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.