“If things are that bad, why don’t they just leave?”
When many of us think of domestic abuse, the first thing we say to ourselves is…“Well why don’t they just leave?”.
It’s a sad statement to make…but what if they can’t leave?
What if they have no access to money?
No means to pay for a roof over their own or their children’s heads?
The idea can be terrifying.
Research, both domestic and internationally, has shown that many domestic abuse victims stay in abusive relationships, because they feel they don’t have the financial resources to escape.
What Is Financial Domestic Abuse?
Power & Control
Financial abuse is a form of domestic abuse in which money and access to finances are used by an abuser to exert power and control over their partner.
It can take many different forms but all are aimed at limiting and controlling a partner’s current and future actions and freedom of choice.
“In 2015, Women’s Aid in Ireland had over 1,600 disclosures of Financial Abuse.” **
The most common type of financial domestic abuse occurs when the abuser does not allow their partner access to money. Victims often have no income, access to bank accounts, or credit cards.
“71% of victims reported that they went without basic essentials, because they didn’t have enough money to buy them. 41% reported having to use their children’s birthday money or savings.” *
*Information from research published in 2015, carried out by Women’s Aid (UK)
** Impact Report 2015, Women’s Aid (Ireland)
The Impact Of Financial Domestic Abuse
Sabotage is another tactic used by abusers to limit a partner’s independence. Abusers will try to damage their partner’s career and professional reputation, belittle their achievements, or prevent them taking part in education or training.
Some abusers will even beat victims before interviews, purposely leaving marks so they are unable to attend.
Compared to other forms of domestic abuse, financial abuse can be less visible and difficult to prove. Victims might have very well paid professional careers, or live in a big house and still have no access to money, or even the ability to spend a single cent, without having to ask their partner’s permission.
The impact of financial domestic abuse can leave a victim with a loss of confidence in managing money, ruined credit history, large debts and even fear of criminal charges due to being forced into fraudulent behaviour.
Other forms of controlling behaviour and abuse, such as physical, sexual and emotional abuse for example, often accompany financial abuse. Victims sometimes report that financial abuse was the first type of abuse they experienced. Others report it came later in order to prevent them from leaving. Enforcing financial dependence can be such an efficient tactic to control a partner, sometimes it’s the sole type of domestic abuse used.
Sometimes victims don’t recognise they’re in a financially abusive relationship for a long time. It can develop slowly. The abuser might tell their partner that they’re helping them, by taking care of all financial matters. At the same time they’re cutting off their independence, ultimately leaving them feeling trapped.
What would you do?
There is much we, as potential bystanders, can do to help someone we suspect is a victim of financial domestic abuse. We may know someone who is suffering from domestic abuse but they’re too afraid or ashamed to tell us. This can especially be the case when it comes to financial abuse.
In Ireland, it can be considered rude or an invasion of privacy, to ask someone about his or her financial situation, or talk about our own. However, we all have a responsibility to tackle domestic abuse and to educate ourselves on how we can help.
How To Spot Warning Signs Of Financial Domestic Abuse?
- Does one partner seem to take important financial decisions without consulting the other?
- Will they use their partners credit/debit card without telling them?
- Does one partner control the others access to money, through credit cards or bank accounts?
- Does one partner take the others benefit payments, or wages?
- Does one partner refuse to contribute to household bills or children’s expenses?
- Will one partner put all the household bills in the name of the other, but will then not contribute to them?
- Has there been loans taken out in the other partners name and then a refusal to contribute to repayments?
- Does one partner take money from the other without consent?
- Is one of the partners restricted from working, training or education?
- Is one partner used as a free source of labour?
Advice If You’re Concerned About Someone You Know
If you suspect someone you know is being abused, don’t wait for them to approach you – follow your instincts.
Look for a private moment where you can express concern and let them know you’re there for them.
- Express concern
If they deny that anything is wrong, don’t push, but communicate that you’ll be there for them if they ever want to talk.
- Assure them that it’s is not their fault.
This can be such an important thing for to hear. Some useful things to say might be, “No one deserves to be treated this way,” “You are not to blame”
- Support, but don’t give advice
Be aware that leaving an abusive relationship is the most dangerous time for a victim. The victim is best placed to assess the danger to themselves.
- Give them resources
There are several agencies in Ireland who can offer help and support. Check out www.whatwouldyoudo.ie for a list of services and advice.
How To Access Financial Help And Advice For Persons In Difficult Financial Situations
If a victim is able to plan before they leave an abuser, you, a friend or relation might be able to provide safe keeping for financial records and identity documents, including:
- Some form of identification (Passports, birth certificates)
- PPS Number for themselves and any children
- Bank account details
- Records and payment cards relating to any benefits and tax credits
- Details of any relevant insurance policies
- A sum of money (if possible).
Below is a list of services offering financial advice for people in difficult financial situations:
(Money Advice and Budgeting Service) is the State’s money advice service, guiding people through dealing with problem debt. MABS operate a Helpline 0761 07 2000, Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm.
Is a new service to help homeowners find a resolution to home mortgage arrears.
Call the MABS Helpline 0761 07 2000, Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm. The MABS face-to- face service is completely free, confidential and independent.
(Insolvency Service of Ireland). If you’re worried about debt and would like to speak to someone about which of the new debt solutions would best suit your circumstances, you can contact the ISI on their Information and General Enquiries line 076 106 4200.
“If we witness domestic violence but choose to walk away; we leave another victim behind.
We’re not just bystanders. We’re witnesses.”
There are several agencies in Ireland who can offer help and support.
Check out www.whatwouldyoudo.ie for a list of services and advice.
Remember, if you suspect someone is being abused – before you get involved, ask yourself if it’s safe and legal to intervene.
If the situation is already violent or looks like its escalating quickly, don’t directly intervene. Call the Gardaí on 999.
The only effective bystander intervention is a non-violent one.
If you see or suspect domestic abuse, visit whatwouldyoudo.ie or call 999.