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We All Deserve Safety and Financial Security: Understanding the Impact of Financial Abuse on Survivors Living with Disabilities

November 7, 2018

This post also appears on the National Disability Institute blog

By: Kara Rhodebeck, NNEDV Economic Justice and Microloans Coordinator

Safety and financial security are connected for survivors of domestic violence who are enduring financial abuse. Financial abuse is a tactic of domestic violence wherein the abusive partner seeks to control a person’s ability to acquire, use or maintain economic resources, and threatens their self-sufficiency and financial autonomy. Financial abuse is present is 99 percent of domestic violence cases [1].

At the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), we are dedicated to creating a social, political and economic environment in which violence against women no longer exists. We recognize that despite the pervasive nature of domestic violence, all survivors have unique experiences that impact their ability to become and remain safe. Women with disabilities are twice as likely to experience abuse in comparison to women without disabilities [2].

There are many ways survivors can experience abuse that go unrecognized by the average person. Survivors living with a disability experience abuse that can uniquely control their health and finances.

Abuse may come from a survivor’s partner and/or caregiver. The abuser may limit access to healthcare, withhold medication, tamper with assistive technology or control access to bank accounts or benefits, just to name a few examples. These tactics can help the abuser gain power and control over the survivor, profoundly impacting the survivor’s safety and ability to leave.

All of the examples above impede a survivor’s financial stability. Financial abuse is a powerful way for an abuser to maintain power and control over a survivor. Survivors with limited access to credit or without power of attorney face many barriers to safety.

Banking and financially rebuilding can be particularly difficult for survivors of domestic violence. Access to traditional banking is important for financial security, but that can be difficult for survivors to access after leaving an abusive partner. If all economic resources go to a bank account that is not in the survivor’s name, or if the survivor’s credit was ruined by an abusive partner, access to traditional bank accounts and lending that could help increase financial security may be difficult. Survivors who begin to financially rebuild should have support from resources that respond to the impacts of financial abuse.

Given the prevalence of financial abuse and the lack of options for survivors of domestic violence attempting to rebuild, NNEDV created the Independence Project, a microlending program for survivors that empowers them to rebuild or create credit. The Independence Project has offered hundreds of survivors an accessible option for credit repair in order to build the credit needed to access traditional banking, loans, housing and more.

Through the Independence Project, participants apply for a $100 loan, interest-free and fee-free. To successfully complete the loan, survivors will pay back the loan $10 each month for 10 months. One successful microloan can help a borrower increase their credit score by an average of 28 points! For survivors with no credit history, a successful microloan can help establish their credit score at around 600 points. Application for the program is available to all survivors interested in credit building. To learn more, please click here.

All survivors deserve to be free from abuse. Survivors also deserve to be able to rebuild. NNEDV is proud to support survivors working to gain access to their long-term safety and financial security.

Learn more about financial abuse with our Financial Abuse Fact Sheet. Get involved in our work to end domestic violence by sharing our Survivors’ Rights campaign on social media.


[1] Adams, Adrienne E. “Measuring the Effects of Domestic Violence on Women’s Financial Well-being.” CFS Research Brief 2011-5.6.
[2] Shoffner Ellis, Monica. “Intimate Partner Violence and Women with Disabilities.” Southern Illinois University Carbondale OpenSIUC. 2015-2.3.