Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Physical Abuse vs. Fiscal Abuse

Most of the news about domestic violence focuses on physical abuse. But, not too many think of the hidden abuses that survivors and families face.

In some cases, fiscal – or financial – abuse can be just as debilitating for a domestic violence victim as physical abuse. The question, “why doesn’t she just leave” is often asked, and one of the answers to that question is finances.
·         Where will the survivor turn with no money?
·         If kids are involved, how will she provide for them if she does not have a job?
·         How can she apply for any mortgage or lease with damaged credit due to the abuser’s economic abuse?
These are questions that come up in 98 percent of abusive relationships. Economic abuse can take on different forms. It could be the abuser’s complete control over the finances, forcing the victim to ask for even a little money or as drastic as intentionally destroying the victim’s credit through credit charges or false claims.
In an article in Forbes Magazine earlier this year, a survivor describes her domestic violence relationship. While she was put on bedrest during her pregnancy, she quickly realized how much her husband was controlling the family finances. Spending more time at home, she started seeing credit card bills and eviction notices in the mail.
When she was able to go back to work, her husband went as far as calling her employer to find out exactly how much she was making. Things got progressively worse and escalated physically. In the end, she left him, but realized she had no economic knowledge. She applied for a job at a bank “on a whim” she says. Now, she is divorced, doing better financially and has a decent savings account.
Stories like this are not unlike those we hear from the survivors and families we help.
Just recently one survivor told Hope House supporters of a time when her husband became physically abusive after finding her secret stash of money she was slowly accumulating in a safe place so she could afford to leave with her children.
The stress of worrying about finances greatly restricts the victim from being able to escape. It destroys self-esteem because the survivor cannot provide for herself or children. And, it could even ruin the survivor’s financial future if her credit has been seriously damaged.
The economic impact of domestic violence is staggering. According to several studies, domestic violence costs the U.S., $8 billion annually in medical costs ($5.8 billion) and lost productivity ($2.5 billion).
The National Network to End Domestic Violence includes a list of examples of financial abuse on its website. Some include:
-          Not allowing the victim access to bank accounts
-          Withholding funds for the victim or children to obtain basic needs such as food and medicine
-          Stealing the victim’s identity, property or inheritance
-          Withholding money or giving “an allowance”
-          Filing false insurance claims
To view the full list, click here.
Tips to consider if you or someone you know is in a financially-abusive relationship:
-          Start acquiring all financial information for you and your family, including: birth certificates, bank statements, and other personal documents. Keep them with a friend or somewhere safe outside of the home
-          Get a copy of your credit report. You are able to get one credit report free of charge annually. Check with the three main credit entities (Equifax, Experian, Trans Union) for details
-          Find ways to earn a little cash on the side and have someone keep it safe for you
-          Work on your budget if you were to leave and plan accordingly
And lastly, if you have more questions, contact our hotline at 816-461-HOPE (4673).

If you would like to support survivors and families of domestic and financial abuse, check out the Purple Purse Challenge fundraising page at www.crowdrise.com/hopehouse3