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Financial Support Resources for Domestic Violence Survivors

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), “Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another.”

Domestic violence is a severe issue that affects hundreds of thousands of individuals worldwide. In fact, statistics gathered by the NCADV on domestic violence show that:

  • About 20 people are abused every minute by an intimate partner;
  • One in four women and one in nine men experience severe intimate partner violence;
  • 19% of domestic violence cases involve a weapon;
  • There are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide on a typical day;
  • In the United States alone, one in five women and one in 71 men have been raped at some point in their life;
  • One in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence yearly;
  • 21 to 60% of individuals who are victims of domestic violence have lost their jobs due to the outcomes of being abused.

It can be difficult for some survivors to stay afloat financially after leaving an abusive relationship. This article is a guide to the different financial resources survivors of domestic violence can turn to in a time of need.

Planning to Leave: Tips on How to Prepare

It takes a lot of courage to leave an abusive relationship. While there may still be a glimmer of fear prior to leaving, you know it is a potentially life-saving step that needs to be taken. But before you leave, you must prepare a plan that will allow you to get out of the relationship as quickly and safely as possible. Listed below are tips to follow to help you prepare to leave your abuser once and for all.

Gather Important Documents

Aside from packing the essentials such as clothes and other personal belongings, it is vital that you gather any important documents as well. These include but aren’t limited to:

  • Bank account information/statements;
  • Birth certificate(s) for you and your children;
  • Car title;
  • Deed to the house;
  • Driver’s license and any other type of license in your name (i.e. hunting license, work license/certification);
  • Financial records;
  • Insurance cards;
  • Marriage license/divorce records;
  • Passport/visa(s);
  • A physical copy of addresses and phone numbers;
  • Rental agreement/lease;
  • Retirement plan statements;
  • School ID card;
  • Social Security card;
  • Tax returns;
  • Username and login information (if kept on a physical document).

Bringing these items with you from the get-go prevents you from having to go back and retrieve the items — putting you in a potentially harmful situation — as well as gives you the tools you need to start a new life elsewhere.

Protect Your Privacy

The basics of protecting your privacy begin with changing all of your usernames and passwords on any account the perpetrator may have had previous access to. Covering your digital tracks is a crucial step that can help prevent the chance of stolen identity and hacked accounts.

Other ways to protect your privacy after leaving an abusive relationship include:

  • Forwarding all mail to a trusted address;
  • Not publishing your new address on social media and only giving it to trusted individuals;
  • Purchasing a new cell phone and changing your phone number;
  • Turning off your location settings on all mobile devices.

Reach Out to Loved Ones

Feeling alone during a time when you need support the most is an awful feeling. Reaching out to loved ones you can trust before leaving could be beneficial for various reasons. If you are still in the planning process of your departure, you might reach out to a friend or family member to see if they can provide you with temporary housing, financial support, emotional support, and/or a listening ear.

Keep your loved ones up to date in your planning process — by doing so it will help them know where you are at all times, and if for any reason, notify local authorities in case of an emergency.

It is also wise to memorize their phone numbers and addresses, if possible. This way if you do not have a mobile device you can still contact them by borrowing a phone from a neighbor or any other local place where there is access to a phone.

Emergency Help: Covering the Necessities

There are various types of emergencies survivors may be faced with during and after an abusive relationship. Listed below are emergency resources victims and survivors can utilize in emergency situations.

In case of an immediate emergency, contact your local law enforcement.

Housing Assistance

Another common difficulty is trying to find suitable housing for individuals who have just gotten out of a domestically violent relationship. In fact, statistics from the National Network To End Domestic Violence show that “domestic violence is the leading cause of homelessness for women and children.”

Luckily there are multiple resources such as mortgage assistance programs for single parents, housing assistance for low-income families, and informative guides on how to rent an apartment with bad credit in case your abusive partner has damaged your credit. Other housing assistance programs include:

  • HUD Exchange: The HUD Exchange provides victims of domestic violence and homelessness with “resources related to the intersection between intimate partner violence (IPV), housing instability, and homelessness, and seeks to ensure that survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking have access to safe and affordable housing.”
  • Transitional Housing Program: This is an informative source published by the United States Department of Justice that emphasizes the importance of transitional housing programs — explaining why they’re necessary and how they also support economic empowerment.

Food Assistance

Just as with anyone struggling financially, finding a way to feed yourself and your children on little-to-no income is very difficult. It adds to the preexisting stressors that come with leaving an abusive relationship and with being on your own. Here are food assistance programs that struggling individuals can turn to for help.

Legal Assistance

In some extreme cases of intimate partner violence, legal actions may be necessary. However, they may not always be feasible. Here are resources to help survivors with legal issues regarding their domestic violence case.

Help Finding a Job

Applying for jobs can be an intimidating process. You may feel overwhelmed or uncertain that this is the right move to make, with lingering worries that your abuser may find you at your new employer. And while there is a correlation between increased unemployment rates and domestic violence, finding a job is a must in order to get back on your feet financially.

Preparing for a Job Interview

Whether it was scheduled ahead of time or you’re going to a walk-in job interview, it is common to feel nervous and unprepared before meeting with the hiring manager. Here are a few of the best job interview tips to follow to help calm your pre-interview nerves:

  • Arrive early;
  • Be mindful of your body language;
  • Bring your own questions for the interviewer;
  • Do your research about the role, the company, and the industry standards for that position ahead of time;
  • Dress the part;
  • Practice answering basic job interview questions;
  • Print off clear, clean, mistake-free copies of your resume to present to your interviewer(s);
  • Remain relaxed and confident;
  • Follow up after the interview.

