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Financial Education: An Essential Tool to Prevent Domestic Violence

by Ana Paula Noguez, Domestic Violence Prevention Program Coordinator, MALDEF

The Economic downturn we are currently experiencing could lead to an increase in violence within the family. Stress often leads to more frequent, more violent, and more dangerous abuse when domestic violence already exists; in addition, the economic situation will make it more difficult for some victims to leave abusive relationships.

“Mary Kay’s Truth About Abuse” survey of domestic violence shelters across the country released yesterday states that three out of four domestic violence shelters report an increase in women seeking assistance from abuse since September 2008, a major turning point in the U.S. economy. The survey data directly connects a major reason for the increase in domestic violence to the downturn in the economy. Representatives of the shelters surveyed report they have observed an increase in requests for assistance from domestic violence victims because of the following reasons:

  1. · 73% attribute the rise in abuse to “financial issues.”

  2. · “Stress” and “job loss” (61 % and 49 %, respectively) also proved to be leading contributing factors in the reported increase in domestic violence cases involving women.

Economic self-sufficiency is frequently the difference between violence and safety for many victims of domestic violence. While the institutional focus has been on the financial crisis, attention also must be paid on how victims of domestic violence can be protected and empowered. By controlling and limiting the victim’s access to financial resources, a batterer ensures that the victim will be financially limited if he/she chooses to leave the relationship, having to face the choice of living with scarce resources or remaining in an abusive relationship.

That is why Financial Education, knowing and understanding the complex principles of earning, spending, saving and investing, is an essential tool for preventing abuse. As part of MALDEF’s Domestic Violence Prevention Program and in partnership with the Community Financial Resource Center (www.cfrc.net) we offer a workshop targeted at issues such as: Budgeting, balancing a checkbook, keeping financial records safe & confidential, preventing identity theft, taking a financial inventory, building a financial base, understanding predatory lending, managing money, debt management, developing financial goals, building good credit, and protecting against financial loss.

The goal of these workshops is to provide economic independence, a way to patch income during a transition, an opportunity to create a new start and personal empowerment.

If you are in an abusive relationship and are interested in taking steps towards financial self-sufficiency, please read the following tips[1]:

  1. – Keep your personal and financial records in a safe location. Leave copies with a trusted friend, relative or in a bank safety deposit box.

  2. – Compile an emergency evacuation box with copies of your family’s important records and documents.

  3. – Keep copies of car and house keys in your wallet, along with extra money and emergency phone numbers.

  4. – If you use the internet to explore domestic violence issues or for regaining financial independence, make sure your abuser cannot trace your activities. Be cautious about giving out personal information over the web and think about having mail or emails sent to a friend or to your workplace.

  5. – Take a financial inventory.

  6. – If your partner controls the money, look for ways to find out more about his/her income, financial property, real property and debts.

  7. – If you are thinking about leaving your relationship, find out what it would cost you to live on your own, and consider starting to set aside your own money, even if it’s just a few dollars, and keep it safe.

  8. – Find help by contacting the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE) or visit the library to find resources on money management and domestic violence.

  9. – Obtain a copy of your credit report from any of the three major credit bureaus, review the information, and report any fraud, disputed claims, or identity theft. You can obtain a copy of your credit report online or over the phone by contacting the Equifax (1-800-685-1111), Experian (1-888-397-3742), and TransUnion (1-800-888-4213) credit bureaus.

Designing a financial strategy should be part of an overall comprehensive safety plan. To learn more about how to develop a general safety plan visit MALDEF’s Domestic Violence Prevention page or call our Information Line at 1-866-NO-ABUSO (1-866-662-2876).


[1] Adapted from National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) Hope and Power: For Your Personal Finances publication, available at www.ncadv.org.

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