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Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D. / H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON - Improved financial literacy training for domestic violence victims can help eliminate the dependency that often keeps victims trapped in dangerous relationships, a study released Thursday shows.

Ninety-four percent of women who received financial training with traditional domestic abuse services said they learned how to identify signs of economic abuse, said Judy Postmus, a Rutgers University School of Social Work associate professor and a co-author of the study.

Financial abuse can include controlling a victim's finances, sabotaging her credit or preventing her from going to work, said Kim Gandy, president of the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

Many victims don't even know they're being abused financially, "But it is every bit as effective as a lock and key in trapping a woman in a relationship," Gandy said.

Postmus discussed the study's findings Thursday at a panel hosted by Real Clear Politics with representatives from other organizations.

Financial abuse can make life a nightmare for survivors - during the time of abuse and afterward, the panelists said. Financial dependency can make the daunting task of leaving a relationship even harder.

Survivors must take control of their finances, and employers should start policies that protect survivors from workplace stalking, harassment and assault, said Chelsea Parsons, director of crime and firearms policy for the Center for American Progress.

Preventing harassment in the workplace can be as simple as changing an employee's phone number or offering an escort to the parking garage, Parsons said. Only 15% of employers have domestic violence policies in place, Parsons said.

It's never too early to provide financial literacy for at-risk people, said Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., who attended the panel.

As North Dakota's attorney general, Heitkamp said she often told women that they needed to understand finances to "plan your life independently."

The Rutgers study recommended that the next reauthorization of the federal Violence Against Women Act address financial abuse and the importance of financial literacy - and that the law insist on funding for such services.

Postmus said she hopes her research leads to legislation that helps abuse survivors get financial literacy resources.

"I think many of the programs that are out there, that are working with survivors, are struggling to provide these services financially," Postmus said.



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: Study: Financial literacy can help abused women

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