Home > Personal Finance > After Domestic Violence: How to Rebuild Your Finances

Comments 1 Comment

The statistics pointing to the role of economics in domestic violence cases are simply staggering. A recent Mary Kay Foundation survey found that 74% of female domestic violence victims have stayed with an abuser for economic reasons, 45% have lost their jobs, 36% have lost a home or car, and 62% of survivors said they could not find jobs due to the economy.

According to a survey of women’s shelters, 80% will seek governmental or other financial assistance in the year following their shelter stay. And in another particularly disturbing recent trend, 62% of shelters saw an increase in younger women (aged 12-24) seeking safety.

While these stats can certainly paint a dismal picture, there are economically empowering actions you can take as a domestic violence survivor that cost nothing or very little when the time comes to:

  • Rent a home
  • Apply for a job
  • Buy a car
  • Obtain utility service
  • Open a checking/savings account

First, when embarking on any of these actions, it’s important to have a clear understanding of your current credit picture as a starting point. To do so, you’ll need to know how to contact the three U.S. consumer reporting agencies (CRAs):

Next, regardless of the above action or the specifics of your situation:

  1. Check your credit reports at all 3 CRAs for errors and possible ID theft. You are entitled to a copy of your credit reports each year for free.
  2. Check the credit reports of any of your minor children for ID theft by contacting the CRAs.
  3. Contact the CRAs to place a fraud alert or freeze your credit reports if your credit has been used without your authorization.
  4. Immediately close all credit cards held jointly with the abuser to prevent any additional charges.
  5. Begin to build your own credit history by taking out a secured credit card or personal loan in your name.

Some general advice for survivors about to encounter some of these critical life events where economic empowerment is sure to make a difference:


You should expect the landlord to check your credit — either your credit report or your credit score or both. Unlike qualifying for a mortgage, however, a prospective landlord has much more leeway in terms of credit requirements, and can be more understanding of extenuating circumstances than a mortgage lender can. If there are late payments on your credit report, don’t worry, but do everything you can to bring any currently late payments and unpaid collections up to date. If you can’t, still don’t despair, but be prepared to provide an explanation for any negatives and, to the extent possible, include documentation that can provide some context to your current situation.

Job Application

Beware of some misinformation that’s been published recently about the role one’s credit history plays in employment background checks — both in terms of credit reports and credit scores. While it’s true that some employers often include credit information in background checks, they only see an abbreviated version of your credit report and scores are not used in employment.


Whether you finance a car with a loan or lease, or even if you pay by check, your credit report and score will likely be obtained by the dealer/lender. Here, your credit score plays an important part, as the interest rate and monthly payment of an auto loan/lease will largely depend on your score. You can get your FICO credit score, the one used by most auto lenders, at www.myFICO.com.


While utility companies don’t usually report your account history to the CRAs, they often use your credit rating to determine the amount of deposit to require. Utilities also send unpaid utility bills to collection agencies that report to the CRAs. If you have any unpaid utility bill collections, it will be important to pay them before applying for new utility service.

Bank Account

Increasingly, banks are consulting your credit report and ChexSystems before opening checking and savings accounts. Reasons for this include a Patriot Act requirement to protect against terrorism and to protect the bank against risk from bad checks and overdraft abuse.

[Credit Cards: Research and compare credit cards at Credit.com.]

Image: ghetto_guera29, via Flickr

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other sponsored content on Credit.com are Partners with Credit.com. Credit.com receives compensation if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any financial products or cards offered.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team