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Three Ways Domestic Violence Victims Can Overcome Economic Dependence

By Dr. Amanda Stylianou
October 1, 2016

People often overlook the critical importance finances play in a victim’s decision to stay in an abusive relationship. Studies show that financial dependence is the primary reason that victims of domestic violence stay in abusive relationships. Research also suggests that over 90% of survivors report that their partners utilize economic abuse tactics. These tactics are often used in combination with other forms of physical and psychological abuse in order to gain and maintain power and control of the relationship.

Some common financial abuse tactics include:

  • Withholding money and shared financial information
  • Making important financial decisions without input from the victim
  • Refusing to pay for necessities such as food, clothing or childcare
  • Preventing the victim from gaining or maintaining employment
  • Running up phone bills, credit cards or utility bills in the victim’s name
  • Forcing the victim to engage in sexual or other unwanted behaviors in order to access money

Since financial independence can heavily impact a survivor’s ability to find safety, it’s crucial to provide compassionate and effective economic guidance. Here are three ways Safe Horizon empowers survivors to achieve economic freedom and stability.

1. Support Survivors in Developing Financial Safety Plans

Leaving an abusive relationship may put an end to the physical abuse experienced by the survivor, but rarely does it put an end to economic abuse. The abuser can use economic abuse tactics from far away and continue to control the finances in attempt to force the victim to return to the relationship.

We help survivors develop financial safety plans tailored to each individual’s experiences. These plans can include a variety of techniques and options to increase the survivor’s financial safety. For example, financial safety plans may focus on opening up a safe bank account, identifying and accessing shared accounts and/or assets, checking and improving one’s credit history, gaining access to financial paperwork (such as bank statements and tax returns), and utilizing legal remedies through the courts.

2. Increase Survivors’ Financial Literacy and Financial Confidence

Abusers often target victims’ confidence in their financial skills as a way to degrade them. This both shatters survivors’ confidence in managing their own finances and strengthens their financial reliance on the abuser. In addition, many survivors report wanting a better understanding of financial literacy topics such as creating a budget, developing a savings plan, establishing good credit and creating retirement plans.

We provide counseling and other mental health services to help survivors heal from the psychological effects of financial abuse. We also provide opportunities to learn financial literacy techniques, practice financial skills within a supportive environment, and rebuild financial confidence.

3. Support Survivors in Securing Income and/or other Financial Means

Ultimately, survivors will be able to achieve financial independence when they can secure their own income and/or alternative financial means. For many survivors, this means support in job readiness and job training. For others it means accessing shared savings and retirement accounts, disability income, child support, alimony or other forms of financial means. The survivors’ path to financial success can only be achieved in building long-term financial independence.

How You Can Help

Financial abuse can have devastating effects on survivors of domestic violence. Safe Horizon provides support for survivors that addresses not only the emotional effects of financial abuse, but practical resources as well.

Safe Horizon launched the #PutTheNailinIt campaign to spark a conversation around domestic violence. #PutTheNailinIt shines a light on the safety, hope and confidence that victims of domestic violence can achieve when the issue is more openly talked about in our society. The campaign encourages people all over the world to take the vow to end domestic violence by following these three simple steps:

  1. Donate $1, $6, $16, $31 or any amount at
  2. Paint your left ring fingernail purple, the color of the anti-domestic violence movement (A great way to start a conversation!)
  3. Share a picture of your purple nail on social media, using the hashtag #PutTheNailinIt

You can make a difference today.

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