COMMENTARY FROM A BADASS WOMAN
Do you know economic abuse occurs in 98% of abusive relationships and is the number one reason victims stay in or return to abusive relationships? Yet, 78% of Americans do not recognize economic abuse as domestic violence. Perhaps the following statistics will help you understand the seriousness of the problem.
- Between 21-60% of victims of intimate partner violence lose their jobs due to reasons stemming from the abuse.
- A survey by the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence found that, of respondents who were victims/survivors, 64% reported their abuse impacted their ability to work; 40% reported their abuser harassed them at work via phone and in person.
- Victims of intimate partner violence lose a total of 8 million days of paid work each year, the equivalent of 32,000 jobs.
- Between 2005 and 2006, 130,000 stalking victims/survivors were asked to leave their jobs as a result of their victimization.
- One study found that up to 50% of victims/survivors of sexual assault either lost or left their jobs after being assaulted.
So what is economic abuse?
Economic abuse is a legally recognized form of domestic abuse. It often takes place in the context of intimate partner violence. It involves the control of a partner or ex-partner’s money, finances and things that money can buy, such as clothing, transport, food and a place to live.
Economic abuse can include exerting control over income, spending, bank accounts, bills and borrowing. It can also include controlling access to and use of things like transport and technology, which allow us to work and stay connected, as well as property and daily essentials like food and clothing. It can include destroying items and refusing to contribute to household costs.
This type of abuse is a form of coercive and controlling behavior. It can continue long after a leaving and can have lifelong effects.
Economic abuse rarely happens in isolation and usually occurs alongside other forms of abuse, including physical, sexual and psychological abuse. 95% of cases of domestic abuse involve economic abuse.
This type of abuse is designed to create economic instability and/or make one partner economically dependent, which limits their freedom. Without access to money and the things that money can buy, it is difficult to leave an abuser and access safety. Someone experiencing this type of abuse can become trapped in a relationship with the abuser, unable to resist the abuser’s control and at risk of further harm. In this way, economic safety underpins physical safety.
The impact of economic abuse makes rebuilding lives challenging. Many women leave with nothing — having no money even for essentials — and have to start again from scratch. Many victim-survivors leave with large amounts of debt and poor credit ratings, affecting their long-term economic stability, and many are unable to maintain savings that provide economic security.
Economic abuse can take many forms. An abuser might do any of the following:
Sabotage your income and access to money:
- prevent you from being in education or employment
- limit your working hours
- take your pay
- Do you know
- refuse to let you claim benefits
- take children’s savings or birthday money
- refuse to let you access a bank account
Restrict how you use money and the things that you own:
- control when and how money is spent
- dictate what you can buy
- make you ask for money or provide an allowance
- check your receipts
- make you keep a spending diary
- make you justify every purchase made
- control the use of property, such as a mobile phone or car
- insist all economic assets (eg savings, house) are in their name
keep financial information secret
Exploit your economic situation:
- steal your money or property
- cause damage to your property
- refuse to contribute to household costs
- spend money needed for household items and bills
- misuse money in joint bank accounts
- insist all bills, credit cards and loans are in your name and make you pay them
build up debt in your name, sometimes without your knowledge
Are you in an Economically Abusive Relationship?
If you are in an abusive relationship and are interested in taking steps towards financial independence, check out the following tips, adapted from Hope & Power for Your Personal Finances: A Rebuilding Guide Following Domestic Violence (also available en Espanol).