-edition purse for the third year in a row to which portions of the proceeds will go towards the project.
You can learn more about the Purple Purse Foundation here.