Domestic abuse is dangerous and unfortunate, but a pervasive occurrence in the United States. While victims cite several reasons for staying with an abusive partner, one of the most common is fear over losing their financial security if they flee the relationship. However, remaining in a violent or psychologically harmful partnership is never a good option, and it’s important that survivors are aware of the methods they can use to reach financial independence and leave a toxic environment.
October is Domestic Violence Month, and the Insurance Information Institute has provided several ways in which abuse survivors can build a stronger financial record and break their co-dependence on a partner.
Before making any significant changes to their finances, it’s imperative that individuals know where they currently stand. This involves knowing how much money is in the bank, how much medical, student loan or credit card debt they may carry, whose names are listed on any property or deeds and where income sources are coming from. This can sometimes be challenging in a relationship in which one partner maintains control over all financial accounts, but finding out as much information as possible can be useful to people who are trying to leave an abusive situation.
Individuals can use the information they have ascertained to start building a safety net and determine what their finances will look like when they are on their own. When trying to save money or pay off debt, consulting with a professional, such as a credit counselor can be helpful and give survivors the knowledge they need to start protecting themselves financially. In addition, for those who are moving out of their home, enrolling in housing counseling can inform them about the credit requirements, documentation and income they may need to find a new place to live.
Don’t forget to safeguard records
Individuals who are starting a new life will be required to show proof of their identity and financial history to gain access to services and products. During the transition period, survivors should gather their identifying documents – birth certificate, Social Security card and passport – and financial documents, such as bank account and credit card statements, insurance information and proof of property holdings. These documents should be stored in a safe place, such as a bank deposit box or with a family member or friend.
Finally, making the transition to independence is a necessary, but sometimes-difficult task for abuse survivors. Creating a close support system of friends, family members and counselors can help individuals overcome challenges, financial or otherwise, that may arise.