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Escaping financial abuse: New program gives path to healing

Escaping financial abuse: New program gives path to healing
Escaping financial abuse: New program gives path to healing 06:41

NORTH TEXAS — Seven years ago, Krystle King escaped an abusive relationship. While the physical bruises have faded, the financial troubles persist. King still receives calls from creditors attempting to collect debt that she had no part in accumulating.

Over the course of 11 months, her abusive ex-boyfriend racked up more than $100,000 in debt, all under her name. He also drained $70,000 from her 401(k), leaving King with mere pennies. She said, "That is not an exaggeration. I had 30 cents—literally the change in my car's floorboards."

When King confronted her ex-boyfriend about his spending, she said he threatened to harm both her and himself. "It was a whole game," she explained. "A progressive scale of, 'If you don't do this, I'll hurt myself. If you don't do that, I'll hurt you.'"

Krystal King

Texas study reveals that 98% of women in abusive marriages experience financial abuse, with 67% burdened by credit card bills or loans taken out by their abusers without consent. 

Jan Edgar Langbein, CEO of Genesis Women's Shelter, emphasizes that coerced debt can hinder survivors from finding stable housing and employment. 

"Everybody asks, 'Why don't you just leave him?' But go where? I can't rent an apartment because of bad credit. I can't buy a car because of bad credit. Those are some of the roadblocks preventing me from getting out," Langbein explained.

When King reported her financial abuse, she felt dismissed by banks and ignored by law enforcement. Determined to spare others, she has partnered with the nonprofits Texas Appleseed, Texas Advocacy Project and the Texas Council on Family Violence, which recently launched a pilot program.

The program connects abuse survivors with free legal aid, aiming to utilize a 2019 Texas law championed by Texas Appleseed to erase coerced debt. Five North Texas domestic violence advocate organizations will serve as the frontlines for the new program. These organizations will help survivors identify coerced debt and connect them with attorneys who have volunteered to provide their services pro bono.

Last month, King shared her story with domestic violence survivor advocates who were being trained on the new program. She said, "If sharing my story can prevent even one person from enduring what I did, then it's worth it."

If you are a victim of financial abuse, you can contact one of the following program partners:

  1. Genesis Women's Shelter & Support
  • Mosaic Family Services, Inc
  • SafeHaven of Tarrant County
  • The Salvation Army of North Texas
  • Texas Muslim Women's Foundation
  • If you need assistance, please reach out to these organizations. They are here to help. 

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