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.
What is financial abuse?
When we think of domestic violence, we typically think of the last part of the word: violence. We think of it practiced physically and sexually. While this is a very real part of the issue, there are several ways that abusers exert control.
One of these types of abuse is financial abuse, also commonly referred to as economic abuse. This is one of the most common ways abuse is perpetrated, but it is so seldom talked about that the term isn’t even found in many of our most-used dictionaries.
Here’s a definition for you:
There are so many ways that someone can try to control you through money. Here are a few:
- Disallowing you to work.
- Disallowing you to seek further education or job training.
- Disallowing you access to the family finances.
- Denying you financial education, often by maintaining exclusive control of the family finances.
- Giving you an “allowance,” or making you ask for money.
- Forcing you to work for them or their business without compensation.
- Stealing your identity.
- Threatening to ruin your credit history by withholding the money you need to pay the bills that are in your name.
- Racking up debt on joint accounts or draining joint bank accounts without discussing the purchases with you.
All of these things make it extremely difficult to leave the relationship, even if you want to. It’s emotional, but it’s also incredibly practical. How are you going to get a job with no job history? How are you going to manage finances if you’ve never done it before? How are you supposed to get back on your feet when they literally control all of your assets, both long-term and liquid?
Financial abuse contributes to the homelessness of many survivors, and can make it difficult to establish financial security even years after leaving.
Why does abuse happen?
If you are in an abusive relationship, know that it is not your fault. As much as the offender may tell you that you’re to blame, there is no deficiency inherent in you that’s causing this.
Abuse happens because the offender is seeking control. Many times, they feel out of control in their own lives, so it makes them feel better to try to control you.
You cannot fix their behavior. They may be able to change, but that want for change has to come from within themselves. Then, they must actually work at it.
You may be madly and deeply in love with the person who is doing this to you. That doesn’t mean that what’s happening is okay. And that doesn’t mean that you can’t seek help.
Who does domestic violence affect?
Ninety-four to ninety-nine percent of domestic violence survivors have also experienced financial abuse. The reach of domestic violence is massive and overwhelming. When we think of domestic violence, we typically think of heterosexual women as the victims. There’s good cause for this. Nearly twenty-two percent of women who live with a male partner have experienced Intimate Partner Violence (IPV,) which includes rape, stalking and/or psychical assault.
But that number doesn’t tell the whole story. In that same study, twenty-three percent of men living with a male partner reported experiencing IPV.
According to the CDC, one in every two bisexual women has been raped in their lifetime. That compares with one in every six heterosexual women and one in every eight lesbian women. One in every two transgender individuals has been raped or assaulted within their romantic relationships. Fifty percent of all LGBTQ women experience some type of abuse within their relationships.
What are the effects of abuse?
Obviously, none of the effects of abuse are good. Unfortunately, there are many of them.
- In 2013, 895 women were killed by their spouse or intimate partner.
- Twenty percent of the homicides revolving around domestic violence result in the victim being not the partner, but rather a friend, family member or acquaintance who tried to do the right thing and intervene.
- Seventy-two percent of all murder/suicides are related to domestic violence with 94% of the murder victims being women.
- Many victims are killed as they are attempting to leave the relationship. (Do not leave because you read a blog post! Talk to a professional, trained counselor before making any decisions.)
- Have a firearm in your home? Chances of homicide go up 500%.
- About twenty-five percent of victims of domestic violence attempt suicide.
- Sixty percent of battered women experience depression.
- Abuse can also lead to dissociation. This is when you mentally “check-out” when your brain gets overwhelmed. Dissociation can continue even if/when you’ve escaped the abusive situation.
- You can also experience PTSD.
- Recent studies show that mothers who have been or are in abusive relationships are at a higher risk for Postpartum Depression, which has now been shown to surface when a child is age four at an even higher frequency than the first few months or weeks after childbirth.
We’ve already talked about how this can affect survivors on a personal level, but some of the national statistics are shocking.
- Victims miss out on a collective 8 million days of paid work each year.
- Even if your partner allows you to work, twenty-one to sixty percent of victims lose their jobs because of a circumstance related to abuse.
- In a single year, 130,000 stalking victims were essentially asked to resign because the employer didn’t want to deal with the complications of having a stalker around.
How can I get help?
If you find yourself experiencing any type of abuse, check out these resources. Be very careful not to make any big decisions about your relationship until after talking to a trained professional as these situations can turn dangerous very quickly. But do know that there is help available–people do care, and there is hope.
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.