By Lavender Williams, See the Triumph Guest Blogger
Domestic Violence can have lasting effects of all kinds, including physical, emotional, social, and cognitive. One consequence that is often forgotten is the financial cost of abuse for victims and survivors.
Financial abuse is a form of domestic violence. Abusers can exert control over their partners by forbidding them to work, taking their paychecks if they are employed, and harassing them at work. In this blog post, I’ll describe two additional financial abuse tactics: withholding child support payments and credit fraud. I’ll also describe steps that can be taken after leaving an abusive relationship to combat these.
After survivors decide to leave their abusers and safety is established, physical wounds may heal, and survivors can regain control over their own bodies. However, many of the financial effects of abuse last longer than physical injuries from abuse. When survivors have left their partners, they may be left with no money, no job, and perhaps even without a home. In many cases, these factors contribute to the reasons that people stay in abusive relationships for so long.
After leaving abusive relationships, many survivors try their hardest to erase their abuser from their lives all together, but one way that many survivors remain connected to their abusers is through their children. Oftentimes, an abuser is required to pay child support or spousal support after a divorce or separation, and the abuser may see this as an opportunity to maintain control after the relationship has ended.
Abusers may recognize that survivors and their children are dependent upon that income and choose to withhold payments, despite the legal repercussions. This can leave survivors struggling to make ends meet, especially if they are unemployed. If the former partners are in the middle of a divorce, the abuser may attempt to hide assets in order to reduce spousal support payments. These tactics are important to keep in mind after separation in order to be better educated on how to use lawyers and government resources to regain financial security and hold abusers accountable.
Another form of financial abuse is credit fraud. While together or even after separating, abusers may open credit card accounts in the victim’s name, without permission. This could be considered identity theft and credit card fraud in some cases. One way to combat this is to keep personal information hidden either in the home or outside of the home with a safe person. Another option is to contact credit companies and dispute the charges. Many companies will be willing to work with individuals to remove charges and identify the responsible parties, especially if you choose to file charges against the credit thief, in this case the abuser.
Withholding child support and committing credit card fraud are just two of the tactics that abusers may use to interfere with survivors’ financial well-being. By understanding these tactics, reaching out for social, legal, and financial support, and taking proactive steps to recover, survivors can regain control of their economic independence as they move toward recovery from past abuse.
Lavender Williams received her Bachelors of Science degree in Psychology from Lynchburg College in 2015. She is currently beginning her second year as a Masters student in the Couples/Family Counseling program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
By LaQueta Bartley, See the Triumph Guest Blogger
Financial abuse is a type of abuse that does not often come to mind when someone thinks of domestic violence. An abuser’s main purpose through financial abuse is to create an environment in which the victim has to be dependent on the abuser. This type of abuse prevents victims from acquiring, using, or maintaining financial resources.
How do you know if you’ve been abused financially? Some examples of financial abuse include, but are not limited to, preventing one’s partner from working; withholding money; controlling how money is spent; forcing victims to write bad checks or commit fraud; running up large amounts of debt on joint accounts; refusing to work; hiding assets; and withholding funds for the victim or children to obtain things they need to live.
If you’ve experienced financial abuse, below are some important things to consider that can help to gain back your financial independence in the process of leaving an abusive partner. While reading these tips, keep in mind that everyone may not need every tip that is listed. Everyone has their own journey and should consider the safest, most relevant steps to take in their own situation.
Recovering from financial abuse can take a lot of time and energy. However, recovery is possible, and you can take steps to regain your financial independence. Take it a step at a time, and soon you’ll find yourself on the path toward building financial freedom.
Resources for more information:
By Sara Forcella, See the Triumph Contributor
Financial abuse is one form of abuse that is rarely talked about and is less understood than other types of abuse. This especially holds true for the college population. Financial abuse occurs when one partner uses abuse tactics to maintain power and control over their partner. Some pretty common forms of financial abuse include things such as controlling where and when your partner takes a job, not allowing your partner to work, not allowing your partner to have control over their own income, or hiding or keeping money from your partner.
