NYLAG Launches Campaign to Stop Financial Abuse
Domestic violence is an epidemic: 1 in 4 women in the US experience abuse at some time in their lives. While physical abuse is the most easily recognized form of domestic violence, financial abuse—limiting or completely cutting off a victim’s access to financial resources—is a pervasive problem that often prevents a victim from leaving her abuser.
In a recent study, economists found that access to legal services, more than to shelters, hotlines, or counseling, has the greatest impact on decreasing domestic violence. NYLAG’s Family Law Unit helps domestic violence victims to obtain orders of protection, custody, divorce and other legal remedies, but does not have the resources to fully help clients tackle and resolve matters related to financial abuse.
In response, NYLAG has launched an online crowdfunding campaign with the goal of raising $50,000 to establish a “Stop Financial Abuse Project.” The Project will provide legal assistance to address the devastating consequences of financial abuse, including homelessness, unemployment, identity theft, and crippling debt.
The “Stop Financial Abuse Project” will enable NYLAG attorneys to combat financial abuse on a number of legal fronts, including by: representing clients threatened with eviction in housing court; assisting victims in employer discrimination cases; negotiating with debt collectors to end harassment and, when necessary, representing clients in court to reduce or erase debt.
About Financial Abuse
Financial abuse takes many forms, often starting from a place of trust that allows an abuser to gain sole control of the couple’s finances. This can quickly spiral into a crisis situation, where a victim has no knowledge or control of how money is spent, and no access to family accounts – or even to her own paycheck. Just as often, an abuser uses his access to a victim’s personal information to obtain credit cards and loans in her name without her knowledge. These actions can have devastating effects on the victim’s finances.
While physical, emotional, or other forms of abuse may motivate a domestic violence victim to leave her abuser, research shows that the inability to support herself and her children is one of the top reasons why victims remain in or return to abusive relationships.
In addition to making it nearly impossible for a woman to leave an abusive relationship, financial abuse can also have a devastating and lasting impact on those who do escape. For example, if a victim’s abuser accrues exorbitant amounts of debt using a joint account, a victim’s credit score will be ruined, making it difficult for her to open a bank account, find employment, rent an apartment, or obtain a loan. Even if she had no knowledge of or responsibility for the purchases, the victim is also liable for all debt in a joint account. This can lead to frequent harassment by debt collection agencies if the abuser is delinquent on payments. With few options to help them obtain safety and financial independence, victims are often driven back to their abusers with the hope of renewed security and stability, only to begin the vicious cycle of abuse again.
For more information about financial abuse go to:
If you are a victim of domestic violence, contact NYLAG’s Family Law Unit by calling 212.613.2232 or email [email protected].