U.S. Senator Tina Smith and Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez Introduce Legislation to Protect Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence from Economic Abuse

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Today, Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) and Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) introduced the Survivor Financial Safety and Inclusion Working Group Act, a bill aimed at increasing support for survivors of intimate partner violence within the financial system. 

The bill would create an interagency working group comprised of the federal financial regulators and relevant stakeholders, including a representative of historically underserved communities. The working group would be tasked with collecting data on the impacts of economic abuse of survivors carried out through regulated financial institutions. The working group would also provide recommendations on how Congress and federal regulators can help financial institutions improve existing products and services and launch new ones to meet survivors’ financial and safety needs.  

“It can be impossible for someone trapped in an abusive relationship to escape if they’re unable to land on their feet,” said Senator Smith. “Abusers in intimate partner relationships use financial insecurity as a tool to trap their victims. This legislation will help protect survivors of economic abuse within the financial system and ensure they have a chance at safety, healing, and long-term financial stability.”

“Intimate partner violence is a scourge in our society, with over 10 million men and women being physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States every year. Most survivors also report experiencing economic abuse from harm-doers, making it extremely difficult to build the financial security necessary to escape a dangerous situation,” said Congresswoman Velázquez. “It’s clear that financial institutions must do more to reduce economic abuse of survivors. This bill will help provide much-needed data on the impact of economic abuse on survivors and provide tangible solutions to protect survivors’ financial livelihoods.”

Fifty-eight percent of survivors—more than nineteen million individuals in the United States—report that a harm-doer has monitored, accessed, withdrawn from, or otherwise controlled their bank account. Survivors of intimate partner violence collectively lose a total of eight million days of paid work each year and face economic losses exceeding $8.3 billion per year.

Protection against economic abuse is particularly important for communities of color, especially women, who experience higher rates of intimate partner violence and are more likely to report not having a bank account.  

A wide range of advocacy groups praised the measure and called for its swift enactment.

The bill is endorsed by FreeFrom, ASISTA, National Consumer Law Center, Caminar Latino- Latinos United for Peace and Equity, Ujima, National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community, Center for Survivor Agency and Justice, Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence, YWCA USA, Futures Without Violence, The National Domestic Violence Hotline, National Resource Center on Domestic Violence.

“The Survivor Financial Safety and Inclusion Working Group Act marks a major step forward in addressing economic abuse in the United States. 74% of survivors – approximately 48.8 million people in the U.S. – lack access to a secure bank account, with 58% reporting that a harm-doer has accessed, monitored, withdrawn from, or otherwise controlled their bank account. Without safe access to their own finances, the path to long-term safety remains difficult and dangerous for survivors. We commend Rep. Velázquez and Senator Smith for spearheading this effort to address economic abuse occurring within banks and other financial institutions. This legislation has the potential to support millions of survivors and their families across the U.S. in building and protecting the assets they need to heal, rebuild, and thrive.” – Sonya Passi, Founder and CEO of FreeFrom.

“This legislation is an important first step in addressing the problem of economic abuse.”- Carla Sanchez-Adams, Senior Attorney, National Consumer Law Center.

“Economic safety is justice for survivors of domestic abuse. Financial independence from abusers is the gateway to housing, legal assistance, healthcare access, and a modicum of security for basic needs. Banking institutions can be the leaders of a major paradigm shift to help, not hinder, survivors live a violence free life.”- Karma Cottman, CEO of Ujima, National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community.

“There is no safety without economic security. While individuals engage in economic abuse, financial systems and institutions compound the economic harms that survivors face, increasing survivors’ vulnerability to future abuse. Fortunately, the federal government is well positioned to regulate financial institutions to address economic abuse. The Survivor Financial Safety and Inclusion Working Group Act offers a powerful step toward addressing the structural barriers survivors face by enlisting federal agencies in studying the role of financial institutions in perpetuating economic abuse.”- Erika Sussman, Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Survivor Agency and Justice.

“Economic insecurity, strained financial wellness, limited assets, and limited opportunities to build wealth all impact survivor’s wellness and their ability to remain safely housed. Ensuring increased economic security for survivors supports their ability to thrive, disrupt cycles of housing insecurity, and can prevent experiences of future violence.” – Shenna Morris, Vice President, Policy & Systems Change, National Resource Center on Domestic Violence.

A full copy of the bill can be found here.