Web Exclusives: Alumni Spotlight
May 12, 2004:
Bach ’81, right, with a mother and child at one of the
transitional houses she has established in Denver. (Courtesy
Abigail Bach ’81)
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.