Note: This post may contain triggers for those who have been in abusive relationships.
The month of October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. To highlight the issues that victims face physically, emotionally and economically, Femme Frugality will be discussing the issue every Friday. We will do this through a mix of stories, conversations and factual articles. To help raise awareness, please use the hashtag #DVAM when sharing these articles.
This week, we welcome Kylie Travers to tell her first-hand story and how you can help those you may know in similar situations. Thank you to Kylie for having the bravery to share and fight for her fellow survivors in her capacity as an advocate, speaker, author, charity ambassador and CEO.
When we think of domestic abuse, our minds conjure up images of victims who are beaten with blood, broken bones and black eyes. Rarely do we think of those who have partners controlling their emotions, withholding all the finances so they cannot leave or even buy a coffee without their partner. All those controlling habits, gas lighting and mind games are often ‘invisible’ abuse, yet just as detrimental, with long-lasting effects on those who experience it.
Financial and emotional abuse almost always lead to physical abuse later. Learning to recognise when it is happening is the first step. Then, take action to help. Having personally experienced abuse (of all kinds) in my previous marriage and having had many discussions with others who have since speaking publicly about my experiences and being a charity ambassador, I know that abuse is not as black and white as people think, nor are there quick fixes.
In my situation, I was in denial for a long time, and because it happened over a period of time I did not realise how bad some of the things that were done to me were because it blurred together and simply became my life. Many do not realise how bad it is while they’re living in it or if they do, they do not want to admit it and let others know.
I felt like I failed, even though I was the one being abused. Anger, resentment, a sense of failure, fear, insecurity, lack of confidence–all the emotions you can imagine ran through me as I realised the situation I was in and how severe the abuse was. Even now, four years since I left my marriage, I will have flashbacks or say something and realise how intense some of the abuse was.
I came across as strong and confident, not as someone who was being abused physically, emotionally, financially and worse at home. Learn to read between the lines and listen to what your loved ones aren’t saying if you want to be able to help. It is not a hopeless situation; there are many ways you can help once you know or even if you suspect abuse is occurring.
Truly understand where they are coming from. The level of control the other person has over them. The confidence and self esteem issues. The fear and loss of identity. It’s not like your loved one lost all control over night. Rather, their partner has chipped away at them over time to isolate them and make them a shadow of their former selves. Your loved one will have changed their behaviour to protect themselves and make the relationship easier.
At some point, they were in love with this person and probably still are. If they got together with their abuser young, they may not even recognise most of the abuse or that this is not a loving relationship.
In my marriage, I thought he loved me and was made to believe no one else would want me. I hated myself and it was easier to do what he wanted and say what he wanted to hear. Plus, I was in a strict religion that made me believe I would go to hell if I divorced.
Now I am with the most amazing, understanding, loving, supportive partner whom I love deeply. I understand now what love is. I didn’t before.
On top of all those conflicting emotions for your loved one, understand that statistics around abuse. For example, statistically it takes someone seven attempts to leave an abusive relationship for good. Statistically, the most dangerous time for someone being abused is when they are about to leave or have just left. It is in that time frame that nonviolent abusers suddenly turn into murderers, get violent and stalk your loved ones.
Understand leaving an abusive relationship is not easy. Do not judge your loved one at any step of the process. Simply understand as much as you can, educate yourself and support them.
2. Document everything.
Anything they tell you, anything you witness, take photos, videos, keep a diary and get them to document everything they can, as well. Documentation is essential when it comes to pressing charges, fighting in court and keeping your loved one safe. Documentation is proof. Without proof it is hearsay and next to impossible to prove.
Also, anyone else who is involved with your loved one, get them to document any abuse, mentions of abuse etc.
3. Let them hide things at your place.
When someone is emotionally and financially abused, their every move is probably being tracked and there is no way for them to save money to get out. Let them hide cash and other things at your house so they have something when they leave.
It might be a small bag of clothes and a few dollars to begin with and it won’t be easy for them to get things out, but having something stored outside the home means they aren’t leaving with nothing when the time comes.
4. Let them use your phone/internet.
Any actions on their own devices are likely to be tracked by their abusive partner. Let them use your phone or computers to access information they need, get connected with services and get set up without their abusive partner knowing.
Do some research on your own first if you want so you can help them go through it all. Find out how to wipe their phone/computer of any tracking programs etc so they can do this when or if needed.
5. Assist them financially.
I don’t mean pay for everything or give them loads of cash. Help them find out what financial assistance is available to them, help them create some streams of income and let them hide the money at your place. If possible, assist them to set up an account in their name with statements being sent to your address or something similar so their abusive partner cannot trace it.
