Archive » October 22, 2009
SOMETIMES THEY CAN'T AFFORD TO LEAVE THEIR ABUSERS
By People Helping People
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Why does she stay? This is the first question many people ask when they learn about a woman in an abusive relationship.
We have all heard stories of violent assaults against women committed at the hands of someone they are intimately involved with or we have seen images of battered women who have been physically assaulted. While these images reflect the most common forms of abuse, domestic violence also encompasses a much greater, but less obvious form: financial control or economic abuse.
The goals of financial abuse are to exert power over the financial resources to prevent the victim from leaving a relationship, to isolate the individual from friends and family, and to create a dependent relationship. Remember that domestic violence and spousal abuse are about exerting influence and control.
Financial abuse can take many forms including preventing a victim from working, forcing a victim to hand over her paycheck, providing an allowance, not disclosing location of bank accounts or not including the victim’s name on a bank account. It can even escalate to forcing the victim to ask for basic needs (food, clothing, medicine). The actions of the abuser are a calculated and intentional behavior intended to prevent access and mobility.
Arcelia Sención, director of People Helping People’s Advocates for Domestic and Child Abuse Prevention Program states that while the organization can provide immediate emergency supportive services such as shelter, food and assistance with protective orders, the majority of local victims return to their previous relationships.
“They simply do not have access to the financial resources necessary to leave the relationship and begin anew, especially with children,” she said. “The lack of financial resources is a key factor that women cite as to why they are unable to leave a toxic relationship.”
Sencion said that according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, evidence clearly shows that women with economic skills are more likely to leave an abusive relationship and sustain themselves and their family on a long-term basis. However, financial means alone are not a guarantee that victims will create a safe family environment.
Sencion reported that People Helping People has worked with many domestic violence victims in the Santa Ynez Valley who were living in beautiful homes, driving luxury cars and who were denied access to money or other financial resources by their partners.
“In the end, all domestic violence victims regardless of their education, job skills, or personal earning potential face very difficult choices about working to change an abusive relationship or ending it,” she said.
These are some of the signs of financial abuse. The partner: Steals money from you or your family; makes you feel as though you do not have the right to know about the household expenses or financial resources; hides accounts and expenses; prevents you from owning credit cards or bank cards; prevents you from attending school to further your professional or educational goals; controls how money is spent; and/or gives you an allowance.
If one or more of these signs applies to your relationship, help is available. People Helping People can assist victims of domestic violence develop a safety plan to identify and access community resources than can help a victim keep herself and her children safe. Its staff can also help develop long-term strategies and plans with clients designed to gain financial and personal freedom.
If you are a victim of domestic violence or spousal abuse or you know someone who may need assistance, please call PHP at (805) 686-0295.