Not all forms of domestic abuse are physical. Financial abuse occurs when your spouse withholds money from you, restricts your access to household funds, tries to damage your credit rating, etc. The goal is to make you financially dependent on your spouse as a means of exerting control over you. Anyone can become a victim of financial abuse, whether male or female, old or young.
Financial abuse makes it more difficult to leave a relationship, which is part of what the abuser has in mind. Economic issues can follow you even after you leave the relationship, and financial recovery involves a process. However, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it is possible to first escape from an abusive situation and then to recover financially.
What options are available?
Whenever possible, it is important to have a plan when leaving a situation of domestic abuse. While your top priority is making a safe escape, it should also include financial considerations. As you are packing to leave, you should include any financial documents you can gather, which may include the following:
- Bank statements
- Health insurance cards
- Birth certificates/Social Security cards for yourself and your children
It is important to gather any financial documents that you can, but do not delay your departure and/or put yourself in danger trying to obtain them.
Once you have made your escape, your next priority is to become financially independent. Your credit rating may be vulnerable, but you can take steps to freeze your accounts. You can make it harder for someone else to open accounts in your name by asking the credit bureau to issue a fraud alert. You may also seek only from the court to protect yourself financially.
Remember that you are not alone. There are many resources available to help victims recover from abuse, financial and otherwise.