Students who find themselves in financially abusive relationships during college may be dealing with some similar, yet specific forms of this abuse. Many students rely on financial aid to not only help them pay for classes, but afford things like meals, toiletries, and clothing. Financial aid monetary funds can be used to easily maintain power over a partner. Stealing a partner’s financial aid check, or limiting what they are allowed to use that financial aid on is certainly a form of abuse. Partners may also use their financial aid package as a way to ensure that their partner does not leave the relationship.
Things like student ID’s make it easy for abusers to purchase food and other items using their partner's money. They may also use ID cards as a way to monitor and dictate the amount of money that their partner is able to use. For instance, an abuser may maintain control over a student’s access to their online ID Card account, giving them the ability to add money to that card when they chose.
Students from varying backgrounds may also face financial abuse if their partners use their own financial privilege over their partner. Making your partner feel bad because they are unable to afford things such as off-campus meals, weekend getaways, and athletic games can also be a form of abuse.
Just like physical or emotional abuse, abuse is abuse, and it is never okay. Students who are dealing with financial abuse may consider reaching out to an on-campus office for help, such as a Women’s Center, Counseling Center, Campus Police, or the Office of Student Conduct.
Lavender Williams received her Bachelors of Science degree in Psychology from Lynchburg College in 2015. She is currently beginning her second year as a Masters student in the Couple and Family Counseling program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
By An Anonymous Guest Blogger
“Babe, would you like to use my credit card for that?”
These were the words that constantly left my mouth during my previous relationship with my abuser. It’s quite interesting the way I first learned about credit cards…actually, my abuser, the person who constantly worried about my financial position, particularly in terms of acquiring debt while I was in college, suggested that I apply for a credit card in order to make a large purchase for him. At the time, I was still relatively naïve, being an older teenager in college, but I knew that his family lacked the financial resources he truly needed to be a successful student. Since I constantly wanted him to be happy, I obliged to his request.
The understanding we had was that he would pay me back immediately after he received his refund check for school in order to pay off the debt, approximately $1500 or so if I remember correctly, which he did. However, in the months and years to come after this initial purchase, I would find myself using my own financial resources to continue keeping him happy, even if he never directly asked me to.
To provide a little more detail, I don’t recall many times after his initial request that my abuser directly asked me to cover various expenses. However, given the power and control dynamics of our relationship, I was constantly striving to keep him happy…whether that was through purchasing gifts for him that I thought he would like, covering meals and trips, paying his cell phone bill, and even making purchases that we discussed he would eventually pay back. I found that I was attempting to please someone that could never be pleased. I remember one specific time where I spent nearly $500 for a special Valentine’s Day outing on a small yacht in the city where I lived at the time towards the end of our relationship. Despite the nearly perfect date and the most romantic time we had shared in a while, the day still resulted in a violent altercation by the end of the night, evidently because I made him “feel stupid” at some point on our way home.
Sometimes I still get angry with myself for all of the things I did for him financially – paying his bills, buying him gifts, and covering larger expenses that I thought he would eventually back me back for. When I think back to my intention in risking my own financial position as a young adult who had just graduated from college at the time, all I can think about is the subtle way that my abuser would manipulate me into financially abusive situations knowing that I could not truly afford to do so. I also believe he consciously knew that he would never repay me or contribute to the relationship financially in any way as long as I “volunteered” to cover everything.
Needless to say, I was never reimbursed for the debt I accumulated through my credit card purchases I made for him either during or after I left the relationship. Ultimately, it took nearly 2 years for me to pay off my outstanding credit card debt, which mostly consisted of larger purchases I had made for him over the years I presumed he would help me pay back. While this was a discouraging process to go through, I have to stop myself sometimes and remember to not blame myself for past actions given the power and control dynamics that were at play.
To current victims and survivors of financial abuse with an intimate partner or other trusted individual – be gentle on yourself and on your heart when thinking about these issues. Remember that no one deserves to be abused in any form or fashion. It is possible to seek help and recover from the aftermath of an abusive relationship from a financial standpoint. Despite the grim outlook at first, with confidence, discipline, support, and self-compassion, one can overcome the aftermath of financial abuse.
