The potential effects of financial abuse on domestic violence victims

Yahoo Finance's Janna Herron explains how domestic violence victims are often times financially abused.

Video transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: Welcome back to Yahoo Finance Live. Well, nearly 100% of those in abusive relationships experience financial or economic abuse. But it's not always recognized as domestic abuse. Now the Senate is looking to change that, by including a clear definition of economic abuse in an update to the Violence Against Women Act. Let's bring in Yahoo Finance's Janna Herron, who is covering this story.

And Janna, this brings up so many different questions. But let's start by talking about the actual debate that's happening in the Senate right now. They're trying to reauthorize this Act. What is that discussion right now and what is the timeline look like?

JANNA HERRON: Sure. So in March, the House passed a reauthorization for the Violence Against Women Act and it included for the first time, a specific definition of economic abuse. Right now, that's being held up in the Senate. There's no timeline right now for when that reauthorization is going to be taken up. I think there are some debates on some other provisions in the Violence Against Women Act, including gun ownership. So that's what's holding it up.

Having this definition included would really help to codify what a lot of survivors experience and perhaps could help people, advocates, the court system, financial institutions and credit reporting agencies, provide avenues for survivors to regain financial security.

AKIKO FUJITA: It's certainly an important point there. I imagine those who are watching who could potentially be saying, well, what are some of the resources that are out there and how do you go about gaining that financial independence and stability, when in fact, the definition is not clear in legislation right now.

JANNA HERRON: Right. And I think what's really important is for people to understand what financial abuse is because they might not recognize it. So most Americans are not aware that financial abuse is actually a form of domestic violence. And it can take on many different forms. For example, an abusive partner may control access to financial resources, whether that's cash, credit cards or bank accounts. An abusive partner might also default on joint debt or even worse, ruin a person's credit by opening a survivor-- opening an account in the survivor's name, running up the debt and not paying it off. They also may even prevent a survivor from seeking employment.

So those are the definitions of financial abuse. And why it's really important that we address this is because when a survivor breaks away from that abusive relationship and goes out on their own, it's much harder to do so if you don't have savings, you don't have a job history, and you have bad credit. I mean, just think about trying to rent an apartment. A landlord will check your credit and if you have bad credit, you might not get that apartment. So how do you find a place to live if you're a survivor? So these are really important things for Congress to take up because there's very real world consequences for these survivors.

AKIKO FUJITA: And really quickly Janna, what are some of the resources that victims can turn to?

JANNA HERRON: So for any domestic abuse, the National Domestic Violance hotline is always there. If you're trying to recover specifically from financial abuse, as many survivors have to do, there's the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the Identity Theft Resource Center, and the Allstate Foundation Moving Ahead Curriculum. All provide resources for survivors to regain financial security, by helping them to rebuild their credit, get loans and apply for unemployment benefits.

AKIKO FUJITA: Certainly a very important story. And you can read Janna's story on our website, Janna Herron, really appreciate you bringing that to us.

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