What is Economic Abuse?
Economic abuse as well as the economic impact of abuse impacts on the ability of sexual and domestic violence victims and survivors to acquire, use or maintain financial resources. Sexual and domestic violence victims can face economic hardship if the trauma affects their ability to maintain a job or stay in school or requires them to change housing. Economic abuse takes on many forms such as:
- taking and controlling a victim's paycheck
- ruining the victim's credit
- harassing the victim at work
- cancelling insurance or credit cards without the victim's knowledge
- jeopardizing the victim's housing
- preventing the victim from pursuing education, working or transportation
These isolating and punitive tactics undermine the victim's financial security. The loss of income, the trauma of leaving behind a home, the interruption of schooling, and the limitation of options are challenges facing all survivors, regardless of their education, job skills and personal earning potential.
Studies show that lacking financial knowledge and resources are among the main reasons why victims of domestic violence return to or remain in relationships with an abusive person. In fact, financial factors are a strong predictor in a survivor's decision to stay, leave, or return to an abusive relationship. Many survivors of domestic violence have limited or no access to money or have had their financial security destroyed by the abuser. The inability to access these resources can also make someone vulnerable to returning to a dangerous situation.
Sexual violence also has destablizing effects. As an example, home is often not a safe place for victims/survivors of sexual violence because the majority of sexual assaults take place in or near victims' homes or the homes of victims' friends, relatives or neighbors (NSVRC, 2010). Additionally, the home can be a constant reminder and trigger. A victim may need to break a lease, make repairs, hire movers, or secure alternative housing. For victims living in poverty this is an additional burden. Too often teens are kicked out of their housing after disclosing the sexual violence; one study found that "61% of homeless girls and 19% of homeless boys report sexual abuse as the reason for leaving home (Estes & Weiner, 2001)."
These experiences are compounded when other factors exist such as mental illness, chemical dependency, and poverty and oppressions such as homophobia, transphobia, and racism.
Help is available.
Sexual and domestic violence programs across Massachusetts and around the country work with survivors to address their financial needs.