Many people still tend to think of domestic violence as physical abuse, but there are other forms of abuse – psychological, emotional, spiritual and financial. In fact, almost every victim of domestic violence experiences some form of financial abuse, and its impact can be long lasting.
What is financial abuse?
Domestic violence is ultimately about one individual abusing their power and control over another. Money is a vital resource that allows an abuser to exert control over their partner. This can take different forms but might include:
- – Controlling all the household’s finances and choosing what it is acceptable for expenditures
- – Preventing their partner from working or earning their own money
- – Paying an allowance, often one that does not allow their partner any real independence
- – Stopping their partner from having their own bank account or credit card
- – Stealing their partner’s identity, often running up debts and bills in their name
- – Ensuring that all property is solely in the abuser’s name
- – Interfering with their partner’s employment through workplace harassment, preventing them going to work or attending interviews
The impact of financial abuse
Financial abuse is often the biggest reason why a victim of abuse might stay with their abuser or return to them.
In the short term, financial abuse creates barriers to leaving an abuser. The victim has no money to book a hotel room, pay for a taxi or Uber to leave or even to buy basic every day essentials for themselves and their children. They literally have no cash or cards in their purse to help them flee. Research with survivors shows that concerns about their ability to provide financially for themselves and their children is one of the top reasons they stay with or return to an abuser (source: National Network to End Domestic Violence).
This is typical of many clients that come to Fort Bend Women’s Center for help – they have nowhere else to go and no resources beyond our support.
Besides preventing victims from leaving their abuser, financial abuse’s long-term impact can also lead to their returning. With no savings and no credit history, setting up a new home can seem almost impossible. Many of our clients don’t even have their own bank account. In addition, their experience of abuse may have left them with a poor work history or a lack of employment experience that can make finding a new job more challenging.
Despite a lack of affordable housing across the Greater Houston area, Fort Bend Women’s Center has been able to help many of our clients find a new home, free of violence and fear. Our PennyWise stores provide these clients with the household essentials they need to set up their homes, and our Career Development and Case Management teams work closely with clients to empower them financially. This work includes assistance with accessing benefits, preparing resumes and developing interview skills, as well as working on budgeting and financial literacy.
We participate in the National Network to End Domestic Violence’s Independence Project which provides micro loans to our clients, allowing them to develop budgeting and financial planning skills while building a positive credit history.
What can you do to help?
According to research commissioned by The Allstate Foundation, more than 50% of Americans were unaware of the impact of finances on domestic violence victims. Being aware and understanding the signs of financial abuse might enable you to help someone you know.
During Domestic Violence Awareness Month this October, we are participating in The Allstate Foundation’s Purple Purse Challenge, a friendly fundraising competition where organizations working to financially empower victims of domestic and/or sexual abuse compete to raise the most money for their cause. As a Purple Purse Challenge participant, Fort Bend Women’s Center could win $100,000!
You can find out more about the Purple Purse Challenge by visiting our Challenge website here.
image from vecteezy.com