The fundamental importance of money
Undoubtedly there are several distinct forms that abuse can take. One that is frequently ignored, perhaps due to its seemingly insignificant nature, when compared to the heightened impact of physical violence, is the use of money.
However, it is imperative that if you are working with victims of abuse or are escaping an abusive relationship that this form of control be actively acknowledged, centralised and counter-acted rapidly.
During the establishment of a permanent relationship, a victim will often merge their finances with their abuser, normally as a naïve gesture of trust and intimacy. With time this loss of financial independence, creates an unequal balance of power between victim and abuser; with the abuser having clear ideas of monetary ownership i.e. that it is theirs.
The abuser will often actively manage or block access to cash. bank accounts, savings, and credit cards, essentially trapping the victim in the situation, as the individual has no access to independent sources of finance with which to escape. In extreme cases, the victim will find themselves struggling to provide for their basic needs; buy food, pay for heating and water; and pay household bills. This situation is only exacerbated when there are children involved.
Financial abuse will continue and will often be significantly heightened if the victim does not quickly find a means of financial independence on exiting the relationship. This happens for two distinct reasons: firstly, the abuser no longer needs to maintain a public persona, their societal brakes have been removed as it were, therefore they are now unconstrained in their actions; and secondly, the abuser has a strong desire to punish their victim for what they perceive as the personal and public humiliation they have suffered, through the victim leaving the relationship.
Getting the right advice quickly
It is, therefore, imperative that a victim finds advice on their rights to monetary matters as a priority. Victims are often highly de-skilled in matters of finance, having had all independent monetary decision-making removed from them. Added to the fact, that victims are expert in creating a positive gloss on negative realities, it is imperative that anyone providing support to this group, be highly proactive and dogged in opening up this difficult set of conversations.
It is critical that there is a fundamentally awareness that even though an abuser has been removed from the immediate, physical environment, they will continue to use any means at their disposal to degrade, punish and control their victim. Money and the access to it, is a relatively simple, low risk, method that they have at their disposal. If support and intervention work is not done to immediately to help a victim to address this tactic, an abuser will undoubtedly use this form of abuse to prolong their victim’s agony.
In essence, without financial independence, a victim cannot truly create a safe, secure foundation from which to escape domestic violence. Money is centrally important within this context and discussions around this topic need to be met head on.