CONTENT WARNING: Discussion of domestic abuse – in particular, financial abuse.
At the start of the summer I completed my university course (Ciao for now, Lancaster!) and came home to find myself jobless. I decided that while I was trying to find a job I didn’t want to be sitting at home watching the endless bore that is daytime television, so I started to volunteer at Your Sanctuary – a charity based near me in Surrey which offers emotional and practical support to those who are experiencing or have previously experienced domestic abuse.I’ve learnt a lot from the training I’ve had so far, and I thought I’d share some of it with you.
I am aware that men are also victims of domestic violence – 1 in 6 men will be victims of it in their lifetime – and my blog is titled ‘Feministy Shit’, but the battles within feminism are not exclusive to women and nor is domestic violence.
Part 8: Financial Abuse
When people say ‘domestic abuse’, often, the first image conjured is of a physically abusive relationship. As one starts to develop the picture further, the concept of psychological and emotional abuse is probably the next thing to come to mind. Unsurprisingly, domestic abuse comes in many different shapes and sizes which can usually be categorised into five main types: physical; sexual; emotional; psychological; financial.
Financial? Yes, financial. Financial abuse.
You’re not the only one – I hadn’t heard of it either. I’d considered that in intimate relationships money could be manipulated by a perpetrator, but I hadn’t considered it as a type of domestic abuse in its own right. In fact, in a survey, 75% of Americans failed to recognise financial abuse in connection to domestic violence.
To consider financial abuse as a type of domestic abuse, we must first remind ourselves of the definition of domestic abuse itself:
‘Domestic abuse is any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality.‘
Stripped down to its core, domestic abuse is about power and control of one person over another, as opposed to a loss of control, and financial abuse is a means of control – a very powerful means of control.
Examples of financial abuse include a perpetrator preventing their partner from getting or keeping a job, to ensure their dependence upon their perpetrator; at the opposite end of the spectrum a perpetrator may force their partner to work and pay for everything or demand their partners salary, their savings. A perpetrator may force their victim having to account for any money they spend or deny them access to any finances. Perpetrators of financial abuse may put all bills and accounts in their partners name so that any debt they incur falls upon their partner. Other possibilities include the abuser may withhold information about benefits from their partner, hide the money from them, or prevent them from having access to their own benefits. Financial abuse also extends to situations where perpetrators provide money for sexual activity, use of physical force r the threat if violence to obtain money. A final example of financial abuse is when the perpetrator forces their partner to commit crimes for money.
Each of the above examples describes a means of forcing dependence on a perpetrator – a precise mechanism of control, causing the abused party to remain in the relationship and the abuser to remain in control. Due to the personal nature of financial affairs, people rarely discuss their financial situation in normal relationships, let alone in relationships dictated by control and abuse.
Unfortunately financial abuse is rarely recognised within its own right, in fact research by the charity Platform 51 has shown that those in financially abusive relationships rarely recognise it from within either. Platform 51 have also said that they’ve found the average age for those in the clutches of financial abuse is 20 – an age at which few individuals are entirely aware of financial situations and possibly are more easily manipulated by a financially abusive relationship.
While financial abuse usually occurs alongside other forms of domestic abuse (it has been reported up to 98% of abusive relationships have involved some form of financial abuse) it can, and does, occur singly and is equally as destructive in both short term and long term effects as other types of abuse.
If you, or someone you know, are affected by discussions within this article, local and national helplines are available. In the UK Women’s Aid and Refuge jointly run a 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247 is free to call and won’t show up on BT bills.