Domestic Violence and Credit

Concerned woman on phone with laptop and papers in front of her

Unpaid bills

Throughout their marriage, Rebecca’s husband controlled every aspect of their finances. And while the lease to the house had been in both their names, he stopped paying rent to punish her. Rebecca spent many sleeplessness nights agonizing over the $1,800 she owed her landlord.

Ninety-eight percent of domestic violence survivors experience financial abuse. Some abusers, like Rebecca’s husband, stop making payments. Others gain power and control over their partner by limiting how they spend money, running up huge debts, or destroying their credit.

Challenges of financial abuse

Many survivors stay in relationships because they can’t afford to leave. Those who do leave often walk away with poor credit, which has a cascading impact on all parts of their life. Bad credit makes it harder to find new housing or get a job, two major building blocks needed to rebuild lives free from violence and coercion.

Rebecca was afraid that if she didn’t pay her landlord she would be evicted. Not only would that force her and her kids out of their home, it would make it harder for her to rent a new place where her abuser couldn’t find and harass her.

Coping with bad credit

There is no easy way to fix bad credit overnight. There are steps survivors can take to improve their credit over time. This includes setting up payment plans, making sure that abusers don’t have access to new accounts, and paying higher deposits to get into new housing.

Rebecca shared her worries with her housing advocate. Thanks to the availability of flexible funds, Rebecca’s husband’s debt was paid in full. Her clean rental record made it possible for Rebecca and her kids to move into a new apartment near their school.