Your Credit Score Could Save Your Life

June 20, 2023, By Co-Authored by Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and Sharisse Kimbro, Program Officer on Relationship Abuse for The Allstate Foundation

Why don’t they just leave?

We hear it all the time.

There are many valid reasons why a survivor of relationship abuse stays with a partner who chooses to cause harm, and the most common is stunningly simple.

They can’t afford to leave.

If we only focus on conversations on boosting credit scores, paying down debt, and which investment to pursue, we’re missing the opportunity to talk about a current weaving throughout this country in which financial autonomy is weaponized and used to control, manipulate, and abuse millions of people every year.

Nearly all domestic violence survivors have experienced this “invisible weapon” — and about three out of four say they stayed with their abusive partners longer because of it. At the National Domestic Violence Hotline (The Hotline), financial abuse was an issue mentioned by nearly 1 in 3 survivors who contacted us in 2022.

Financial abuse occurs when an abusive partner controls access to shared or individual assets or limits the current or future earning potential of the survivor as part of a larger strategy of power and control. It’s a remarkably effective tool in separating a survivor from their own power and autonomy by eliminating resources and choices while also isolating them financially.

Regardless of education, income, race or gender, financial abuse creates a forced dependency on the abusive partner that leaves the survivor with few, if any, financial resources to leave. In fact, in a recent study from Freefrom, 73% percent of relationship abuse survivors identified cash to spend as they see fit as their top need to secure their future and safety. One survivor recounts her experience:

Photo of woman and man sitting quietly. Your Credit Score Could Save Your Life
Photo of woman and man sitting quietly. Your Credit Score Could Save Your Life

I started noticing patterns around how he treated money. I had no transparency into how “we” were spending what he originally called “our money” but then started calling it “his money.” He started putting my name on credit cards and making me sign all these lease documents, but he’d never let me read the paperwork. At one point, I secured a temporary living space away from him, but the costs were too high since I hadn’t been allowed to work. Like many survivors, I ended up returning because I didn’t have the means to stay in a hotel or rental indefinitely.

A survivor who has experienced coerced debt, or non-consensual credit-related transactions, could face massive barriers to economic self-sufficiency, including struggling to find a job or a place to live due to debt and its detrimental effects on their credit scores.

Simply put, a good credit score could be the difference between life and death for a survivor, between leaving an abusive partner or staying with them– putting their well-being and safety at risk.

The good news is there are resources available to survivors of relationship abuse to help them achieve safety and financial independence:

  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides free and confidential support and resources 24/7 via phone, text, and chat. Survivors can expect to be treated with dignity and respect while being referred to local resources and support systems to help them navigate their next steps.
  • The Allstate Foundation created Moving Ahead, a financial empowerment resource to help survivors find financial independence as they rebuild their lives, including how to improve credit scores, secure loans and/or a mortgage, and planning for the long-term with savings and investments.
  • The Allstate Foundation is also investing in non-profit organizations that provide unrestricted cash assistance via micro grants and matching savings programs to survivors. On average, survivors reported they need $1,567 to make ends meet and stay safe.

Most importantly, anyone can show support for intimate partner violence survivors, who need the support and validation of those around them. Each of us can play a vital role in their journey to safety and healing; it all starts with believing and trusting survivors.

And that doesn’t cost a thing.

If you or someone you know is experiencing relationship abuse in any form, help is available.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides free, confidential support and resources 24/7/365. Support is a call or chat away at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), chat online at, or text “Start” to 88788.

Answers shouldn’t be hard to find.

We're here to help!