Economic Abuse, A Silent Form of Gender Based Violence

Withholding money, controlling the household spending, or refusing to include you in financial decisions can be defined as family violence.

Patriarchal power structures dominate in many societies, in which male leadership is seen as the norm, and men hold the majority of power. Patriarchy is a social and political system that treats men as superior to women 

In a relationship where some form of abuse is present — whether physical or emotional — it is not uncommon that an abusive partner extends their power and control into the area of finances. This financial abuse  can be very difficult to recognize. It can be something as  innocent as an abuser telling their partner what they can and cannot buy, or something as major as an abuser restricting a partner’s access to all finances.

The manipulation of money and other economic resources is one of the most prominent forms of coercive control, depriving women of the material means needed for independence, resistance and also escape.

Lack of access to economic resources is a reason why many women feel that they have no choice but to stay with an abuser.

Economic barriers to leaving can result in women staying with abusive men for longer and experiencing greater danger, injuries and even homicide as a result.

Domestic abuse is often about isolating the victim; the perpetrator works to weaken her connections with family and friends, making it extremely difficult to seek support. Sometimes the victim is isolated from her own children. Perpetrators will often try to reduce a woman’s contact with the outside world to prevent her from recognising that his behaviour is abusive and wrong. Isolation leads women to become extremely dependent on their controlling partner.

Perpetrators are often well respected or liked in their communities because they are charming and manipulative. This prevents people from recognising the abuse, and isolates the woman further. The perpetrator often minimises, denies or blames the abuse on the victim. Victims may be ashamed or make excuses for themselves and others to cover up the abuse.

Imagine being told every day that you’re worthless and the impact that this has on your self-esteem. Victims have very limited freedom to make decisions in an abusive relationship, they are often traumatised, regularly told  that they cannot manage on their own. Fear is constant and they live in a world of daily terror.

A victim who did not wish to be identified for fear of recrimination said; ” Counselling doesn’t work because he also abuses me in the counselling room and I felt that the female counsellor  allowed him to do that. I have come to the point where I want to die, and people who care about me are concerned I will self-harm. One counselor actually said to me, I don’t ordinarily say this to people but I think you should leave for your own good”.

By controlling access to money women are left unable to support themselves, and do not have access to even the most basic needs.The support isn’t there when they need it.

Asking for help is not easy. Misunderstandings about domestic abuse often prevents professionals from knowing what to do, how to talk about it, or where to direct women disclosing the abuse to.

By: Lorraine Richards

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