Fact: Domestic Violence is the leading cause of injury to woman between the ages of 15 and 44. According to the FBI, one woman is beaten by her husband or partner every 15 seconds in the United States. If we drill down a little deeper that equates to more than 3 million women per year. Due to this devastating public health crisis, October has been declared National Domestic Violence Awareness month. This initiative has been set forth to give victims currently in an abusive relationship and victims who have left abusive relationships an outlet to receive assistance.
Another alarming fact is that battered women who don’t have financial freedom are more likely to continue to experience abuse especially those who have children. Because of the control the abuser has on the finances, the victim feels helpless and develops a fear of poverty and becomes afraid of greatly lowering their standard of living. There is never an excuse to accept abuse. Whether its physical or emotional everyone has the right to live a life free from fear.
Increasing your financial knowledge and taking steps towards financial freedom will give you the confidence to say enough is enough. The following are five steps that can be taken to gain financial freedom and break free from emotional and physical duress:
1) Keep your records safe
First and foremost you want to make sure that you keep your financial records and other important documents safe.These documents include your birth certificate, passport, social security card, credit card information, insurance policy info; etc. You can secure these documents in a easily accessible place like your garage, the trunk of your car , or with a close friend. Another good suggestion would be in a bank safe deposit box (which usually cost about $30 per month). It also advisable to set up a P.O. Box to secure all of your important mail from your abuser.
This is essential to preventing identity theft which most abusers use to control their victims. Its also vital because when its time for you to leave you need to have access to these docs in order to regain control of your life.
2) Know where you stand financially
Whether you are in an abusive relationship or not it is very important that you know where you stand financially. Knowing the main source of income, bank account balances, real property owned, and debts owed gives you a better indication of how you will live once you leave your abuser as well as a realistic view of what your options are.
3) Start building a financial safety net
Once you have a good idea of what your financial picture looks like you are now in a better position to really plan your exit. You know what assets and liabilities you are dealing with and can begin envisioning how your life will be on your own. Begin with estimating your income and expenses. Figure out if what you make right now will allow you to maintain the basics. Whether it does or not you also need to begin some sort of savings plan to create an emergency fund. Keep your money safe! Again using a banks safe deposit box may be the best solution.
4) Maintain good credit
Make sure you are taking care of your current debts and avoid missing any payments. Having a good credit report is going to be essential in making sure you can obtain the vitals things needed to start your new life, ie; an apartment, credit cards for an emergency, and even a job. Nowadays your credit report is used for everything so bad credit will continue to force you to be dependent on your abuser.
5) Finalize your exit strategy
Once you have steps 1-4 down pack its time to finalize your exit strategy and make your move. First you must create a budget to make sure you are properly managing your expenses. Once you have your budget in tact you will now have a specific amount that can be allocated for the necessities including your room and board. You can find a place to stay by using a free classified website like Craigslist. The benefit of using the free classifieds is that owners usually list their own properties for rent and are more eager to fill the vacancies faster than a broker or agent. You may also want to consider a transfer from your current job or look for a new one if you feel that your abuser will stalk you.
Once you make your move there should be no looking back. There’s a saying that says “once someone shows you who they are believe them.” These are the truest words spoken especially when it comes to domestic violence. Never fall for sorry. If they’ve done it once they can do it again. For your safety once you are gone you should be gone forever.
6) Find Help
Victims with lack of money management skills may find it difficult to implement some of the steps mentioned above so it’s important that you use all the assistance that’s available at your disposal. The biggest misconception of people who are in abusive relationships is that they are alone and can’t get help. This is absolutely false.There are many programs and organizations that can help you with your situation. Local domestic violence programs, libraries, the internet, and churches are all examples of places that you can go to get assistance with free workshops and seminars that can help you with money management.
Domestic violence is an unacceptable act. Don’t let lack of financial education trap you into a life of fear. Take back control.
For additional resources please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE or TTY 1−800−787−3224.