A DV Victim Advocate Wants You to Know These 4 Things About Leaving an Abuser You Live With

published Oct 5, 2022
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Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Credit: Photo: Shutterstock; Design: Apartment Therapy

If you or someone you know is the victim of domestic violence you can find help by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or by visiting their website. You can also find valuable information at the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence

They say that home is where the heart is, but for victims of intimate partner violence, or IPV, home can be a terrifying place. I know that’s how it felt to me back in 2006 when I found myself living with a violent man. Unfortunately, by the time that I worked up the nerve to end our relationship, we were so financially entangled that it presented just one more barrier to leaving. 

I was finally able to get free, but I know that my problem is a common one. That’s why I asked Adam Dodge, attorney and founder of The Tech Savvy Parent and EndTAB (Ending Tech-Enabled Abuse) for advice on what other victims need to know about the financial impacts of living with an abusive partner. 

Finances can keep you tethered to your abuser.

Dodge says that it’s not uncommon for abusers to use personal finances against their partners. “Exerting power and control over someone’s economic wellbeing is an extremely effective way to prevent them from leaving an abusive relationship,” he says, adding that it’s especially true in the digital age when nearly all of our financial decisions and access to resources occur online.

“Banking, credit cards, loans, buy-now pay-later apps, Venmo, Paypal, and more are all accessed through our devices,” he says. “If a victim can’t access their technology safely, or lacks control over their accounts, it can impair their ability to rebuild their life after experiencing abuse.” 

Here’s how to find financial freedom.

Beginning the process of untangling your finances from your abuser can be dangerous, which is why Dodge says the timing of when you should start will depend on your individual situation. “If a victim feels like they can safely create new accounts and save money while in the relationship, then it’s certainly an option [to start before you leave],” he says, adding that it’s one that should be done with great care, and whenever possible, with the aid of an advocate (like through the National Domestic Violence Hotline). “Either way, I always recommend victims visit freefrom.org for wealth building resources, grants, and guidance to obtain financial assistance in their city or state.” 

Understand your rights at home.

Another thing that prevents victims from leaving their abusers is not having anywhere to go once they escape. “The right to stay in the home depends on the state, but I can say that some temporary restraining orders can give victims exclusive right to the home even if they’re not on the lease or an owner of the property,” Dodge says, adding that he’s seen abusers use myths and outright lies about a victim’s rights to make it appear they have no choice but to stay in the home. 

“For example, claiming that the courts will always side with the husband or father on matters of property or money [is a myth],” he says. “Anytime somebody makes an all-or-nothing statement about what a court will do is most definitely not being honest.” Instead he says these kinds of things normally depend on the court, the jurisdiction, the facts and the judge. 

Remember that this is not your fault.

So many survivors and victims feel shame about their situation, and that can lead them to isolate themselves and prevent them from reaching out to their support networks for help. This is especially true for people who may have returned to their abuser after leaving, Dodge says, which is why he wants to remind victims that none of this is their fault.