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Financial concerns can keep the victim of domestic violence tied to his or her abuser long after he or she is emotionally able to flee the home. No one should have to stay in an abusive environment.

One way to gain back the control over your own life as you plan an escape route out of the abusive household is to start quietly establishing access to credit on your own.

Here are some steps to take:

1. Make copies of every piece of financial information. you can, from pay stubs to bank records. While you may not be able to get everything, try to get the originals of your birth certificate and other identifying documents, like your marriage certificate, stowed away in a safe place. Ask a trusted friend or family member to keep them.

2. Establish a private email and address.

Use a free computer at the library or a friend's house to set up an email your spouse doesn't know about. You can divert your mail to a Post Office box or a friend's house as well. That way, your abuser doesn't become aware that you're building credit.

3. Get a credit report from all 3 credit bureaus.

Transunion, Experian and Equifax all provide online access to your credit reports. In fact, you're entitled to one free report per year by each company. That will help you learn about any accounts in your name, may point to hidden marital assets and can tell you what potential problems you're facing.

4. Get a bank or credit union account.

Even if you've had problems in the past getting a bank account, many places offer "second chance" accounts that can you can get. Credit unions are particularly welcoming to new members and will often be more forgiving of past mistakes like overdrawn accounts. Get an account open, even if you open it with only five dollars.

5. Aim for a modest credit card or two.

Once you have a safe address, try to open a modest credit card. Department store cards are fine and are often easiest to get. If you can't get those, open a secured card through your new bank.

6. Find help as soon as possible.

There are numerous local, state and national resources for domestic violence victims. They can help you get your financial feet back under you as you plan your exit. In addition, they can guide you through your legal options.

Source: creditcards.com, "Secret financial escape plan for domestic violence victims," Michelle Crouch, accessed Feb. 28, 2018

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