Web Exclusives: Alumni Spotlight

May 12, 2004:

Abigail Bach ’81, right, with a mother and child at one of the transitional houses she has established in Denver. (Courtesy Abigail Bach ’81)

A safe place
Abigail Bach ’81 left Wall Street to help abused women rebuild their lives

After working in financial services on Wall Street and in Paris since graduation from Princeton, Abigail Bach ’81 moved to Denver 10 years ago to make room in her life for personal interests: hiking, skiing, mountain climbing, and volunteer work. She started volunteering at a shelter for abused women and children. The women she met lacked job skills and self-esteem and needed a safe place to rebuild their lives, but shelters typically house people only for up to 60 days. “They couldn’t get jobs,” says Bach, and “couldn’t make the jump to paying rent for low-income housing.” Many ended up back with their abusers, she says.

Bach decided to fill that void. In 2000 while working full-time for a financial planning firm in Denver, she used her business and entrepreneurial skills to help found Joy House, a transitional home where up to 14 abused women and their kids can live for two years. Joy House provides counseling, job training, parenting classes, and activities for their children. Residents must attend school or work and pay 30 percent of their income, even if they’re on welfare, for rent.

Bach found that some of the women were ready to live independently after spending two years at Joy House, but some were not. Once out on their own, some of the women regressed, missing work, getting involved in unhealthy romantic relationships, and ending up back on welfare, says Bach, who majored in history and earned an M.B.A. from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Those women, she realized, needed “graduate housing.”

Motivated to help abused women turn their lives around, Bach quit her job last year and started her own nonprofit, Victory Ventures (www.victoryventures.org), whose first goal is to get Victory House, for graduates of Joy House, up and running this year. Victory House will be home to about 20 women and their children for up to three years and will offer counseling, mentoring, and job training.

Bach’s long-term strategy is to develop a national model of affordable housing and support services for abused women and children like the model she is developing in Denver. Domestic violence is the number-one factor contributing to homelessness for women, says Bach. “My goal is to break the cycle of domestic violence and help women achieve self-supporting lives,” she says.


By K.F.G.