by Lisa Rabasca Roepe

“Many people don’t recognize financial abuse right away, in part, because of historic gender roles,” says Sarah Gonzalez Bocinski, director of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research’s Economic Security for Survivors Project.

According to Bocinski, there are relatively clear ways to identify victims of abuse. 

“These are very planned, deliberate acts that abusers do to limit victims and prevent them from breaking free,” says Bocinski.

One of the most common ways abusers control their victims is to build up debt in their name, without telling them, she says, because once you have large amounts of debt in your name or a low credit score, it can be difficult to rent an apartment and, in some cases, even get a job.

The ramifications of excessive debt and a low credit score can last longer than the effects of physical violence, says Dr. Judy Postmus, associate professor director of the Center on Violence Against Women and Children at Rutgers University. If your spouse knows your social security number and your mother’s maiden name, they can easily open up credit cards, a line of credit, or even a business in your name without you knowing about it.

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