Advocacy and Policy Manager for Health and Safety, YWCA USA
Grab a pen and a piece of paper and, without thinking too much about it, draw the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a victim of domestic violence. No cheating.
Generally, I’d tell you to trust your gut – that the first thing that comes to mind is probably the right answer. In this case, however, you’re probably wrong.
The activity you just did is one I used frequently at community trainings on domestic violence. Far more often than not, the pictures participants would draw were limited to the victims’ physical appearance – disheveled hair, a black eye, sad and, at times, crying. What these pictures are often unable to capture is that in 98% of domestic violence cases, a victim has likely experienced financial abuse.
Financial abuse may not leave scars, but it is a silent, critical factor that often determines whether a victim of domestic violence will leave her abuser. In fact, in a study done by the Allstate Foundation, financial abuse is cited as one of the number one reasons that victims of domestic violence are unable to leave their abusers. But what does financial abuse really look like? While it’s commonly understood as withholding access to money, it is far more complex than this. In fact, many abusers commonly employ the following as ways to keep their partners from leaving:
- Keeping her from getting a job
- Or, if she works, taking her paycheck
- Monitoring where she spends her money by having access to her bank and using this information to threaten her should she consider leaving
- Not working or seeking employment and relying on her paycheck as a means to support them
- Sabotaging her credit score by accruing credit card debt
- Manipulating cultural norms as a way to limit her role to mother and wife, and in turn shame her for seeking employment outside the home
- In the case of victims that are limited-English proficient, abusers may keep them from learning or improving upon their English skills in order to prevent them from seeking higher paying opportunities.
At YWCA, we believe that economic empowerment is an essential tool for domestic violence victims as they consider leaving their abuser. In YWCAs across the country, we offer a wide array of programs to help women advance economically, including: job training, resume assistance, non-traditional job readiness, English as a Second Language (ESL) courses, and financial literacy. Any and all responses to domestic violence must be victim-centered. Only she knows what is best for herself and her family – our job as service providers and advocates to #EndDVNow is to better equip her with the tools and resources to she needs to move forward.
YWCA’s Week Without Violence is an annual campaign that takes place nationally and communities across the country to end violence in all of its forms and wherever it occurs. As the largest network of domestic service providers in the United States, YWCA is focusing our efforts on ending domestic violence – NOW. Everyday YWCA addresses the root causes and immediate needs associated with domestic violence. As we mark our 20th annual Week Without Violence, we invite you to join us. To learn more visit www.ywca.org/wwv and join the conversation with #EndDVnow.