·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

News & Politics

Navigating Financial Help When Leaving an Abusive Relationship

— August 12, 2020

It may be hard to leave a violent relationship if you’re financially dependent on the other person. Here’s our guide on how you can do it.

Domestic violence is a prevalent problem. While not all domestic violence happens to women, they are disproportionately affected by it.

One in four women aged 18 and older in the U.S. has been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner. Nearly half of all women nationwide have experienced psychological aggression by their spouse or significant other. Yet due to victim stigmatization and social tendency to avoid the topic, this problem doesn’t get talked about enough – and neither do the solutions.

A woman living in a cycle of violence may feel invisible and trapped. Leaving an abusive relationship might not seem like an option. She might be scared of what will happen if she leaves or worried about taking her kids with her. Or, she might still have feelings for her abuser.

Additionally, she might think it’s impossible to leave because she’s financially dependent on him.

We want every woman in an abusive relationship to know there’s help and getting out is possible.

These fears are valid, but it doesn’t mean there’s no hope. We want every woman in an abusive relationship to know there’s help, and that getting out is possible. Read on to learn about tools you can use to get to financial freedom.

How financial abuse traps women in violent relationships

According to the Center for Financial Security, financial abuse is common among domestic violence survivors. One study cited found that 99% of domestic violence survivors reported experiencing economic abuse. It’s not a surprising number: financial control is a major lever for an abuser that gives them all the more power over the victim.

Financial abuse is controlling a victim’s ability to earn, use or maintain money. While many kinds of abuse go unnoticed by those around a battered person, financial abuse may be even harder to recognize – even for the victim herself. It’s such a covert control tactic, many women who find themselves in these situations might not realize what’s happening.

Website Provides Hope for Domestic Violence Survivors Seeking Compensation
Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

To exert financial control, an abuser may limit their partner’s ability to earn income. But there are more silent weapons in the batterer’s arsenal.

For instance, they might insist they handle all money matters and exclude their partner from any financial decisions. Further, the abused partner can be denied access to bank accounts or have to account for every penny spent. While withholding money, the abuser may give their partner an “allowance,” which is often barely enough to cover their basic needs.

It’s such a covert control tactic, many women who find themselves in these situations might not realize what’s happening.

On the other side of the economic abuse spectrum is a different kind of financial abuser. This type can refuse to work, feeling entitled to their partner’s money, run large amounts of debt – ruining the victim’s credit – or even steal their identity.

Stripped of financial independence, a woman in a violent relationship can feel as if she can’t escape it. She may be facing a lot of uncertainty, including realistic fears of homelessness. Fortunately, there are resources available to help domestic violence survivors get away and stay safe while gaining financial stability.

Domestic violence in times of crisis

Amid the coronavirus outbreak, domestic violence has escalated all over the world.

According to UN Women, as the pandemic deepens economic and social stress coupled with social distancing measures, gender-based violence is increasing exponentially. There have been surges in reported cases of upwards of 25% in countries with reporting systems in place, and it’s likely that this number only reflects the worst cases.

Women are forced to ‘lockdown’ at home with their abusers while many services to support survivors are disrupted or made inaccessible. The pandemic is also making violence against women more complex: Abusers use exposure to COVID-19 to threaten their partners, exploit their inability to call for help or escape and can even go as far as to throw them out on the street with nowhere to go if the virus symptoms emerge.

“COVID-19 has created a petri dish for already abusive relationships to grow worse, and for dysfunctional ones to mutate to dangerous,” says Maura Mitchell, former president of the Board of Domestic Violence Solutions of Santa Barbara, California. “The pandemic also makes it more difficult for victims to escape.”

But, there is a way out. Despite the isolation brought on by COVID-19, there is hope and help, even during these difficult times.

This article has been re-published, in part, with permission from the author. We ask that you please finish reading it here, particularly if you or someone you know is experiencing such abuse. Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope.

Join the conversation!