By Allison Crowe, See the Triumph Co-founder
For those of you who have followed See the Triumph for some time, you might be aware that Christine and I are faculty members in Counselor Education programs. This means in addition to managing the See the Triumph campaign we teach graduate students, conduct research, serve on committees at our respective Universities, and participate in professional organizations at the local, state, and national level. As researchers, our main interest is the stigma that surrounds intimate partner violence and ways to overcome this. This mission is at the heart of the StT campaign, in fact.
Today, we wanted to share one of our latest articles that can be found in the Journal for Social Action in Counseling and Psychology. In the article, we talk about our journey with beginning the campaign, and the lessons we have learned along the way. In addition to talking about the process of building the See the Triumph campaign, we also highlight the American Counseling Association’s Advocacy Competencies, and how the StT campaign lines up with each of these. We conclude the article with the lessons we have learned about advocacy, social media, and research as we have continued our journey as See the Triumph co-founders. I summarize them here, but encourage you all to check out the full article to read about this in detail.
As always, we thank each and every one of you for your support with the See the Triumph campaign – we couldn’t do it without you! We encourage you to check out our series this month for DVAM – the financial implications of abuse, and how it impacts survivors. Surprisingly enough, the topic of financial abuse is one that is only just now gaining in visibility, so the more we can help increase awareness of the topic of financial abuse, the better. Happy DVAM 2016, everyone.
By Kelly King, See the Triumph Guest Blogger
An important, often overlooked, area for survivors in recovery can be their financial situation. Finances can be important to consider since they might determine access to resources (such as medical appointments or child care) and relate to feelings of empowerment and self-reliance. Researchers with connections to the See the Triumph campaign set out to listen to and reflect the experiences of survivors of IPV in terms of their finances. Survivors in our study estimated their costs for physical health care (visits to doctors, filling prescriptions, etc.) with an average of $13,990.68, an average of $8,662.64 for mental health care (meeting with counselors, psychiatrists, etc.) and $3,408.33 for cognitive health care (testing, etc.). Survivors also described their experiences of these costs, financial abuse and the challenges of rebuilding their lives. This blog post describes some of their observations and might suggest areas to consider as you pursue financial well-being.
Many survivors noted work-related difficulties, including trouble finding or keeping jobs. For some people, this trouble was related to their abusive partner’s pattern of controlling their ability to work. For others, working was difficult because they were also managing health care appointments, dealing with mental or physical health symptoms, attending court dates, finding affordable childcare and concerned for their safety. Difficulty with work can mean that you do not feel financially independent and secure. Working can also be an important way to feel empowered and active for people who are able to choose jobs that fit their personal strengths.
Costs from legal fees, childcare, health care and debt/bankruptcy were other burdens that survivors in our study discussed. Many people described feeling overwhelmed by the costs and identified whether they were able to cover these costs or if they turned to government assistance or help from their social circles. Unfortunately, 74.4% of survivors indicated that they did not access victim’s compensation (reimbursement for legal, physical, mental, and/or cognitive costs). This might be an option for survivors facing large costs, and varies by state and community.
In addition, survivors highlighted the quality of life costs that come up in the aftermath of abuse. Whether survivors are dealing with physical injuries, or feelings of anxiety or depression, these symptoms lower their ability to enjoy life or feel secure. Some survivors expressed concern that this would never change whereas others noted some positive developments as more time passed and they continued to rebuild their lives- seeking counseling, support from friends and family, and getting involved in new lines of work and hobbies.
Survivors demonstrated the many ways that IPV can impact your financial situation. It is our hope that this information might help to show you that it is normal to deal with financial difficulties following IPV. You are not alone in this struggle and there are resources! If you are in need of resources in this area, you might begin your search at http://www.clicktoempower.org/.
Kelly King, MS, NCC, LPCA is a doctoral student in UNC Greensboro’s department of Counseling and Educational Development. Kelly has a background and interest in feminist theory and Women and Gender Studies. Kelly has completed research and advocacy projects related to teen dating violence, survivors of IPV as social justice advocates and the financial impacts of IPV.