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Finding Your Financial Footing After Abuse

When the abuser controls your money, it can feel impossible to start over

  • March 15, 2017
  • By domesticshelters.org
Finding Your Financial Footing After Abuse

Do you think romance or red flag when a potential mate tells you, “You don’t need to get a job. I’ll provide everything we need”?

To some, this could come off as innocently chivalrous;“ This person just wants to take care of me. That sounds nice.”

But if you’re a survivor of domestic abuse, these words might trigger warning bells. You know that abusers thrive off power and control, and keeping their victim isolated is one of the first steps to achieving this.

And isolation begins with not allowing a victim to leave the house;not to see friends, not visit family and not to work.

“I’ve talked to a lot of women who are thinking of leaving [their abusers] and the number one reason they can’t is because their financial situation doesn’t allow them to,” says Kristen Paruginog, a survivor and the founder and executive director of Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence. This stems from survivors either not making enough money or not having any income at all.

Another strategy abusers use is to put everything financially related, in the survivor’s name, even if the abuser is paying for it. This way, if the survivor leaves, the abuser can stop paying for such things;such as a mortgage, credit card or car loan;and ruin a survivor’s credit for years to come.

So, a survivor’s bank account is in the red, but he or she wants to leave, or has left already. Where do you start when you want to find your financial freedom? Here are five tips to get started:

1. Believe in Yourself. When your abuser told you not to get a job, did he or she also throw in some digs about how you’re not smart enough or good enough to have a career? This is a type of psychological abuse;by tearing down your self-esteem, it’s easier for the abuser to control you. It’s time to start changing those beliefs.

“We don’t necessarily have our confidence taken away from us [by an abuser], we let it go,” says Paruginog. “So, if we can let it go, we can get it back. It’s about believing in yourself. Start thinking, ‘I’m worthy,’ and you’ll start seeing a shift in your mindset.”

2. Get Creative. You’ll need to find a job to support yourself financially. But if it’s been a long time since you were in the working world, or you’ve never held a job before, this can seem intimidating. Start by thinking about your unique skill set. What talents do you have that can potentially earn an income? Ask employed friends or family members to help you create a resume.

Paruginog remembers one survivor she met who “took a leap of faith” and left her abuser without a job or money. She was also retired and disabled. But, she was crafty, says Paruginog. She was able to make an income by selling her crafts online. Do you cook, dance, sing or play an instrument well? Offer to teach others.

And if you have little ones and can’t afford childcare? The Penny Hoarder blog has a list of 103 ways to make money at home.

3. Become Financially Literate (For Free!). There are multiple online courses, offered free of charge, to help you become financially literate. That is, you’ll learn everything from how to make a budget to how to repair your credit, and how to set financial goals so you can get where you want to be, eventually. (Like, buying a car or paying for college.) Learn more about three different programs here.

4. Don’t Go It Alone. A domestic violence advocate in your area is not only a great sounding board for the stressors you’re enduring, but can also help connect you to assistance programs you may not even realize exist in your community. There may be housing assistance, childcare programs and job placement help that can speed up your journey to financial freedom. Reach out and see what you can find by calling a DV advocate near you.

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5. Apply for a Grant of Hope. Paruginog offers the Grants of Hope Financial Empowerment Program through the Break the Silence against Domestic Violence organization, geared toward survivors who are trying to get their feet back on the ground and build an independent life. “It’s not a relocation program,” she emphasizes, rather, its goal is to help survivors long-term, such as helping fill in the gap of services for living essentials, or helping to pay for a car repair so a survivor can hold down a job or transport children to school. “It’s beyond a financial contribution—it’s taking steps to make sure they’re financially stable. We want to help ensure long term success and this is the first step when rebuilding their life after domestic violence.”

Paruginog says survivors can apply for a grant online.

Modest Needs is another grant program designed to foster self-sufficiency in individuals, including domestic violence survivors. Their grants are most often given to those who have unexpected or emergency expenses, and are living paycheck-to-paycheck. You can learn more about their grants, and apply online, here.

Looking to go back to school? There are also groups like The Women’s Independence Scholarship Program, which offers scholarships to survivors of intimate partner abuse. Find application details through the link.

Other grant programs may exist in your community—talk to a domestic violence advocate in your area for more information.