Domestic violence can come in all shapes and sizes. While many people automatically assume that domestic violence involves a physical assault, that’s not always the case. Domestic violence impacts more than just the physical body and can affect a person’s finances, emotional well-being, etc. In fact, finances play a very important part when it comes to domestic violence cases. Also known as economic control or economic abuse, roughly up to 99% of domestic violence victims deal with economic abuse while in an abusive relationship. Finances can be one of the biggest problems that victims face when trying to leave an abusive relationship.
Sadly, economic abuse is a common reason that abuse isn’t reported. If an abuser has economic control, victims can find themselves with no financial support if the abuser is taken out of the picture. This leaves victims feeling hopeless and in a tough spot. However, that doesn’t need to be the case! There are a variety of different assistance options that can help those dealing with domestic violence.
What is Domestic Violence
Oftentimes, victims don’t realize they are in an abusive relationship. A part of this is because there are so many misconceptions around what counts as abuse. In fact, many people believe that domestic violence only occurs when there is physical violence. That’s actually not the case. When understanding different forms of domestic violence you should ask yourself questions about your significant other like:
- Do they attempt to keep you away from your family or friends?
- Are you not allowed to make your own decisions?
- Do they put you down, embarrass you, or shame you with comments they say?
- Do they control who you are allowed to see?
- Are you not allowed to attend school?
- Do they harass you at work?
- Do they control where you go and what you do?
- Are you not allowed to get a job?
- Do they restrict or control your ability to access money?
Understanding Financial Abuse
There are some telltale signs that can help you identify financial abuse. If you notice any of the following signs then you may be dealing with a financially abusive situation:
- Your partner denies your ability to work
- Your partner only gives you money in allowances
- They control where, when, and how much money you spend
- You don’t have access to any of the finances
- Your partner hides assets from you
- They create a lot of debt for an account you are a part of
- You aren’t allowed to be a part of financial decisions they make for the household
- Your partner negatively impacts your credit score on purpose
- They sabotage your work through means like stalking and harassment
- They hinder your ability to find other employment opportunities through means like stalking and harassment
- Your partner refuses your ability to improve or advance yourself
- Your partner steals from you like your identity, property, or inheritance
These are just some examples of financial abuse but there are plenty more. When a victim doesn’t have a secure financial situation, they can find themselves stuck in an abusive relationship. Since they don’t have the tools they need, they have to rely on the abusive situation or they could find themselves with no money, homeless, etc.
Check Out an Example
Let’s look at an example to get some more context. If an abuser restricts a victim’s access to money and owns the residence that they currently live in, then this can be a problem. The problem is: if the victim tries to leave they have no resources; no money, no home, and no other necessities.
After talking about the signs of abuse, you may realize that your partner is more abusive than you realized. If you think you may want to leave your current situation then you will want to get a plan together. Education is key in handling these situations. Every abusive situation is different. Especially when it comes to the amount of control your partner has in the relationship. Your situation may feel hopeless but there may be more support for your situation than you realize.
How to Handle Financial Abuse?
One of the best pieces of advice that you should consider is contacting a certified domestic violence advocate. These advocates can help you get everything in order when planning your exit from your current situation. It can be hard to get in touch with one of these advocates because abusers can limit access for victims. Some other tips that a victim may want to consider includes:
- Try to only use cash. It is easier to track debit or credit cards.
- Look for a safe place to keep important items like documents, personal belongings, etc.
- Copy your important documents and give the copies to a trusted friend or family member.
- Try to get supplies together in a safe spot like a copy of your keys, extra money, emergency contact information, and more.
Your Plan to Leave
It’s harder than it looks to leave an abusive relationship. Sadly, when a victim tries to leave, there is a 75% increase in violence against the victim two years after the separation. In an abusive relationship, there are power and control dynamics that come into play. When a victim tries to break that cycle of control, the abuser no longer has power.
You will want to get the numbers together. What we mean by that is that you will want to figure out how much it would cost at minimum to live on your own. You can cover your tracks by erasing search history, creating new and separate accounts, changing passwords, and more.
Once you get your plan together you can begin working on getting together some sort of financial foundation. You can start getting money, gathering necessary supplies, build your credit, etc. This can make it easier to leave an abusive situation if you don’t have anyone you trust to stay with.
Financial Assistance Programs
There are financial assistance programs that you can look into that may be able to help your situation. These programs can provide support for a variety of situations. Some financial assistance options include:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
The programs listed above are federal programs that may be able to provide additional support for your situation.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Handling the cost of groceries is hard for plenty of Americans. It is a necessary bill since food is an essential part of life. The federal government provides SNAP which can provide funds to a recipient on an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card. This card can only be used at stores that accept it as a form of payment (however, plenty of big names do!). The amount of funds that an individual can receive will vary based on their personal information like income level, family status, etc.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
The federal government gives states funds to run TANF. Regardless of the state, TANF aims to provide support to help qualifying low-income families with children. This program wants to help these families reach self-sufficiency with their finances. This can be just what a person needs to regain control of their situation. TANF can do this through providing cash assistance, job training, etc.
This program gives states and territories funding to operate programs that can help eligible low-income families with children. Their goal is to support families reach economic self-sufficiency, which can be especially helpful to individuals leaving abusive relationships with children. Benefits that states can provide include cash assistance, job training and more. Since eligibility varies by state, you will want to confirm what is available specifically for the people in your state.
Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
This program can provide assistance to eligible individuals through access to supplemental foods, providing healthcare referrals, and with education about nutrition. You may qualify to receive assistance from this program if you are a low-income woman who is pregnant, breastfeeding, or has kids up to 5 years old.
An abusive relationship is not as simple as it may seem. These are complex, difficult, and dangerous relationships that have a dynamic of power and control of the abuser over the victim. It’s not easy for a victim to get the strength, courage, and opportunity to leave. You will want to try to get in touch with a professional like a certified domestic abuse counselor. These counselors can provide you the support and information you need to plan your exit. However it may be unsafe or you may not be able to get in touch with a professional. If that’s the case then you can try to take your own steps in getting your finances in order. You can do this by putting money away for yourself, working on your credit, and more. Having a more secure financial foundation will make it much more manageable to be on your own. You can also get help from assistance options like SNAP, TANF, or WIC.