If you can connect them with income opportunities such as cleaning, babysitting, online surveys, admin work or anything else that can be done from their home when their partner is away or from your home if you can provide it without suspicion, do it. Cash jobs are best to enable them to hide money.
Also check out How to get the money to leave an abusive relationship for more suggestions and options.
6. Know your rights.
Contact a lawyer to find out your rights and theirs, what you need to do or how you can help them, what their legal obligations are and make sure everything you do is above board. I have seen too many cases where the person who has been abused got messed around in the legal system because they made one wrong decision in the eyes of the law (though, in our eyes it would have been the right decision.)
Many community centres have free lawyers. Some lawyers offer 30 minutes free, and there is always the option of researching thoroughly online yourself or speaking to an online lawyer.
My lawyer was expensive, but she was absolutely worth it. I got a recommendation from a specialist involved with my family who saw numerous cases like ours. My first call was free and there were many other things over the time I had her which she did not charge me for. I highly recommend getting recommendations.
7. Create a plan.
You know the rights and responsibilities for all involved, you are gathering documentation and have connected with services. Make a solid plan to get your loved one out or help them leave. Be aware, they might not be ready so you may need to make your own plan of what to do if they came to you in an emergency. If they are ready, sit down together and safely work it out.
Safety is the most important thing here. Leave everything behind if they have to, but get out safe.
If you have the time to plan, work out when to leave, where they should go, how to contact each other, code words if needed, where they can live and financial details. Get all important paperwork together such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, medical records and anything that might be needed later to identify themselves.
When they leave, it might not go as planned, but having a plan is better than nothing.
8. Support, support, support!
As hard as it is for you to watch a loved one be abused, they need support, not judgement. They aren’t stupid, they simply got sucked into a bad relationship and are drowning. They need help, understand and support to get their life back. Be prepared for it to be a long, slow process that often feels like two steps forward, one step back. Be there for them, don’t make snide comments or they may not turn to you when they are ready.
I am forever grateful I got the strength to leave my abusive marriage, taking my two young daughters with me. The months after I left my now ex-husband were horrific with abuse, stalking, fear, being robbed of everything including my underwear when I got my daughters and I a new home—in fact, we even ended up homeless. All of that was worth it, though, to have the life we have now.
Even if your loved one is not ready to leave their abuser, you can be ready to help them when the time comes.
Kylie Travers has gone from homeless single mom of two because of domestic violence to multi-award winning CEO of a digital media marketing company, speaker, author and charity ambassador, working to end domestic violence and homelessness. She is passionate about helping others create a life they love, improve their finances, travel, start businesses and be the best version of themselves. She is based in Melbourne, Australia with her new partner and two daughters. You can find her at www.kylietravers.com.au.
Related Domestic Abuse Content
To learn more about domestic violence or abuse, or to find more ways to get help, check out other articles in this series:
As a domestic violence survivor, you qualify for a special enrollment period at any time of year thanks to the ACA. Apply on the marketplace today.
Nour Naas shares her important story and perspective on domestic violence and how marginalized groups face additional barriers when it comes to reporting.
What can we learn about the economic plight of sexual assault and domestic violence survivors from Dr. Ford's testimony? As it turns out, a lot.
Survivors of childhood abuse encounter unique challenges, even in the realm of economic abuse. Read Dr. Kenisha Burke's story of overcoming identity theft.
There is a lot of stigma around debt. There is a lot of stigma around domestic abuse. But debt is a useful tool that can help you become a survivor.
Many abuse victims don't realize their relationship is unhealthy until it is too late. Here are red flags to watch for from a domestic violence survivor.
While intimate partner violence happens at a comparable rate in the LGBTQ+ community, survivors face additional financial barriers.
PTSD affects combat veterans and survivors of domestic abuse alike. Learn what it can do to your finances, and what you can do about it.
Domestic violence does happen in the LGBTQ+ community. Here's how to get help if you need it, and how society can better help survivors.
Financial abuse doesn't just happen when a partner tries to limit your income; it can also happen when they try to take over the money you're bringing in.
Having a friend or family member who is in an abusive relationship is hard. This article gives you tips to help from a domestic violence survivor.
Financial abuse is something many go through, but not all recognize it even as it's happening. Read on to learn how to identify this type of abuse.
Leaving an abusive relationship is difficult, complex and nuanced. One major hurdle is finances. Lessen that problem with these resources and grants.