One of the forms of domestic violence that is often overlooked is financial abuse. To be honest, this is one that I hadn’t given much thought to until recently.
One of the biggest questions asked in regards to domestic violence is, “why do they stay?” To anyone who is not knowledgeable about these issues, that is a very valid question. It is natural for someone to assume that anyone would not tolerate abuse and would leave right away if that started to happen. Unfortunately, it is not typically that simple. There are a lot of reasons why victims do not or cannot leave an abusive relationship, and one of those reasons is money.
Financial abuse is when abusers restrict, monitor or limit their partner’s access to money, jobs or transportation. For another description and specific examples, check out this resource from the National Network to End Domestic Violence. Having no control over one’s own finances has a major impact on one’s life: with little to no access to jobs, resources, or housing, it’s not a mystery why victims feel trapped. Also, keep in mind the cost of domestic violence in the workplace. Many victims lose days of work due to the abuse they experience, either by spending time in the hospital from physical abuse or by being restrained by their partner to have the means of transportation or otherwise to actually go to work. If policies on domestic violence in the workplace are not strong, many victims might lose their jobs for lack of attendance or their partner harassing or disturbing them at their place of work.
There is also a huge link between domestic violence and homelessness for this very reason. Victims do leave their abusive relationships, but they do not have the means to secure or maintain housing due to the financial abuse that occurred. The number of individuals who are homeless who have experienced domestic violence is staggering. For more research, read about it here from the National Coalition for the Homeless.
I was actually reviewing my own finances recently (when you work for a non-profit, you do this regularly) and felt so fortunate that my dad taught me how to be financially independent and literate at a very young age. It’s both a skill and a practice that I took for granted up until I lived on my own and realized I would be lost without it. Financial empowerment is vital in helping victims help themselves. Even if victims leave the relationship, they often return to their abuser because they have nowhere else to go.
We need to be able to provide individuals with the tools to help themselves and the resources for when they aren’t able to help themselves.
I want to share this powerful video from Allstate Foundation Purple Purse along with my own disclaimer that although this campaign is centered around women, abuse can and does happen to people of all genders.