Medical Care

It isn’t unheard of for survivors to be left without access to proper medical care after leaving their abuser — whether it’s for financial reasons or lack of insurance. Luckily there are programs that can help both survivors and children of survivors. Here are resources available to victims of domestic violence in need of medical care.

Help for College Students

Domestic and intimate partner violence is an ever-growing topic on college and university campuses nationwide. According to Healing Abuse Working for Change, “While 70% of young victims don’t realize they’re being abuse[d] by their partner, those who do know they’re experiencing abuse resist reporting it because the closed, intersecting social networks of a college campus make victims feel trapped by their circumstances.”

Just as it does with any other victim, domestic violence can take a financial toll on college students. Luckily students may utilize resources such as their student financial learning center and campus counselor to discuss their financial options and to spread the word about preventing violence on campus.

Scholarships for Survivors of Domestic Violence

Some college students who are survivors of domestic violence may even qualify for scholarships to help them pay for their studies. Here are a few scholarships student survivors may be able to apply for:

Regaining Financial Independence

It can be difficult to regain financial independence after being in an abusive relationship. However, there are various resources, tips, and tricks available to help survivors of domestic violence regain their financial independence.

Secure Your Financial Records

You can go about securing your financial records by contacting your bank directly or printing them off yourself via online banking. This means securing all physical documentation of any bank account login and password information, account balances, credit card information, savings/trust fund information, and any other financial records you want to prevent your abuser from having access to.

Make sure that all passwords have been changed and that any physical document you may have, both financial records and personal documents (e.g. passport, birth certificates, Social Security card) are secured in a trusted place. If any financial records are left behind with the abuser, they could potentially take them and commit identity fraud, which can affect your credit score.

Know Where You Stand Financially

It is important to be aware of your current financial standing. Not only is this a vital step to take prior to leaving your abuser, but it is also a necessary step to take to help ensure you know which tools and resources to seek out after leaving. It also helps to ensure that in the case of a divorce, you get your fair share of what is owed to you.

To ascertain your financial standing, take pictures, and write down any assets that belong to you and what they’re worth. Make copies of all joint credit card statements and any other accounts you two may have shared in the past. These can be used in the court of law to help you get back what is rightfully yours and to make sure any debts left behind that you are not responsible for are paid.

Build a Financial Safety Net

Building a financial safety net essentially means to build your savings. For some, this is a lot easier said than done, especially if they’re struggling to make ends meet as is. Luckily there are plenty of actionable tips to follow to help you save money each month.

  • Cancel your gym membership and workout at home or outside;
  • Create a personal budget;
  • Cut out streaming services;
  • Downsize on housing;
  • Drive less;
  • Get a roommate to help with bills;
  • Get a side hustle;
  • Make a meal plan;
  • Put money into your savings before addressing any other budgeted expenses;
  • Refrain from going out as much as possible;
  • Use utilities sparingly.

Make the Necessary Changes to Your Insurance Policies

If your abuser was previously on your insurance plan, then it is important that you contact your insurance company to have them removed right away. This includes:

  • Auto insurance;
  • Homeowners insurance;
  • Life insurance;
  • Medical insurance.

If they are left on your plan, it could potentially be damaging to you and your credit. For example, if you still share a joint auto insurance policy and they get in a vehicle accident, this could affect your ability to obtain new insurance since technically you would have an at-fault accident on your record.

However in some cases, if you are on their plan, rather than yours, it can be difficult or impossible to remove yourself from their plan. This is why you will want to contact your insurance company to verify their removal policies.

Managing debt

Managing your debt has various benefits. Not only does it help you with your financial stability, but it also helps to increase your credit score — which has various benefits on its own as well. By being aware of your debt and coming up with payment plans, you can help prevent debt collectors from reaching out to you.

Don’t hesitate to ask for assistance if you aren’t sure how to start managing your debt. There are various types of services and programs available to help financially unstable individuals and single parents with financial tips and debt relief.

Helpful tips to consider when attempting to manage your debt include:

  • Always paying your bills on time;
  • Being mindful and understanding the repercussions of closing an account;
  • Knowing and being mindful of your debt-to-income ratio;
  • Knowing your credit limits (and not exceeding them);
  • Only taking on new debt as needed;
  • Only pulling money from your emergency fund when you absolutely have to;
  • Paying more than the minimum amount owed;
  • Regularly monitoring your credit and reporting any discrepancies;
  • Seeing if you qualify for lower interest rates.

Build and Maintain Good Credit

While there are many tips to help you build and maintain good credit, it is important to note that it takes time, especially if your credit score has been shattered by a significant other. Therefore, it is important to start building your credit as soon as possible.

It is common for credit repair guides to provide information on short and long-term credit repair strategies. It is wise to pay attention to both and create a plan that works well with these timelines and your current financial state. Tips to build and maintain your credit are as follows:

  • Become an authorized user on someone else’s account;
  • Clean up outstanding balances;
  • Get a secured credit card;
  • If you’re able, hire a credit repair agency;
  • Negotiate debt when possible;
  • Pay off your debt as fast as you can, this means paying more than the minimum amount due each month;
  • Prove your progress to credit agencies;
  • Report any errors or discrepancies to a credit bureau;
  • Request a higher limit on your pre-existing credit card.

Coming out of an abusive relationship is full of uncertainty for victims of domestic violence. You might not know where you’re going, you may not have the finances, and you may be left with bad credit. But what is certain is that you are never alone.

There are numerous resources to help with all of the above and programs that were specifically created to help you get back on your feet. Now that you know a few of the financial resources you can utilize as a survivor of domestic violence, it can help ease your mind knowing that there are ways to get out of your financial bind.

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