Story by: Courtney Friedman
SAN ANTONIO – Financial abuse is a form of abuse that is seldom talked about. Abusers ruin credit scores, steal or withhold money and sabotage job opportunities. They are actions that can hold victims captive, unable to become independent.
A thriving survivor wants others to know that leaving an abuser and recovering from financial abuse is possible.
When victims escape abusive relationships, they risk their lives and often leave everything behind.
“I had a three bedroom, three bathroom house. So think of everything that goes in a house: my kids toys, clothing, furniture, pictures that I don’t know if they’re there anymore. Sometimes you literally have to think, it’s me and the kids. My kids lives are more important,” said Melissa Saenz, an abuse survivor.
After experiencing every possible type of abuse, Saenz left her husband of 14 years. She had four children, no job, no home and no means for independence.
“You do get kind of discouraged, like, ‘Oh, my God. I feel bad, like, I’ve never done this. I’m asking for help. What do my kids think of me? Like, society?’ A lot of things run through your head, but at that point, you’re, like, ‘Screw that. What I care about is my kids. Mom got us out of this. Mom’s doing this for us,'” Saenz said with pride.
She found strength in family and faith and reached out to agencies such as the Bexar County Family Justice Center, which offers counseling, legal help and financial literacy classes and workshops.
“We try to help them with budgeting. We try to help them with their credit. Their abuser has used their information to get credit, so they don’t know they have a Visa out there. They have no idea they have a Macy’s or Dillard’s card out there,” said Liaison Irma Alvarez, crime victim liaison of the Family Justice Center.
Alvarez not only leads survivors to shelter, food and clothing but also helps change survivors’ credit scores, their resumes and their confidence.
“Abusers implant it in your head, ‘How are you going to feed them if you leave me? How are you going to get by? Where are you gonna go?'” Alvarez said.
She teaches her clients that although stability doesn’t happen overnight, they can make it on their own.
“People reach out and lend a hand,” Saenz said. “That’s when you know ‘I’m not alone,’ and that’s where you get your sense of relief. There are good people out there.”
One example of the good people lies in a donation drive happening right now. Allstate is partnering with the Family Justice Center to help survivors who are trying to start all over again.
People can drop by 10 different Allstate locations and donate the following items:
- shampoo and conditioner
- toothbrushes and toothpaste
- feminine hygiene products
The drive ends Friday, Oct. 11.
The participating Allstate locations are the following:
• Cindy Aguirre: 5805 Callaghan Rd., Ste 109, San Antonio, Texas 78228
• Lilly Bleecker: 10350 Bandera Road #118, San Antonio, Texas 78250
• William Cantu: 6603 TX-1604 Loop #103, San Antonio, Texas 78254
• Jay Franklin: 19141 Stone Oak Pkwy, San Antonio, Texas 78258
• Elissa Gonzales: 627 W Main St., Uvalde, Texas 78801
• Elsa Hernandez: 6461 Blanco Rd., San Antonio, Texas 78216
• Nicholas Mericle: 1847 W. State Hwy 46 Suite D., News Braunfels, Texas 78132
• Michael Morales: 5433 Grissom Rd., San Antonio, Texas 78238
• David Pfau: 2211 NW Military Highway, San Antonio, Texas 78213
• David Pfau: 17230 Bulverde Road, San Antonio, Texas 78247