By Charlestien Harris
October marks National Domestic Violence Month. Although it might not be the most popular financial subject to discuss, it demands attention. The more focus we give to this critical issue, the better chance we have to mitigate its profound impact on the financial stability of victims.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women and one in four men have experienced some form of domestic abuse by an intimate partner. Women tend to experience this violence more frequently, significantly affecting their overall financial well-being. Whether you are a victim or a supporter, finances often determine survival. As a former survivor of domestic violence, I can attest to the importance of a robust support system and a financial plan to navigate such situations.
Here are some ways domestic violence can impact a victim’s finances.
Financial abuse is more common than you might think. It is frequently used in abusive relationships to maintain control over the victim. Abusers typically take money from victims against their will, including their paychecks, savings, or public benefits. This form of abuse not only depletes a victim’s funds but can also damage their credit and hinder their future financial independence. Undoing the damage from financial abuse can take years or longer.
Debt and poor credit resulting from financial control and exploitation restrict access to safe housing, often leading to homelessness. Victims attempting to break free from abusive relationships often face housing instability and homelessness due to high housing costs, economic insecurity, damaged credit, and poor tenant history. Poor credit history can severely impact victims, preventing them from accessing basic services and suitable housing options. Victims are forced to leave stable housing and are often financially unprepared to secure safe, affordable housing away from their abuser.
Abusers commonly use violence, threats, or intimidation to prevent victims from working or accessing family funds. Whether overt or subtle, abusers employ various methods to gain financial control over their partners. These methods include, but are not limited to:
- Forbidding the victim from working.
- Sabotaging work or employment opportunities through stalking or harassment, causing job loss by physical assault before important meetings or interviews.
- Controlling all spending.
- Denying access to bank accounts.
- Withholding money or providing limited allowances.
- Withholding funds for basic needs like food and medicine.
While this list is not exhaustive, it illustrates how financial abuse affects victims of domestic violence and its potential long-term consequences.
Credit is essential for victims to access other resources. Abusers often take out loans in the victim’s name, leaving the debt unpaid and damaging the victim’s credibility. This coerced debt can hinder a survivor’s ability to start anew, making it difficult to access necessary resources and burdening them with significant financial obligations.
Financial planning is crucial in life-threatening emergency situations. In many unhealthy relationships, victims lack control over their finances, often staying due to economic fear. If a victim manages to leave, they may do so without a financial safety net. Two crucial steps to overcome potential financial struggles include:
- Reviewing all accounts and creating secure copies of account information, addresses, customer service numbers, and passwords. Store these copies outside the home or scan and store them online in an account accessible only by you. If possible, maintain a safe cash reserve.
- Assessing your finances, making plans for housing, healthcare, and other needs. Without a secure place to go, leaving a bad situation is challenging. Create an account accessible in emergencies and inform trusted family or friends of your plans for a smoother transition if necessary.
For those who escape abuse and survive initially, they often face overwhelming challenges in achieving long-term financial security, safety, and peace of mind. Ruined credit scores, erratic employment histories, and legal issues resulting from abuse make it extremely difficult for domestic violence victims to achieve financial stability in any circumstance.
Research thoroughly and create a comprehensive plan to safeguard your financial well-being when confronted with domestic violence.
For more information on this topic or other financial matters, feel free to email me at Charlestien.Harris@banksouthern.com or call me at 662-624-5776.
Until next week – stay financially fit!
Charlestien Harris is a financial contributor to DeSoto County News. She is a financial expert with Southern Bancorp Community Partners whose articles are seen in a number of publications around the region. You’ll be seeing her columns weekly on the DeSoto County News website and our social media channels.