Abusive Relationships and Finances: How to Secure Freedom

Domestic violence is in the news this week after a shocking video of Ray Rice surfaced on the internet. The footage showed Rice punching his then- fiancée in the face, a blow that left her unconscious and severely injured. Rice has been suspended from the Baltimore Ravens and may face additional consequences from the NFL. The incident has sparked a movement of victims sharing personal stories and offering support to fellow sufferers.

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Whether you’re struggling in an abusive or unstable relationship, financial protection is imperative. Assert your rights by removing yourself from an unsafe environment and seeking stability. Begin by:

1. Keeping personal documents safe. If you plan to leave a relationship, be sure to safeguard the necessary documents. Your birth certificate, Social Security card, passport and pay stubs will ease the transition when it comes to finding a new place to live, applying for utility accounts and service packages, searching for a new job and gaining a fresh start. Consider renting a safety deposit box a new bank or leaving your documents with a trusted friend (in a locked box).

2. Assessing your earning potential. Abusive relationships are about control. If you’ve been bullied out of earning your own living, now is the time to break the cycle. Make a list of your personal qualifications, including education, work experience, computer skills, personal skills and manual labor skills. Begin searching for a job that fits your qualifications. Better yet, look for a position that offers additional training or tuition reimbursement. Now is the time to take advantage of every opportunity.

3. Maintaining personal bank accounts and credit cards. Financial infidelity is necessary when you fear for your future. Leaving a bad relationship is difficult without assets or income. That said, you should never stay due to lack of funds. Accept help from family and friends if you need it. In the meantime, build financial strength by opening a personal checking account and applying for a credit card. Establishing a positive credit history will boost your score and prepare it for future use.

4. Breaking credit ties. Joint accounts can help or hinder your credit score. In the case of an abusive relationship, your partner may try to use financial means to prevent you from leaving, such as maxing out a joint credit card or freezing the funds in your joint bank account. Don’t allow manipulation to win. Break financial ties as soon as possible by:

  • Removing yourself as an authorized user from all bank and credit accounts.
  • Removing your partner as an authorized user from all personal accounts.
  • Closing or freezing joint accounts immediately. Note: This action often requires the permission of both parties. You may need to file for legal separation in order to assert your rights in this scenario.
  • Rerouting personal funds into your new bank account.
  • Removing personal documents e.g., bank and credit statements from your ex’s reach.

5. Building emergency savings. The end of a bad relationship can be stressful, especially where finances are concerned. Lessen the burden by building an emergency fund now. Save as much as possible each month to ensure physical and financial safety. You may need funds to secure a new apartment or car and pay for living expenses. The transition may be challenging, but it’s better than the alternative.

The bottom line: Don’t wait to create an exit. Build a strategy that allows you to seek happiness and financial freedom. Domestic violence is inexcusable. Don’t allow money to make you stay.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, please call 1-800-799-SAFE to locate shelters and receive assistance in your area.