Many of the survivors of domestic violence, in addition to facing physical and emotional concerns, face serious financial concerns after separating from an abuser. According to a report from the General Accounting Office, almost 20 percent of welfare recipients had experienced domestic violence in the prior year, and about 65 percent had been victims of domestic violence at some point. Other studies have shown that 30 percent of employed survivors have lost their jobs because of domestic violence.
Many of these victims are low- or moderate- income, and domestic violence may have been a contributing factor or created a subsequent financial crisis for a person already financially on the edge. Managing credit and financial problems can be an overwhelming challenge for victims of domestic violence, especially if they have had little if any control over their finances in the past and are fleeing and abusive situation.
Creating an income and expenses budget is essential for any survivor trying to get or stay out of financial trouble. It is particularly important if the survivor’s income or expenses have changed as a result of leaving an abuser. Budgets can also be used to demonstrate financial need if the survivor is attempting to secure child support payments from the abuser. See a sample budget form.
Once a budget has been created, the survivor can begin to prioritize how to pay existing debts while still meeting essential family expenses. There are 16 basic guidelines to follow. For more detailed explanations, read the brochure on Prioritizing Your Expenses or consult Chapter 3 of the Guide to Consumer Rights for Domestic Violence Survivors.
Credit reports may be used by landlords when you apply for an apartment, employers when you are looking for a new job, insurance companies when you apply for car or homeowners insurance, and creditors when you are trying to access affordable credit. Credit reports and your credit score also determine the amount and interest rate of any loans you apply for. As a consumer, you have the right to delete certain information or to include your side of the story on your credit report. Under federal law, you are also entitled to receive one free credit report each year from each of the three major credit bureaus. To obtain your free credit report, go to www.annualcreditreport.com, or call 877.322.8228. Be wary of other sites offering “free credit reports” that ask for your credit card information and may enroll you in a monthly plan with a fee.
Suggestions for building and repairing your credit history.
Utilities are necessary for all individuals, but getting utilities set up and kept current can be particularly difficult for domestic violence survivors. Several roadblocks to keeping or acquiring new utility service exist. The utility company may try to hold a survivor responsible for delinquent utility bills on an account managed by the abuser. In addition, a survivor who has any preexisting utility debt may find it hard to get new service.
Several options exist to try and overcome these barriers as well as get assistance with future payments:
Many survivors may have outstanding student loan debt that contributes to their overall debt burden. Others may want to return to school and will need student loans to pursue that avenue. For information on the different types of loans and remedies for loan debt please visit Student Loan Borrower Assistance.
If a survivor is facing unmanageable debt, filing for bankruptcy is an important option to consider. It can help eliminate most outstanding debt, stop foreclosure on a home, and help restore utility service. For more information on bankruptcy, three consumer brochures are available. To find a consumer bankruptcy attorney near you, visit the website of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys.
Special considerations need to be addressed when representing a survivor in a foreclosure. More information about approaches and issues is available.
For more information on finding an attorney to help with a consumer matter relating to domestic violence, click here.
More information on finding an attorney to help with a consumer matter relating to domestic violence is available.
This website is supported by Grant #2009-VF-GX-K005 awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.