Financial Education: Another Way to Defeat Abuse

Ana María Ribón
Community Outreach Advocate

One of the most powerful and common tools used for control in an abusive relationship is financial abuse. In 99% of domestic violence cases, the survivor reports economic abuse. Lack of financial resources and financial security is a major obstacle to overcome when a survivor is leaving the abuser. According to the Georgia Fatality Review Project’s 2018 Annual Report, “National research has indicated more than 50 percent of survivors stay with the abusive partner because they do not feel they can support themselves and their children” (Sullivan, et. Al. 1992).

“Economic abuse involves behaviors that control a woman’s ability to acquire, use, and maintain economic resources, thus threatening her economic security and potential for self-sufficiency.” (Adams, A.E., Sullivan, C.M., Bybee, D., & Greeson, M.R. (2008) )There are many different tactics used to control someone financially. Scenarios we often see at PADV include:

  • Manipulating victims by saying there is no need for them to work or sabotaging victims’ work career by on the job harassment, denying them access to transportation, frequent phone calls or text messages sent while the victim is working and requiring the victim to provide an immediate response.
  • Forcing a spouse to quit her/his job and, later on, not providing enough money to maintain the household or to acquire personal items.
  • Opening lines of credit in the victims’ name forcing them into insurmountable debt.
  • Withdrawing money from victims’ bank accounts.
  • Breaking leases and creating a negative rental history for the victim.

Because many survivors of domestic violence have never been allowed to participate in financial decisions they often lack money management skills. They have either not worked for long periods or have not worked at all. It can also happen that a victim is forced to work and assume all the burden of the household’s financial obligations but not allowed any power or control over their money.

Specialists in financial education often approach family money management with the premise that a household is a business and should be managed that way. It does not matter if the couple is married or living together – both should be equal partners and decisions must be made accordingly. When the relationship is abusive, communication is broken and the abusive person is the only one controlling expenses, holding accounts and assets, and setting financial goals, if there are any. A survivor’s financial challenges can range from getting a job to fixing their credit history. Every client brings a unique set of challenges, and PADV strives to address their individual needs.

An integral part of PADV support and skill-building to clients is Financial Education, offered in collaboration with community partners. The first step is working with clients to help them assess their financial needs.  This could include helping the client get employment, then establishing a budget based upon the income provided by that employment.  Training is provided on how to avoid identity theft, freeze their credit and protect their and their children’s social security numbers. The most important thing we strive to do is help our clients realize that they are capable, that they will be able to get a job, and manage not only their money, but their lives.”