Domestic abusers often use money as leverage over their partners — and financial empowerment can be a crucial factor in breaking free from the cycle of abuse.
My book, “The Money Queen‘s Guide for Women Who Want to Build Wealth and Banish Fear,” was released in October as an homage to Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In fact, the purple purse on the cover represents the color of domestic violence awareness. I also donate and help fundraise for several shelters. I’ve done all of these things because I once fell prey to an abusive man, myself.
Knowing What Abuse Looks Like
It is hard for anyone who knows me to believe that I was in the situation I was in. I am a take-charge woman, well-educated and fortunate enough to come from a great, supportive family. But, that goes to show that it can happen to anyone. I share my story to let women know this.
Abuse takes many forms: mental, physical, emotional and spiritual. Abuse stems from the need to control. It has been said that an abuser puts someone down to build themselves up, to feel power and control because they are actually very weak internally. Often, money is one of the forms of control a spouse or partner uses over another.
Many women stay in abusive relationships due to fear, threats, lack of money or all of the above. For me, it was the fear and threats that kept me in the relationship. Financial abuse is insidious. It restricts a partner’s freedom to use their own money and creates dependency upon the abuser. Abusers might limit access to money or credit cards, or tightly monitor a partner’s spending. They create an atmosphere where a partner worries excessively over how the abuser will react to simple, everyday purchases.
A Brighter (Financial) Future
While I can’t assist with the psychological component (and suggest seeking help from a trained professional), I have dedicated my life to making sure women learn to be financially literate and responsible for their own financial future.
Reclaim Your Finances
If you don’t already, it’s important to work and make your own money and keep a financial account solely in your own name — one that only you can access. You should understand how to build credit and have your own credit card. Good credit will be crucial if you need to find new lodgings, a new phone or generally re-establish an independent financial life.
More on Separating From Your Partner: 10 Things You Need to Know About Your Money as You Divorce
Build a Support Network
Surround yourself with friends, family and community members who will be there for you as you build and act on a plan to free yourself from abuse. Having access to as many advocates as you can, such as therapists or financial advisors, will fortify your support network and remind you that you are not alone.
Envision a New Life
Claiming your emotional and financial independence can be the hardest and most rewarding part of leaving an abusive relationship. Understand that you are not at fault or the root “cause” of abuse. Learn what a healthy relationship looks and feels like; your support network can help you understand how you should be treated. Finally, know that you don’t need validation from an abuser: You are perfect the way you are.
My wish for the world is that no women would ever experience domestic abuse. But, if you realize you are in an abusive relationship, don’t despair: It is possible to get out and find a beautiful life on the other side.
If you or someone you know is being abused, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
More From Our Smart Money Squad