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  • Writer's pictureApril Hardy

The #1 Thing that Keeps People in Abusive Relationships

If you would rather watch/listen than read, you can find the video to this article HERE.

The most common question I've heard about domestic violence is some version of "Why do they stay?" What people who've never been in one don't understand is that people stay in abusive relationships for lots of valid reasons. A few of those reasons are: nowhere to go, the parental rights of the abuser block options, fear that the abuser will get custody of children, denial, shame, hope, and the most effective way to keep people trapped in abusive relationships... financial abuse.

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse is a tactic used by abusers to gain power and control in a relationship by limiting the victim’s access to money and other financial assets.

Financial abuse (aka economic deprivation) is a type of abuse that I don't believe is addressed enough. Whether your household has little money or a lot, financial abuse is likely to be a factor. In fact, according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, it happens, to some extent, in 99% of domestic violence situations!

Why does it happen in 99% of domestic violence relationships? Because it works! In fact, it’s one of the most effective tools for keeping us trapped in an abusive relationship. Fear of not being able to provide for ourselves and our kids is one of the top reasons women stay in or go back to abusive relationships.

When Does It Happen?

For some of us, financial abuse is present throughout our relationship. For others, it only shows up when we're trying to leave.

As with many types of abuse, financial abuse may start out subtly and progress over time. It can even look like love at first because abusers tend to be master manipulators. An example of this is them wanting us to move in with them so that they can "take care of" or "provide for" us. That might seem sweet, but really think about it. If you haven't been together for that long and you have your own place, why would they be pushing you to move in so fast?

Often, when it starts subtly, we believe that we can and should trust them. (After all, we're in love!) So we give the abuser control over the finances, which commonly leads to them giving us less and less access over time. Then one day we decide that we want some control again and discover that the accounts have all been moved or that we no longer have access to the "family" funds.

In other cases, when the abuser feels like the relationship (really their control over us) is deteriorating, they may be more obvious. For example, they may use violence, threats of violence, or intimidation to keep us from getting a job.

What Can Financial Abuse Look Like?

Not Allowing You to Work

- Many abusers won't allow us to get or keep jobs (or education) because they want to isolate us and make us dependent on them. This may look like:

* stalking or harassing you at your job

* causing you to lose a job by visibly beating you up before important meetings or interviews

* forbidding that you

participate in job training or

advancement opportunities

- Within the home, they may make us ask or beg for money. They may even give us an allowance, like a child.

- They might also completely restrict our access to the household money, not letting us know how much comes in or how it goes out.

Not Contributing to the Household Finances

- Some people abuse financially by sitting at home and forcing us to be the sole bread winner. They're capable of working, they just don't want to and what they wants is all that matters.

- Sometimes they will give us all of the responsibility of working and paying the bills. They refuse to contribute in any way.

- Other times, they will make us work and then take the money that we make.

Controlling the household finances

This may look like:

- Not including us in investment or banking decisions

- Not giving us access to bank accounts

- Running up large amounts of debt in our name

- Stealing our identity and/or our property

- Forcing us to commit fraud by forcing us to write bad checks,

to file fraudulent tax returns, or filing false insurance claims

- Withholding money needed to provide for basic needs (like food

and medicine) for us or our kids

- Forcing us to work in a family business without pay

- Refusing to pay bills and ruining our credit score

- Forcing us to give them our benefits (like EBT) or threatening to

turn the victim in for illegally “abusing benefits.”

4 Ways Financial Abuse Keeps Victims Stuck

1. First and foremost, we often have no money to leave the abusive relationship in the first place.

2. Even if we could get away, we're afraid that we can't financially support ourselves and our kids once we're gone.

(This is cited as the #1 reason victims stay in or go back to

abusive relationships.)

3. After we've left, we often have no money to fight for our kids in court. Often the abuser has destroyed our credit and left us with nothing, while they're in a much better place financially. Many times there is a real risk of them taking us to court for custody of the kids when they're able to lawyer up and we aren't. Many parents stay in relationships where they're going to continue to be abused in order to prevent their children from being left alone with their dangerous parent.

4. If the other three reasons weren't enough, because we're often in a worse financial place when we leave an abuser, the abuse can use that to manipulate our kids into wanting to be with them instead of us. That can look like getting a better place to live, providing them with expensive clothes or toys, or providing them with opportunities the victim parent cannot afford.

In Conclusion,

Before you read this article, you may have thought that you were the only one.

Maybe you felt crazy. "Wasn't there money in that account earlier?" He/She just wants to help and take care of you right?

Maybe you felt out of control, but you weren't sure why. You couldn't put your finger on it.

The truth is that if you can relate to any of the experiences talked about in this article, you probably aren't in control. You're probably being controlled by an abusive partner in a domestic violence relationship.

Domestic violence isn't just being hit by a partner. In the next article, we'll explore sexual abuse as domestic violence. Look for Can I Be Sexually Abused by My Partner? next week!

Keep checking back for more information! This series is for awareness. We still need to talk about what to do when you realize you're experiencing financial abuse. In the meantime, I do give several practical suggestions in my book, which is available for purchase HERE.

Have you had tactics used that were not listed above?  Please share them here or email me with them so that I can add them.  I know there are many more!

Thank you for reading!

Until we meet again...Stay safe!

Article 2: The article you're currently in

Article 4: What Is Emotional Abuse? *coming soon*



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