Domestic Violence Survivors: Could Freelancing Provide Financial Security?

Robin Bull
5 min readDec 10, 2021

Some people grasp onto the false notion that getting out of a marriage that involves domestic violence and obtaining that coveted piece of paper that reads “protection order” magically makes all of a survivor’s problems go away. Surely, the perpetrator just stops everything, right? They get the message and just go away. The survivor can go on into the sunshine and rainbows, right?

No. In fact, once someone leaves (it doesn’t matter if it is the perpetrator or the survivor…or victim if they end up dead) or a protection order is established by the court, the sad truth is the perpetrator often feels a distinct loss of control and they escalate.

My Story: A Ten-Year Previous Marriage of Abuse

I speak from experience. I am a survivor of domestic violence. I had a protective order against the ex-husband. We were married for ten years and had two children (now adults) together. Eventually, the language in the protection order was amended and added to the divorce decree to essentially create a life-long order of protection.

However, protection orders, as we’ve all read in newspapers, heard about on true crime podcasts, and watched on the news are little more than a paper trail. Not only are they rarely taken seriously by responding officers (my experience in small-town America), in more than 30 states, it is perfectly legal for survivors and victims of domestic violence to be fired because they are or were involved in that situation…especially if the perpetrator starts bugging them at work.

I Almost Lost My Job as a College Professor After I Obtained a VPO

And that is another experience I underwent. Within three months of obtaining a protection order, I started a job as a college instructor. I taught paralegal studies. I also directed the program. Despite turning over a court-certified copy of the signed order (which included domestic violence, stalking, and harassment), it didn’t take long before I was called in by the Director of Education (my direct supervisor…by the way, he was a lawyer) and the entire Legal Department to, what felt like, defend myself for alleged outside of work activities that weren’t even occurring. Again, despite handing over court-certified copies to my supervisor and the Legal Department of the protection order (which includes stalking and harassment).

Mind you, the calls are coming from someone who not only physically abused me, stalked me, and harassed me, he also financially abused me. He promised that one day he would see to it that I “lived in a cardboard box.” And here I sat trying to keep my job because someone was lying about what I did (I had two jobs…teaching and working at a law firm) during my off-hours.

All I could think about during that day was how I never wanted to feel that way again and how unfair it was that I did everything right to protect myself. Why wasn’t I allowed to be a normal, productive citizen?

I Knew I Had to Find a Way to Make My Own Money, Not Tied to an Employer…Legally!

That’s the day I knew I had to figure out (somehow) what I needed to do to make working from home work for me. (Fun fact: “Making work from home work for you” is my podcast slogan. I wish I were more regular with my podcast, but you can find it on Anchor, Spotify, and Google. It’s called Confessions from the Couch. It has a little gray couch with a pink blanket as a logo. It’s also on my website.)

That, by the way, was in 2013. There were no courses that I could find. I read library books about business. I read articles on SEO. I read everything I could find about starting and running a business.

Freelancing is a way of financial security for people just like me, recovering from abuse. When I was about six or seven months into my freelancing journey, I had a client who was based in London reach out to me and tell me that “some weird guy contacted me and gave me all sorts of what seems like weird information that seems wrong about you.”

Immediately, I sent this client a PDF copy of the protection order. I received an email back that basically read, “That seems about right. I’ll just block him.” So, it was obvious the ex was still violating the protection order, but the main point I want to make (other than how the courts here do very little to enforce orders…because I could tell you some stories not just involving my experience) is that when you’re self-employed, you can’t fire yourself.

Other Benefits Domestic Violence Victims and Survivors Should Know about Self-Employment

There are other benefits associated with starting your venture when you’re a survivor of domestic violence (but for me, knowing that the ex can’t continually call my “boss” to try and get me fired simply because it’s legal in my state because I’m the boss? Fucking priceless! Oh, I’ve also worked with a contractor who was a survivor. She worried about the same thing. I gave her my 1–800 number and told her I hoped her ex got the number. I waited for that call. I never got it, unfortunately. I would have enjoyed myself.):

  • Freelancing doesn’t require a specific amount of education. If you have a certain set of skills or natural talents, you can get work. And NO you do NOT have to sign-up for some expensive course to get started. You can read free articles, watch YouTube videos, or whatever. I learned from reading.
  • Freelancing allows you to set your own rate. You can literally decide what you want to earn for you and your family. Yes, my first year was hard. Yes, running a business is sometimes not fun. It sure beats what I made teaching (which worked out to less than minimum wage, by the way) and what I made as a paralegal (about $12.50 an hour despite 15 years of experience).
  • Freelancing allows you to create your own schedule. Like early mornings? Cool, work then. Need to work around a school schedule? You can do that. Prefer to work in the evenings or at night? Go for it. Do you have an autoimmune disease like me and need a mid-day nap sometimes? Take it. As long as you get everything done, you’re good. I also work around my autistic son’s needs, too.

But, again, for me, one of the most wonderful things about self-employment is that we, as survivors and victims of domestic violence, harassment, and stalking in states where it is legal to be fired, can protect ourselves better. This is one way we no longer have to be at the mercy of perpetrators or employers. It’s an opportunity for true financial freedom!

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Robin Bull

Freelance writer, editor, SEO goddess, shenanigan maker. Married. Mom.